Art & You: Jasmine Bejar
Whether we realize it or not, art touches every aspect of our lives. Our entire surroundings are a culmination of our community’s different creative energies. Where our community’s diverse energies come together creates our identity, and it doesn’t only happen in a vacuum of the traditional connotation of art. It can be seen in the buildings we live and work in, in the clothes we wear, in the physical landscape we live in. It’s in our Instagram pictures. It’s in the local and traveling bands that are performing every night of the week at The Brass Rail. It’s in craft food and cocktails that are served at your favorite local restaurants. This is Fort Wayne’s arts and culture, and you should be proud of it.
I’ve experienced a community that lacks arts and culture; I grew up in it. I didn’t know “arts and culture” was a “thing” until I moved to Fort Wayne five years ago. That’s why things like “There’s nothing to do in Fort Wayne,” or “Fort Wayne is boring” make me crazy. Fort Wayne is not only bursting at the seams with things to do, the creative opportunity is so massive it weighs you down. If we balled up all of the opportunities, connections, experiences, etc. and threw it into a bag we called the “creative energies of northeast Indiana” and tried to carry it around with us, we would be crushed. Physically crushed. You, on the floor, crushed and suffocated by a bag of creative bliss. Sounds romantic, right?
I’m hardly an artist. I’m a writer, but I haven’t written anything for pleasure in a long time. I’m a photographer, but only of about one year, and I’m still learning and growing. But I understand the impact of arts and culture in a much broader sense than most.
The gist of it is that art is much more than a tangible result or output. Yes, it’s the mural, the sculpture, the concert, the performance, the painting; but it’s also the energy created by everything aforementioned. It’s like Buffalo Springfield said, “Something’s happening here.” We’re in a state of unrest, and it’s an amazing thing. We’re restless because we see the value in the experiences we’re having, and we want more. We want quality. We want diversity. We want inclusivity. We want to experience who we are, who other people are and what we can become. And wouldn’t you know it; Fort Wayne is answering the call.
We can see this as more and more diverse, creative events and projects pop up in our city. We’re taking down the walls around our river (metaphorically speaking) and making it more accessible, because more people want to be on, in and around it. Our history is embedded in the riverbanks, and instead of guarding ourselves from it, we’re embracing it. Events are flourishing around the three rivers, and the synergy of these even brought Fort Wayne its first national destination music festival, Middle Waves. Finally, people are saying, “Fort Wayne, we are cool enough,” and that statement itself is music to all of our ears.
We’re continuing to develop our community as a place, as a destination, and arts and culture plays a vital role in that. And we’re not the only people saying it – that’s the value of creative placemaking. Creative placemaking only happens when the entire community partners together; citizens, public organizations, private organizations, nonprofit organizations voice their opinions and strategically shape the physical and social character of a community around arts and culture. Public spaces encourage interaction. They encourage wayfinding to other public spaces, community amenities and, ultimately, people. We see that trend growing in Fort Wayne. Downtown development looks at how revitalization projects like The Landing and Riverfront connect with the Arts Campus, and all three look at public, accessible space as a necessity. This isn’t space that is for private use of the owner; it’s space that opens its arms to collaboration and inclusion by being simply available for your morning walk, your evening run, your moments of solitude, your periods of joy and celebration. They are spaces for you, no matter who you are. The things that happen in these kinds of places fuel our creative environment, too. Whether it’s a festival, kayaking, free yoga on the Wells Street Bridge, an outdoor movie screening or anything of the like, there’s always something happening, and it continues to feed our creative souls.
While it may seem minute, I’d like to call special attention to the brunch epidemic that has taken over Fort Wayne. Not enough people are paying mind to the culinary arts, or at least realizing that it is in fact an integral part of our arts and culture. That crafty drink served up to you by that bartender at The Golden? That’s art. The entire delivery, down to the garnish, is an art form. Your latte art from the wizzes at Fortezza is a well-developed craft. As the “City of Restaurants,” we’re really no strangers to it. Local restaurants, breweries and coffee shops have been popping up left and right over the past few years (The Hoppy Gnome, Trubble Brewing, The Golden, Tolon, Junk Ditch Brewing, Fortezza, Conjure Coffee, Bravas, etc.) that complement our staples (JK O’Donnell’s, Dash-In, 816 Pint & Slice, DeBrand, Halls, Club Soda, etc.). The food trucks scene has exploded. And now restaurants are serving special menus during the brunch hours as a result of an incredible demand. But why brunch? The hours overlap breakfast and lunch, and we could easily grab either fitting their mood. The answer is that brunch is an experience. It’s something you share with friends over a crafty drink and unique, exquisite food that toes the line between breakfast and lunch. We want creative experiences in every facet of their lives, not just “things.”
Depending who you talk to, using the word “art” can be very narrow and limiting in scope if this perspective of our creative experiences is not understood. Consuming a creative work or being indulged in a creative environment is a creative process just as much as actually creating art, and in Fort Wayne, we’re fully submerged in it. This kind of arts and cultural environment brings ownership of our creative community back down to every individual. It’s the painting, the gallery, the performance, the concert, the festival; it’s even more so the dinner with friends, the walk around the park, the lunch at a food truck, the shopping trip to the local boutique, the Facebook share. There’s a special power in the subconscious intake of arts and culture. And when your entire surroundings are the result of so much creativity, your experience as a human being is enhanced. And look at that – right here, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Our creative energies carry over into these other parts of our lives. Even when we don’t think we’re directly partaking in it, it’s still impacting every experience we have. This is everyday art. Funneling the creative storm is impossible, so we may as well let ourselves get carried away in it.