Charles Shepard's All-Encompassing Embrace

By Eric Olson

February 19, 2013 Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 12:35 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana--You won’t find many fine art museums hosting something like this, an exhibition of tapestry… works created on looms with cloth fibers and color dye. But it’s just the kind of thing Fort Wayne Museum of Art director Charles Sheppard loves to bring to this town.

“The people weaving these things have transcended mere craft,” Shepard says, “and they are truly artists and I think they fight an uphill battle to get respected.”

This is the American Tapestry Biennial, woven artworks by 41 artists from 11 countries who make it clear why weaving, once considered a craft, is now a respected art form. This beauty with gorgeous, explosive color and crisp lines is by American artist Tori Kleinart. This piece as beautiful as an impressionist painting…by British artist Lindsay Marshall. Some of this work defies belief…this is an immense recreation, all in fabric, of the Declaration of Independence.

“Now, we know it’s a paper document,” Shepard says, “and what happens to a lot of paper documents or versions of them is that they fade, they get stains they get spills. How in the world would you ever think anyone could capture all of that action in tapestry?”

It’s Shepard’s championing of new art forms and new, emerging artists that has helped garner our museum national attention. And brought a lot of magnificent art to Fort Wayne we otherwise would not see.

‘We felt within our mission it was important to bring this in because we are interested in all the media,’ Shepard explains. “We’re interested in photography, prints and painting and sculpture but we’re interested in wood and we’re interested in glass and we’re interested in tapestry.”

It’s that inclusiveness that has enriched life here in northeastern Indiana, and brought some very gifted people the attention they richly deserve. Eric Olson reporting, out in Your Country.

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