The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 20, 2013

Trail to recognize Indiana artisans

BY DENNIS BARTLOW
Commercial-News

DANA, Ind. — Homemade candy makers in Dana are a part of a new trail that shines the spotlight on area residents known for exceptional hand-crafted arts and food in a six-county region.

The new trail is a collaboration between Indiana Artisan and Indiana State University’s Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute.

Dana’s Brooke’s Candy Co. featuring Brooke Schmidt and her mother, Donna Thompson, is featured on the trail.

“The goal of the Rivers and Roads Artisan Trail is to make strong connections between local art and organizations, to drive economic development and promote artisans in the west central Indiana region,” said Steven Pontius, RUEDI director.

The trail will include the area along U.S. Routes 40 and 41 and byways within Vermillion, Parke, Clay, Putnam, Sullivan and Vigo counties.

Indiana Artisan provided funding for, and partners with, seven existing Artisan trails winding through 27 Indiana counties, and Rivers and Roads is the eighth to join the consortium.

“The focus Rivers and Roads will bring to the art and foods produced in the region will help identify those of the highest quality,” said Indiana Artisan Director Eric Freeman, “and we look forward to their work becoming part of the Indiana Artisan brand.”

Of the 249 Indiana artisans whose work has been identified as among the highest-quality in the state, six live and work in the trail’s six-county area. In addition to Schmidt and Thompson are Ken Palmer of Perrysville, Mark Donham of Rosedale and Gretchen Kraut and Marilyn Oehler, both of Terre Haute.

“These six artisans — woodworkers, fiber artists, chocolatiers and a jewelry maker — will benefit from the development of Rivers and Roads,” Freeman said. “And, in return, all of the art and food establishments along the trail will benefit from Indiana Artisan’s support and promotion of it. The goal of all the Artisan trails is to help drive a market to the studios, galleries and workshops of the artisans so visitors can meet them, see their work being made and hear their stories. That adds significant meaning to the art and the foods; it supports Indiana’s small town and rural economics.”

Indiana’s heritage in glass, musical instruments, stoneware, woodwork, candies, brandies and more is defined through Indiana Artisan. The Indiana General Assembly passed a resolution in 2011 making it the state’s official organization to review, recognize and promote the work of Indiana’s highest-quality art and food artisans. One of its promotion efforts is Artisan trails, which increase the impact tourism has on a diversified economy while positively affecting individual artisans and overall quality of life, Freeman said. Trails also support entrepreneurship by providing artisans with access to an expanded market.

“From the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival to the Halcyon Contemporary Art Gallery (in Terre Haute) to exhibits of work by university students, west central Indiana demonstrates strong support for the local arts community,” Pontius said.

RUEDI, Clabber Girl, Arts Illiana and Art Spaces, along with art and food artists, formed an advisory board now working to identify interest in the trail in each county. Artisans must apply and be approved, a process ensuring that all venues provide the public with a meaningful experience.

Rivers and Roads will feature an interactive website, illustrating the region with a functional map allowing visitors to individualize their trip and print the map from their computer. The trail also will create a brochure to be distributed at restaurants, hotels, visitor centers and retail establishments in the region. It will include a trail map, as well as brief descriptions of participating artists.