My new assignment was the new art curator, Jenna Turpin, at the Dash-In. Freaking Sweet, I thought to myself, daydreaming about the delicious, gourmet cheese toasties (fight me) and tomato bisque. We met on a sweltering Tuesday and I ordered an iced mocha and sat in the front window booth.
I’ve always loved this section of Calhoun and this spot feels as special and upmarket as it does cozy and inclusive. I’ve enjoyed many excellent meals and art shows here, so as a local curmudgeon, I was hoping this new person wasn’t going to ruin the thing I very deeply enjoyed. Holy Art Attack, Batman! After a two-and-a-half-hour chat, I am beyond excited for this progressive, introspective and gentle-hearted person to be involved with one of my favorite things about Fort Wayne; the public’s open accessibility to art.
Jenna’s start in the art world came late. She was raised near Elkhart, IN as a devout Mennonite LCMS and her parents felt that, “art doesn’t do anything”, and didn’t see the value. It wasn’t until a scholarship opportunity during her junior and senior year, at Ball State University/Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities presented itself, that she even took an art class. She graduated and was accepted into Valparaiso University and hasn’t looked back. Through her immersive studies in antiquities, art history, language she’s learned to understand humans on a universal level, even as her sheltered past held her back in normal social development. She’s wise beyond her years, as she talks about politics and traveling to Turkey to return two marble inscriptions from the Brauer Museum on campus to Turkey as a United States diplomat. Jenna intently says, “antiquity and art have a lot of symbolism to see a bigger picture of what is going on.” She takes the time to explain why art matters in relation to history, politics and seeing things for what they are, instead of how they are described in misinterpreted texts or verbal documentation. I could honestly use this entire space to talk about how rad Jenna was to meet, as she’s only been in Fort Wayne for two years, but has already fallen in love with the city. I urge anyone reading this to run into her and strike up a conversation, you won’t be disappointed.
Recently, Jenna has taken over for Ashley Beatty and is off to a proactive start. She’s especially excited to embrace new, shy, modest and meek artists that may feel like their art isn’t “art” enough for a gallery. She really stands behind the idea of “local artists selling cool stuff for reasonable prices”, elaborating that, “if it was in a museum gallery, all of the art would be sold. But it’s a restaurant with coffee and grilled cheese, people don’t want to pay $500.00 for a piece of art.” I wanted to hug her so hard. She simply loves art, celebrating art, making it available to anyone and everyone. Jenna champions the idea of making things to look at later to help you learn about yourself and others. “It’s just better if everyone can do things together.” Again, I wanted to hug her.
Jenna says that she’s constantly taking submissions, but the six-week rotating gallery is booked past January of 2018. Artists are responsible for setting up and taking down their work, but the Dash-In will provide support if needed. The Dash-In also takes 15% of all sales to cover the service of selling the pieces for the artists and calling customers to pick up items after the show ends. I ask if she ever encounters push-back or negative comments. Apparently, some patrons have disrespected the artwork by taking them off the walls or turning them around. She doesn’t believe in censorship, but she’s happy to take any praise or criticism from Dash-In guests and she might even change your mind after her sweet disposition lays some equally sweet knowledge on you.
The next featured artist is Gregg Coffey. His show opens Thursday, July 6th and runs through August 13th. Artists can contact Jenna at email@example.com and can also check them out on Facebook, @artdashin on Instagram and find Jenna Turpin all over the social medias.
Written By: Chele Heck