Mixed within the brown brick buildings of downtown South Bend are museums, galleries and shops where every corner is exploding with color. South Bend houses two art museums, 11 art galleries, three retail art spaces and multiple other ways the community can enjoy the visual arts, all within walking distance or just a short drive from each other.
While there is ample opportunity within the community, many do not know some of these vibrant places exist.
“All of us in [South Bend’s art community] know about the vast number of visual artists and galleries out there, but it’s just astounding that the community doesn’t know,” says Cathy Dietz, the marketing and events director of the South Bend Art Museum. “Until now there hasn’t really been a vehicle to push it forward.”
Cathy, with fellow members of South Bend’s art community, formed what is now known as Curate South Bend. Other members include Ralph Lampkin, president of Fire Arts; Kathy Reddy-White, owner of CircaArts Gallery; Elizabeth Leachman, director of marketing and strategic initiatives at The Colfax Gallery; and co-owners of The Pidgeon & The Hen Pottery Amy Klingler and Diana Palomo.
Curate South Bend is an online resource for all things visual arts. The goal of the group is to make it easier for everyone to explore the diverse and ever-expanding arts community in South Bend. The organization’s website provides a list of destinations, as well as links to the websites and contact information for each art hub. Designed for locals and out-of-towners alike, the site offers a detailed map where each space is located, color coded by the type of space.
The idea of Curate South Bend started about six years ago when Cathy was working closely with downtown South Bend businesses.
“I was always out and about with different businesses in the community and I [noticed] that the art galleries were always struggling,” she says. “Because you’re an artist, you’re always busy creating and trying to do everything you can to keep your business afloat, so marketing suffers.”
Cathy watched businesses in the area band together, especially restaurants, and saw the effects this had on their marketing. She wondered why that same idea could not be applied to the art galleries in the area.
“I reached out to Ralph and Kathy, whom I had known for several years, with my idea and they thought it was a very good idea,” Cathy says. “But, the timing wasn’t quite right. Fast forward six years and now being involved with the South Bend Museum of Art, I now [see first-hand] the challenges that visual arts has in this community. So I approached Ralph and Kathy again with my idea and for some reason now was the perfect time.”
Curate South Bend’s website launched during South Bend’s Best. Week. Ever. in June.
“The arts community banded together to make this happen,” Ralph says. “Artists, designers and printers all donated their time to help design the logo, design the website, print flyers that we could hand out with the map on it. This wouldn’t have happened without all of their help.”
Curate South Bend also has a Facebook page where the visual arts community can further band together and ask questions, see upcoming events, connect with other people with the same interests, and get involved with the initiative.
The group meets once a month to discuss how to help further grow the visual arts community and discuss how the website has already helped local budding and seasoned artists get their art seen.
“Through South Bend Curate, I have met quite a few artists who are interested in showing their art at The Colfax Gallery,” says Colfax Gallery director Elizabeth Leachman. “Without the website they would have never known the gallery existed.” χ