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Open studio at Beloit Fine Arts Incubator inspires artists

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Shelly Birkelo
February 11, 2013

— Cathy Hauri dreams of creating greeting cards and selling her artwork.

"I have a desire to use my artwork, but I've been uninspired," the Clinton woman said.

Yet within minutes the night of Thursday, Jan. 31, Hauri found the inspiration she'd been lacking. It came among a group of other artists during an open studio event facilitated by professional artist Dan Wutrich of Rockton, Ill., at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator, 520 E. Grand Ave.

The open studio event is held each Thursday and invites artists of all skill levels to bring pieces of art and supplies to work on in a communal environment. A locally known artist is on hand to answer questions and explain different techniques. Cost is $5 per person and refreshments are included.

The weekly sessions are ongoing, said Ben Henthorn, lead volunteer at the downtown facility. The incubator also houses an art gallery, which showcases resident artist works and traveling exhibits in addition to housing a co-op of artists' studios.

Hauri brought her portfolio of pencil drawings along during a recent open studio event. In the folder was a sketch of a lion she started in high school and never finished because she was afraid if she went past a certain point, she would ruin it.

Wutrich praised her work.

"Sometimes you want to leave things to the imagination of the viewer. Don't finish it for them," he said.

The words encouraged Hauri, who wants to start drawing with color. That might happen now that she's received positive feedback and support.

"I just need to open my mind a bit more and relax," she said.

Wutrich agreed.

"Whatever you do, do what you love," he said.

Hauri was among three other students who attended the event Jan. 31. The art studio has been averaging a weekly attendance of five students, Henthorn said.

During the same studio event Hauri attended, Alice Blue of Beloit was painting a picture of horses running across a field. The hobby artist said she's learned much from Wutrich, who is professionally trained and also paints with acrylics.

"It's interesting to see what other people do in the same medium and different styles," Blue said. "The $5 cost is more than reasonable for what I've already learned."

The incubator opened in 2002 in a two-story brick building that was last home to an antique mart. It features classrooms, a conference area, cubicle studios, gallery space, offices and co-op studios.

"We're a gallery space where people show their art work," Henthorn said.

The incubator, he said, offers a unique gallery experience for emerging and established artists, works with different groups around town to encourage art, offers space for artists who want to pursue their interests, and offers classes to both adults and children.

Susan Swedlund of Beloit is one of the in-house artists who has been operating her pottery studio, Potter Sister, in the incubator since February 2012.

"I've done many different art businesses," she said. "To be a full-time artist, it takes a lot of discipline. It's easier to have a studio outside of my home without distractions.

"Coming here keeps my mind on what I have to do and I'm not messing up my house," she added. "It helps me be consistent."

Swedlund also noted that rent at the incubator is quite affordable, that it allows her to host a one-person show at no cost, and that it provides camaraderie and enough space to offer pottery classes.

She even gets to use the incubator's kiln, potter's wheel and pug mill to recycle her clay—saving her $5,500 in start-up costs.

"That allowed me to buy clay and glazes," she said.

According to Henthorn, the incubator is "someplace to go and appreciate art; someplace to come and learn about something you may be interested in whether its painting drawing, sculpting or ceramics."

The hope of the open art studios, he said, "is to generate interest in people coming to the incubator."

That's why no end date has been placed on the schedule for open studio events, he said.



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