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Barry Dupen displays some of the bowls he created.

Faculty, staff to show off artistic talents during exhibition

By Blake Sebring

January 24, 2024

As Purdue University Fort Wayne metallurgist and mechanical engineering technology professor Barry Dupen says, each person who finds their creative process learns to engage their mind as well as their hands and the tools.

“I believe when you’re able to make things with your hands, whether it’s painting, sculpture, woodcraft, metalworking, fiber arts, etc., it adds something to your life,” Dupen said. “It also means that you have to be inventive and use the same parts of your brain that engineers use in designing mechanisms, or computer programmers use in writing code.”

Dupen enjoys woodworking and was one of the first members of the campus community to sign up for next week’s Creative Arts Exhibition. All proceeds will be used to fund scholarships for students in the Department of Art and Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The free exhibition starts Monday and runs through Feb. 25. Patrons may visit the gallery from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. An opening reception will be held Feb. 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

More than 20 PFW faculty and staff are donating creations such as paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, jewelry, woodworking, textiles, collages, fiber art, illustrations, and mixed media. Some artists, like Dupen, are presenting more than one work.

Each artist was asked to set prices for their pieces, which will be sold to buyers who may pick them up after Feb. 25. It’s a chance to own an original piece of art while also having the opportunity to know or possibly meet the artists.

“To me, it’s about really putting an emphasis on the value of art in our culture,” said Rebecca Coffman, chair of the Department of Art and Design. “It’s not exclusive to those of us who are pursuing it as a profession or an area of study. For the participants, this is not their profession, but one thing we’ll be emphasizing is what role they fill on campus. We’ve asked them each to share with us what value this practice brings to their life. That’s valuable for us to emphasize. Too many times I think people see art as peripheral and not integral to our culture and our daily lives.”

It’s the first time this exhibition has been held, and it was announced last spring to give the artists time to create. The primary emphasis was on including individuals other than those teaching art and design. For most, it’s a chance to display their crafts and interests to a larger audience, including their students, who may be seeing a different side of their instructors for the first time.

Dupen, who started learning these skills from his father as a child, is submitting two exceptionally designed wooden bowls made of walnut, cherry, and ash. He’s always working on something new, and currently, that includes walnut bookshelves. He said it’s about having some fun.

“I think that taking classes in fine arts or learning to make things with your hands is important, whether the finished product is functional or otherwise,” Dupen said. “I don’t really distinguish between a knitted sweater and a painting on the wall because they both require creativity. When my wife is knitting, she’s not interested in boring patterns, she’s interested in something challenging because it’s more fun for her. I think that engages parts of the brain that are useful for problem-solving.”

The idea for the event came from a suggestion Carl Drummond, vice chancellor for academic affairs, made to John O’Connell, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The donations come from all parts of campus. A few of the artists include Drummond; Htoo Doh, an officer on the university’s police force; Bruce Kingsbury, director of the Environmental Resources Center in the College of Science; Shannon Johnson, director of Helmke Library; and Karin Casazza, senior academic advisor at the Doermer School of Business. Most created specific pieces for the exhibition.

“If we can put a little bit more emphasis on how valuable art is to the community, I think that’s a win,” said Derek Decker, gallery director.