TERRE HAUTE —
The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
Free flowing and untamed, the river’s banks often test human visitors. Rocks, trees and grassy weeds line its shores for most of its 474 miles. Parks and public access points in several towns give people a more comfortable peek at the murky stream. Its most scenic vistas, though, can’t be seen from a highway, parking lot or picnic table. The Wabash looks its finest at water’s edge, where nature rules and man’s domain lies over the bank, out of sight.
Nancy Nichols-Pethick set up her easel there, atop uneven stones, mossy dirt and marshy weeds.
Thank goodness she did, capturing the visuals on canvas with oil paintings and pastel drawings at various riverside locations while exploring the Wabash last year from Huntington in northern Indiana to New Harmony near its southern confluence with the Ohio River. Too few Hoosiers ever witness the Wabash from such a perspective. Nichols-Pethick’s artwork gives them a chance to see what they’ve missed.
“In most places, you have this beautiful river flowing and all this wildlife, and you wish more people would be enjoying it,” she said.
Those who dropped in at the Turman Art Gallery on the Indiana State University campus earlier this month got a glimpse of such images. The gallery exhibited nearly 30 of her Wabash River pieces, collectively entitled “Notes on a River.” They’ll go on display again March 3-21 at Marian University in Indianapolis, with a reception 4 to 6 p.m. March 6. The pictures emanated from Huntington, Delphi, Americus, Tecumseh, Clinton, Terre Haute, Hutsonville, Merom and Harmonie State Park at New Harmony.
She painted and drew quickly, preserving a brief moment. The sunlight and reflections changed by the minute. She created artistic snapshots, sometimes camping to motor her “mobile studio” — a Chrysler minivan — to a destination just in time to catch a sunset or sunrise. She started in the days of heat and lush foilage of August and by October and November, the falling leaves exposed the vastness of the valley.
In autumn, “it was really overcast and really foggy,” Nichols-Pethick recalled. “You can go back to the same place again and again and again, and it’s never the same.”
Nichols-Pethick toured the Wabash as her sabbatical project during the fall semester at ISU, where she teaches painting as an assistant professor of art. The local community’s 2013 Year of the River celebration sparked her idea. Born in Alaska and raised in rural Maine, she experienced the wilderness on family camping trips. Her dad was an outdoorsman and an artist, who drew the woods and lakefronts using charcoal pencils and an easel.
Thirty years later, Nancy was doing the same thing on the banks of the Wabash in her adopted state of Indiana, where she and her husband have lived since the mid-1990s, eventually raising their two young kids here. Some lifelong Hoosiers expressed surprise when Nichols-Pethick described various places along the river she chose to depict on canvas.
“The people who grew up near it, their reaction was, ‘Why would you want to paint that?’” she recalled, “and I think it goes back to the fact that we have this wonderful natural resource and we aren’t really taking advantage of it.”
That said, Nichols-Pethick realizes, in some ways, the Wabash benefits from being overlooked by man. Unlike other rivers that accommodate commercial shipping and barges, the unnavigable Wabash flows with little human interference. Its only dam lies near Huntington. From there, it meanders for 411 miles, unrestricted. Maintaining “a balance” between making the river more accessible to more people, and protecting its wild freedom, matters greatly to her.
The 44-year-old artist walked — or, more accurately, hiked — that thin line to craft her pictures. She hunted the undeveloped stretches of the Wabash and stuck to those.
“It’s hard to get the view I really enjoy — the natural, untouched beauty,” she said.
Just a few miles from the dam at Roush Lake, the river gets back to its natural self at Huntington’s Forks of the Wabash Historical Park. The Wabash and Little Wabash rivers converge there, blending two tints of water in eye-catching fashion. It became one of Nichols-Pethick’s favorite spots during her journey.
The stream ran shallow there. She ventured out on some rocks. The Wabash stretched out ahead.
“I enjoyed getting that long view of the river,” she said. “I know it a lot better than when I started, but I know there’s more I can still see.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
Their dream rises: Mother-daughter duo team up to expand eastside bakery
As she gently formed a round sourdough, Marta Shelton seemed to hold her dreams in the palm of her hands.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
Church resurrected: Prairie Creek church that burned in the midst of a winter storm ready for rebirth
From the ashes of a devastating winter fire comes out a church reborn.
Vigo School Board to approve central pool bond resolution
On Monday, the Vigo County School Board will receive an update on a planned, $9.8 million aquatics center that will be built in Voorhees Park.
Inconsistent help: FEMA’s disaster decisions frustrate state, local leaders
Pamela Jackson thought she was lucky to escape harm as a tornado bore down on her neighborhood last November. She huddled in a bathroom with her two disabled sons, critically ill husband and six other family members as the twister blew out windows and tore the roof off her house. Hers was one of scores of homes and businesses in Howard County that were damaged or demolished by the storm.
A team of Vigo County high school students — and its robot — are gearing up to compete against 127 teams from throughout the world in an upcoming international robotics competition.
VCPL to install free ‘little libraries’
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: A Little Free Library.
Flaws in new ed standards ‘too substantial’
A State Board of Education member formally requested Friday that an education panel abandon a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s education standards and instead recommend that the state’s previous benchmarks be reinstated in classrooms this fall.
Spike in mumps cases reported across Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Public health officials are investigating a sharp increase in the number of mumps cases recorded in central Illinois.
Police: Fatal fire began with dropped cigarette
SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — State police say a fatal house fire in a southern Indiana town began when a disabled woman dropped a cigarette.
Board member asks for old Indiana school standards
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A State Board of Education member is calling for a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s education standards to be ditched and that the state’s old benchmarks be reinstated in classrooms this fall.
A real page turner
Victory was sweet for the Franklin Elementary teammates, who won their first ever Battle of the Books competition Thursday at Meadows Elementary.
Rep. Bucshon leads discussion on minority care in Vigo County
The list of problems seems endless: Lack of health insurance, mental illness, cultural barriers and stigmas about routine medical check ups, to name only a few.
Vigo County students, educators recently made a 2-week trip to Terre Haute’s sister city of Tajimi
Six Vigo County high school students and two educators, including superintendent Dan Tanoos, recently returned from a two-week cultural exchange trip to Tajimi, Japan.
Tribune-Star columnist named company’s best
The Tribune-Star’s Mark Bennett has been named CNHI’s Columnist of the Year for 2013 in its large newspaper division.
Clay man arrested on drug charges
An eight-month investigation by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of Wednesday of a Clay County man on meth-related charges, authorities said.
Drug raid leads to arrest of siblings
Siblings were arrested Thursday after police said they discovered an active meth lab in a Terre Haute home, authorities said.
Visions, Voices project to mark decade of work
Wabash Valley Visions & Voices Digital Memory Project will mark a decade of Hoosier historical preservation at its anniversary kickoff event Tuesday.
Vigo County Jail Log: April 17, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Wednesday and Thursday, based on jail records.
Remember Your First Car?
Tell us about it! Your memories could be part of an upcoming story in the Tribune-Star. Click on this story to find out how.
An ambassador of Wabash Valley sports
Veteran Tribune-Star sports reporter Andy Amey will be inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Former Vigo treasurer facing $26,000 bill
Former Vigo County Treasurer David Crockett could be required to personally pay back more than $26,000 to reconcile a bookkeeping discrepancy discovered in 2012 during an audit from the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
MARK BENNETT: Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a 10¢ deposit
Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead