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.
All aboard for Train Day at Children’s Museum
Model trains will make a stop at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum as it transforms into a train station for Train Day. Explore the museum to see trains of all types and sizes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 19.
Gaslight Art Colony to feature recycled art July 19-Aug. 9
Gaslight Art Colony is featuring the artwork of Palestine, Ill., artist Steve Meadows.
The exhibit is scheduled to be at the gallery from Saturday through Aug. 9. An artist’s reception is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
- Museums/Exhibitions: July 17, 2014
Arts Illiana seeking entries July 17-19 for Wildlife & Wilderness Wonders of the World
Arts Illiana invites area artists to enter artwork in its Wildlife & Wilderness Wonders of the World exhibition. An opening reception is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 1.
Swope announces winners in annual juried exhibition
Award winners for the Swope Art Museum’s “70th Annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition” were announced June 28 during the exhibition’s opening reception.
Korean War weekend coming to Fort Harrison State Park July 12-13
The Museum of 20th Century Warfare and the staff at Fort Harrison State Park will honor Korean War veterans with Korean War exhibits on Saturday and Sunday. The museum and the exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.
- Museums/Exhibitions: July 10, 2014
- Museums/Exhibitions: July 3, 2014
Solo show in July features framed oil paintings
The solo show “the journey continues … ” by Judith Lynn Smith will be on display July 2 to 30 in Clabber Girl Art Gallery in Hulman & Co. at Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue.
Swope celebrates 70 years of Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition
This summer, the Swope Art Museum will present the 70th annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition, one of the oldest and best-known juried shows in the nation.
- Museums/Exhibitions: June 26, 2014
RCAA members showcase ‘River of Art’
“River of Art” is the theme of the July exhibit in the Art Sanctuary at Martinsville, Ind.
River City to feature artist’s fused glass pieces in July
Each month the River City Arts Association of Terre Haute selects one of its members to display work in the Vigo County Public Library. During the month of July, that display will be several of Edith Acton’s fused glass wall hangings.
Zumba, Fitness Fun at Children’s Museum June 21
Throughout the month of June, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum is featuring classes and activities that showcase fun ways for kids to stay active during the summer months. On Saturday, the museum will continue its “Jump Into June” activities with discounted admission, a Zumba Kids class, and Fitness Fun with New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford.
Terre Haute Children’s Museum celebrates summer with special birthday party rate
The summer months are always filled with outdoor parties and gatherings, but anyone who lives in the Midwest knows that those parties can be ruined in an instant by a hot or rainy day.
- Museums/Exhibitions: June 19, 2014
View Community School of the Arts’ steel sculpture exhibition through June 19
Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts presents an art exhibition in Turman Art Gallery through June 19.
The exhibition features the work of CSA’s Metal Sculpture for Adults class participants Pam Anshutz, April Badger, John Edwards, Bruce Fiscus, Jo Anne Fiscus, John MacDonald, Shelley MacDonald, Edie Richards and Mike Swagerle.
- Museums/Exhibitions: June 12, 2014
‘Learning to bend rules’: River City features photographer
River City Art Association and the Vigo County Public Library will showcase the photographic works of Sheila Ter Meer throughout June in the library at Seventh and Poplar streets.
Community School of the Arts presents Steel Sculpture Art Exhibition
Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts presents an art exhibition at the Turman Art Gallery, June 6-19, with an opening reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on June 6.
Clabber Girl to display fused glass art
Fused glass artwork by Edith Acton of Terre Haute will be featured throughout June in The Gallery at Clabber Girl Hulman & Co. Museum at 900 Wabash Ave.
- Museums/Exhibitions: June 5, 2014
German museum shows live replica of van Gogh’s ear
BERLIN (AP) — A German museum has put on display a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s ear that was grown using some of the Dutch artist’s genetic material.
Ernie Pyle museum to observe D-Day anniversary June 9
The 70th Anniversary of D-Day will be observed Friday with a special commemoration at the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Dana.
‘100 Midwest Artists’ at Swope May 30-Aug. 23
This summer, the Swope Art Museum will exhibit works by artists who represent Indiana in the 2012 book, “100 Artists of the Midwest” by E. Ashley Rooney (Schiffer Publishing). “100 Midwest Artists: Indiana” opens Friday and continues through Aug. 23.
Learn about volunteering at Children’s Museum this summer on June 9
Those who are looking for a way to give back to the community and have fun at the same time are invited to attend a Volunteer Orientation Session at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum from 4 to 5:30 p.m. June 9.
The Museum is at the corner of Eighth Street and Wabash Avenue in downtown Terre Haute.
- Museums/Exhibitions: May 29, 2014
Valley artists’ works on display in nature exhibit at Indianapolis airport
Nature photos by Debbie Goodin of Terre Haute and Sheila Ter Meer of Brazil are featured in the “Indiana, Naturally” exhibit on display through Aug. 7 in the Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal Building at the Indianapolis International Airport.
- Museums/Exhibitions: May 22, 2014
‘Eat Well, Play Well’ at Children’s Museum through Sept. 7
What is in the food we eat? Are fruits and vegetables important? Can everyday activities burn calories? Visitors to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum will find the answers to these questions and more by exploring nutrition and fitness in Eat Well, Play Well, an educational science exhibit opening at the museum on Saturday.
- More Museums Headlines
- All aboard for Train Day at Children’s Museum