Visual Arts » 2D

A Gallery You Can Bank On

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What: A unique gallery, where artists pay a monthly fee to rent wall space to display their works of art. The gallery features pieces from an array of artists, in a mix of styles, at various price points. The building was actually the Mass Ave State Bank until it closed in the 1990s, and then it became a software company. In 2007, metal artist Dan Haynes turned the space into the Art Bank, where he and his friends, along with other local artists, could showcase their work.

When: The gallery is open from 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. It's part of IDADA's monthly First Friday Art Tour.

Where: 811 Massachusetts Ave.

Info: (317) 624-1010, www.artbankgallery.com.

Visitors can often chat with an artist on site, and can meet many of them during  First Fridays and Second Saturdays at the Art Bank each month.  - PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIMBERLY EWING
  • Photo provided by Kimberly Ewing
  • Visitors can often chat with an artist on site, and can meet many of them during First Fridays and Second Saturdays at the Art Bank each month.

Tucked inside a former bank building -- complete with its original vault -- is an art gallery that many people may not know exists. Yet, the Art Bank has been dispensing a variety of works in almost every medium and price for the past eight years.

It's a creative hub, located in the 800 block of Mass Ave., that artists such as Kimberly Ewing call home.

For a year, the Indianapolis-based photographer has been displaying her images on a wall she rents inside the gallery.

She's just one of about 40 artists who are apart of this unique gallery experience, where artists pay a monthly fee for wall space, never have to pay commission and often volunteer to work (what they call "attending the bank") a few hours each week. During that time they greet customers, ring up sales, attend to general upkeep, and educate the public about the works and artists inside the gallery.

However, for Ewing, it's an opportunity that almost didn't happen.

Truth be told, Ewing's photography isn't how she makes her living.

A former pharmaceutical sales rep and director of multicultural services at Vincennes University, Ewing is a full-time motivational speaker and bullying prevention expert, which she runs through her company KDE Motivates.

Photographer Kimberly Ewing poses inside the main entrance of the Art Bank, a gallery of great art and good energy. - PHOTO BY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Photo by Shelby Roby-Terry
  • Photographer Kimberly Ewing poses inside the main entrance of the Art Bank, a gallery of great art and good energy.

Photography has always been a "quiet" hobby, albeit a serious one, that only a few people knew about. One day, a friend decided to push Ewing outside of her comfort zone.

"She kept bugging me about getting my work out there," says Ewing.

It wasn't until that same friend took one of Ewing's photographs of a sun setting against an ocean backdrop and had it transferred to canvas that Ewing thought she might be onto something.

Still, she admits, fear and doubt about whether she was good enough crept in, causing her to continue to resist. Then, a year later, she received an invitation from another friend to visit the Art Bank for a jazz set.

"I walked in and thought, 'Wow, this is cool.' I went home that night and got to work putting my stuff on canvas," says Ewing. "I came back a year later, literally a year later, talked to (the manager) and asked about a wall. As soon as I got up on that wall ... boom, it blew up."

Ewing's work was an immediate hit.

Her images take up an entire wall in a room near the gallery's front entrance along the 800 block of Mass Ave., just steps from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick.

Ewing says the inspiration for her work comes from her travels ... and life.

There's a picture of the Robert Indiana's famous LOVE sculpture; a few images from her trips to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Cozumel, Mexico; and several Indianapolis scenes, including the downtown skyline, Canal Walk, and an inner-city mural.

Ewing’s wall of art inside the gallery is filled with images on canvas from her travels both near and far.  - PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIMBERLY EWING
  • Photo provided by Kimberly Ewing
  • Ewing’s wall of art inside the gallery is filled with images on canvas from her travels both near and far.

Each image has special meaning for Ewing, but there's one that touches a little deeper than the others. It's a detailed picture of birds gathered around a discarded piece of bread, left on a patio table at a local restaurant.

Ewing was there reflecting about life shortly after losing her mother to breast cancer in 2009, when she looked up and saw the birds in mid-feast.

"These birds literally pounced on the bread," says Ewing, who quickly pulled her camera from her bag and started shooting. "I happen to have my camera with me a lot."

That image, and most of what she does through her photography business KDE Photography, helps support Susan G. Komen and its breast cancer research, as well as offset funding for her bullying prevention workshops for nonprofit organizations that can't always afford to pay.

For Ewing, the Art Bank serves many purposes.

"It's really been cool. I love the diversity, the networking, and I love the fact that it's just opened many doors to opportunities that otherwise you wouldn't know about," says Ewing. "This might be a platform that pulls them in to me. ... What I also like about it is that in some shape or form, we (the artists) are vehicles in touching other people. ... I just love getting to know other people."
Ewing also loves celebrating the works of the other artists, which she does on her personal YouTube channel and the gallery's Facebook page. Her posts often highlight the varied and skilled art inside the gallery, and the artists behind them. She always ends with an invitation for people to visit the gallery.

Inside the Art Bank, there's art on almost every inch of wall space -- and several display tables. Your eyes quickly take in the array of colors, styles and shapes of the hundreds of works -- which rotate once or twice a month -- on display.

The entrance to the Art Bank is steps from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, along the 800 block of Mass Ave.  - PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIMBERLY EWING
  • Photo provided by Kimberly Ewing
  • The entrance to the Art Bank is steps from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, along the 800 block of Mass Ave.

Every now and then, you stop to move in just a little closer on a particular piece, taking in the details, the name of the artist, the price.

At every turn, there's something different to look at.

There's the teller window; the original vault (which has been turned into the "Book Nook" that displays literary works written about Indiana or by Hoosier authors); the drive through window; and the former panic room, which is now a controlled, lighted display area.

But it really is the art that commands your attention.

Each wall features a different artist and runs the gamut, everything from oil paintings to traditional and iPhone photography to abstract pieces, watercolors, charcoal drawings, sculpture and more.

"We have a very eclectic group, which is why I love this place so much," says Ewing. "We have such a variety of different types of artists."

Just as varied are the people that come into the Art Bank.

Manager and fellow artist Joy Hernandez attributes that to the gallery's welcoming, nontraditional atmosphere, the different styles inside and its location.

On a recent Friday, while "attending the bank," Hernandez says a couple from Toronto on an impromptu trip to Indianapolis, newlyweds celebrating their honeymoon and a woman with several young children in tow all stopped in at various times that day.

"It's something about the neighborhood and Mass Ave. that draws people from all walks of life into the gallery, and that's a great thing," says Hernandez, whose pop art automatically brings a smile to your face.

For the artists, Hernandez wants the Art Bank to remain a place of refuge, a "sanctuary" that helps new artists make a name for themselves, while also making art both accessible and educational for the public.

For Ewing, it's also a place for fun.

"For me to come in here, and to just be an artist, that's fun," says Ewing. "I never thought I would be able to call myself an artist. At first, it was so weird, but now it feels right."

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