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The Heart of the Matter

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In anticipation of Valentine's Day this Saturday, Sky BlueWindow chatted with power couples in the Indy arts scene to get their take on matters of heart. Ages, artistic disciplines and relationship durations all vary, but the one constant among them was the adoration with which each interviewee spoke of his or her partner. 


Couple #1: Mab Graves (pop surrealist painter) and Larry Endicott (photographer); curators of Monster Gallery

Mab Graves and Larry Endicott - PHOTO BY DREW ENDICOTT
  • Photo by Drew Endicott
  • Mab Graves and Larry Endicott

Together seven years

"Valentine's Day is almost like our Halloween," Mab Graves says of celebrating the holiday with her partner Larry Endicott. "Last year, we went out for a fancy meal. He came in with a Kroger bag ... inside was a gas station rose, still in the plastic, with a big $1.99 orange sticker on it ... there was a card with a puppy on it ... it was addressed to another woman and her name was crossed out ... there was a box of chocolates with a bite taken out of every one. I loved it."

"This year, I want to wear an '80s dress with puffy sleeves, giant birth control glasses and bad hair. [Larry] wants to get a suit with a lacy cravat and wear a comb-over. He wants to pull the waiter aside, give him the teeniest ring, have him put it in the champagne glass, and then he's going to propose to me in public in a very fancy restaurant." Dramatically, Graves says, "I'll act very surprised and get very emotional!" "[Our kind of celebration] works because we're both satirical and sassy-type people who would never put up with that in real life."

The two met when Graves was bartending in Broad Ripple. Because she was working, she put Endicott out of her mind. She found out a bit more about his work -- "He's a badass!" -- and called him about 10 days later. "I didn't even remember what he looked like," she says of walking into The Brass Ring for their first date. "A cute guy waved me over and I was like, "Nice!" We had drinks for about an hour. At the end, he leaned across the table and kissed me, and we've been together since. One date and soul mates."


Quincy and Nikki Owens - PHOTO BY CHI SHERMAN
  • Photo by Chi Sherman
  • Quincy and Nikki Owens

Couple #2: Quincy Owens (painter, sculptor) and Nikki Owens (jewelry-maker, events coordinator at the Harrison Center for the Arts)

Together 15 years

"We got married six months and one day after we met," Quincy Owens says as Nikki Owens looks on, smiling. "We dated a couple months, we were unofficially engaged a couple months, and then we got married in Las Vegas."

When asked how they celebrate the holiday, Quincy replies, "We don't do anything special. We spend a lot of time together ... we're a romantic couple. Every day is like Valentine's Day."

The pair met when they both worked in the food service industry for several years. Quincy, a one-time bar manager, hired Nikki after she applied for a job. He left the restaurant world in 2012 to pursue art full-time, and Nikki became his art manager. She also works at the Harrison Center, makes earrings, and repurposes Quincy's old paintings into wallets and clutches.

"We work together a bunch ... more than other people we know," Quincy says. "We like each other," he continues, never really taking his eyes off Nikki as he talks.

Together, the couple has five kids -- four boys and a girl ranging in age from seven to 14. "I feel like we're just getting started as a couple," he says. [As the kids get older], "We'll have a little more time to focus on our goals as a couple, as a family, and what we can do for the city," including plans to establish an art space where the two can work and conduct art camps.

On the notion that two artists shouldn't date or marry: "It's a high-maintenance relationship," Nikki says, "but I always go back to 'For better and for worse.' "[It works] if you can look at it through those goggles."


Mary and John Hawn - PHOTO BY RICK JONES
  • Photo by Rick Jones
  • Mary and John Hawn

Couple #3: John Hawn (poet) and Mary Hawn (quilter)

Together 40 years

"We met in 1974 when John was going to IU," Mary Hawn says of her husband. They started dating shortly after meeting. When asked if it was love or at least interest at first sight, they say, "Yes and yes" and smile, ducking their heads slightly.

Married in 1976 -- "Right?" says Mary, to which John chuckles and replies affirmatively. The couple had four daughters and now have eight grandchildren. They don't have any special plans for this Feb. 14. "He buys me chocolates," Mary says. "What do I do for you? Oh, I let you have some of the chocolates."

The Hawns combined their artistic passions in 2010 when they created Poetry in Free Motion, a collaboration between quilters and poets. "We bring the artists together, they create, and then we have poetry readings," John says. PiFM takes place every two years. An exhibit of quilts and poems created in 2014 will be on display this April at the Indianapolis Artsgarden. They'll display as many quilts as they can, and poets will read works inspired by the textile creations.

"We specifically wanted to work together," John says. "I'm into poetry" -- he is professionally known as J.L. Kato -- "and I go to a lot of readings and organize a lot of events." He continues, "I was gone every night and she was quilting every night." Bringing their interests together was a good venture, but it tested their limits when they brought two different organizational styles together. "Working on this project, we've had our moments," John says.

"We get on each other's nerves," Mary explains simply. Mild irritation aside, they're doing something right. Valentine's Day will mark the couple's 38½ anniversary.


Peter Kienle and Monika Herzig - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONIKA HERZIG
  • Photo courtesy of Monika Herzig
  • Peter Kienle and Monika Herzig

Couple #4: Monika Herzig (jazz pianist, faculty member at Indiana University) and Peter Kienle (jazz guitarist)

Together 30 years

"We wanted to make it work. We only bought one-way tickets," Monika Herzig says of the journey that brought her and her now-husband, Peter Kienle, to the States in the late '80s. The two had been playing in the same band in Germany and came to America so Herzig could pursue a graduate degree at the University of Alabama on a one-year exchange program. After earning her master's, the couple moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where Herzig pursued a doctorate degree. They married in 1991, Herzig finished her schooling in 1997, and they welcomed children in 1999 and 2002. Interestingly, their eldest child's middle name happens to be Valentina, the female version of Valentine.

Herzig and Kienle have been playing music together in Bloomington and Indianapolis since 1991, including a weekly gig at Rick's Café Boatyard that began in 2001. Living on the north side of Bloomington allows them to travel between cities fairly easily.

On Valentine's Day it's likely that Herzig and Kienle will be performing. It's hard, Herzig explains, to pass up such a lucrative opportunity and, given that the two are doing what they love, "it works out great for us."

Herzig's favorite Valentine's Day gift from her husband was a collage of family pictures. Of the love-it-or-hate-it holiday, she says, "It's kind of a made-up holiday, but it's nice to have an excuse to do something. It's a good made-up thing."


Georgeanna Smith and Justin Wade - PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGEANNA SMITH
  • Photo courtesy of Georgeanna Smith
  • Georgeanna Smith and Justin Wade

Couple #5: Georgeanna Smith (Executive Artistic Director, NoExit Performance) and Justin Wade (Executive Artistic Director, Young Actors Theatre)

Together two years

"We watch a lot of prison documentaries," Georgeanna Smith says.

"We have a major obsession about learning about prison," Justin Wade adds.

"I'm not sure how it started, but it's deep at this point," Smith finishes. Though not a typical topic when considering romantic holidays or sentimentality, their preoccupation for prison flicks demonstrates the creative duo's quirkiness and combined interests -- just as in their line of work.

Newlyweds Smith and Wade -- married just last August -- talk animatedly about leisure activities they pursue when they take time away from their respective careers in local theater. One of their favorite places to hang out is Monument Circle at night when the weather is nice: "We lay down under the stars and talk for hours," Wade explains. Other spots include Barnes and Noble, the center where they take taekwondo and their church, Tabernacle Presbyterian. Their ultimate favorite place -- "When we can afford it!" they both say while laughing -- is the Conrad Hotel. "We stayed there after our wedding, and it was our present to each other for Christmas," Smith says.

"Justanna," as they're called by the youth they work with, had to weigh the consequences before they began dating. "He was my boss," Smith says. "I knew that if I dated him, I was going to marry him." The couple met when Smith started working for Young Actors Theatre. Her initial job lasted about five months, after which she departed. A couple months later, another employment opportunity opened up. Smith decided to pass because she was too busy, but Wade was persistent. "He called me two or three times to come in, and that's when we ended up getting together."

Involved in theatre "pretty much their whole lives," Smith says, "it's nice to have a partner who understands what we're both passionate about and who understands what's going on at all times. Even before we started dating, Justin was a good sounding board for me."

"I never thought I'd work with my wife and my sister," Wade says. "I'm thankful for the level of honesty it brings. When I'm at work, I feel at home and it feels very comfortable."

To learn more about these artists and their work, visit their respective websites.

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