Driving down the winding rural roads of northern Valparaiso, the pastoral landscape fell away as tall shady trees took its place guiding me to the charming venue that is the Art Barn School of Art.

As my car pulled up the gravel driveway, the trees parted to reveal a beautifully picturesque old English barn, decorated with glowing string lights and blooming flowers that engulfed the surrounding landscape. It was like walking into a dream. 

Art Barn entrance

I received a warm welcome from Mia the rescue dog, Director of Security and Mistress of Hospitality; yes, it’s her official title. She led me into the courtyard where paintings were hung on the façade of the barn. I was visiting for Art Matters: A Fundraiser for the Art Barn School of Art. Marc T. Nielsen Interiors, long-time friend of the Art Barn generously hosted the event, showcasing a wide range of paintings presented with remarks by New York art dealer Walter Edelman. 

Art Barn exhibit entrance

After being offered a glass of wine I browsed the art showcased outside as well as the antiques housed inside the Marc T. Nielsen Interiors shop. I followed a small cobblestone path from the courtyard to the entrance of the large barn that housed the antique collection. 

The door squeaked open, a small chime rang and I was faced with every antique lover's dream. The collection was breathtaking. Immediately when I walked in I was drawn to all of the old warn wooden furniture, some from 1800’s India and others from France, China, etc. The typical small and dirty knick-knacks you find in other antique stores were absent and beautifully curated pieces from all over the world were in its place. Old English encyclopedia volumes sat on top of Japanese tea tables, which sat next to rice paper room dividers and hand woven Tibetan mats. As soon as I thought I had seen everything, another undiscovered nook would appear with another collection of treasures. Winding from room to room I got lost in countless other worlds throughout history all while assuming I was attending an art fundraiser in Indiana. From two hundred year old Tibetan tea sets to ornately painted Japanese leather trunks, the collection of antiques was one of the most refined and impressive I’ve ever seen.

The sound of soft fingerpicking on a guitar began to float through the air and call me back outside to the collection of art about to be shown. I left the barn and walked past the musician who had taken his seat under the porch beside the collection. 

The outdoor space laid the perfect scene for a relaxed yet sophisticated event. Gentle music set the tone while the grey stone and wooden barn prominently anchored the space to its soft surrounding landscape. The courtyard’s stone and natural wooden touches were abruptly disturbed by the riots of color in each of the framed paintings on display. From charcoal sketches of human model studies to bright yellow and red contemporary sunflowers, the eye was drawn back and forth to the focal point of the fundraiser, the art. 

Art Barn horses piece

Beautifully juxtaposed with the large gray barn as the backdrop, each unframed work lay on the showing table waiting to be held up and shown at proper distance by Mr. Edelman. He made his way through each piece, naming the artist, their style and the unique features of the specific work. His gloved hands delicately handled each painting, holding it up at proper viewing distance to allow attendees to appreciate the piece the way it’s meant to be seen. From pointillism to still life to contemporary, the pieces varied in style and subject matter giving the collection diversity and life.

Art Barn blue waves piece

Gorgeous landscapes of rock formations in Arizona by a Native American artist were shown next to lifelike teal and yellow seascapes that look like they’re flowing out of their frame. The range and diversity of the works was most impressive. You wouldn’t expect to see a traditional still life oil painting shown next to a splatter painted landscape textured by sand, woodchips and dirt. Somehow each painting piqued my interest although they were all very different. The tremendous skill and creativity required to create such work was apparent in the quality of pieces being shown.

I would have stayed all night admiring each piece if it wasn’t for the light rain shower that interrupted the evening. As the rain began to fall all of the attendees pitched in and helped cover the priceless works of art before they were exposed to the elements. Sad to see the pieces disappear under the bright blue tarps, I immediately went searching to find out about more events I could attend. After asking around, I was told about the Art Barn’s annual Art Blitz in September. Similar to this event, the Art Blitz is a two-day festival packed with creative and artistic activities. Demonstrations, art classes, collective community art projects, sculpting, live music and so much more are available for festivalgoers September 21 and 22, 2019. 

If you missed the Art Matters Fundraiser but are still interested in supporting Indiana’s local artists, come to the Art Blitz festival and immerse yourself in the creative community. 

If you’re interested in more events from the Art Barn or Marc T. Nielsen Interiors you can visit them both at artbarnschool.org and marctnielseninteriors.com.