Arts dream blossoms into Warren Creative Arts Outreach

Working in his rural Warren studio, Josh Heim shapes one of the ceramic bowls that will be given to adult ticketholders at Soup for the Arts on Nov. 17, the first fund-raising event of the newly formed Warren Creative Arts Outreach.
Working in his rural Warren studio, Josh Heim shapes one of the ceramic bowls that will be given to adult ticketholders at Soup for the Arts on Nov. 17, the first fund-raising event of the newly formed Warren Creative Arts Outreach. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Nov. 13, 2017.

It all started with an art show held during last summer’s Salamonie Summer Festival in Warren.

It’s blossomed into an effort that could wrap art around an area far beyond Warren.

“When you put a bunch of artists together — we’re dreamers,” says Josh Heim, who works in ceramics at his studio just outside of Warren.

Dreamers they may be, but the founding members of Warren Creative Arts Outreach have a plan — first draw in the kids, and then entice the parents; and make some money so they won’t be constantly knocking on the doors of local businesses, asking for handouts.

Organizers of the gallery show held during the summer festival were amazed at the turnout.

“We had over 90 individual entries,” Heim says. “That blew us away … There’s a passion for the arts.”

He wasn’t expecting that from a small, agriculturally oriented community. The response told him and the rest of the group that they needed to do more with the arts.

While Heim is the only credentialed artist in the group — he has a degree in ceramics and owns JH Pottery Works — the others are all involved in the arts in some way.

Tamara Spahr is a school bus driver who also works as a floral designer; Spahr’s daughter-in-law, Dana Spahr, is active in the LaFontaine Arts Council; and Cheryl Alevizon’s lifelong interest in art led her to one of Heim’s pottery classes.

Dianna Huff is a cake decorator, and Jan Weight has always been very craft oriented. Bruce Winters paints houses, inside and out, but he’s also a self-taught fine artist who produces incredible drawings and paints; he brought along his wife, Marcella Winters. There’s also Rita Bolinger.

“I have the official degree —in mud — but that doesn’t necessarily make or break you as an artist,” Heim says.

Heim, who has three young daughters, sees kids as a portal for bringing more people into the world of art.

“The parents really want to get their kids involved in the arts,” he says.

They’ll bring their kids to craft events designed specifically for the younger set, where they’ll learn about a painting class, a music class or another arts experience designed with adults in mind.

That’s in line with the group’s recently adopted mission statement: “To create and inspire  passion for the arts by providing free art experiences for the youth within the surrounding communities.”

The arts group plans to piggyback off of existing festivals — including the upcoming Holiday Walk and Festival of Trees in downtown Warren — to stage major craft events for kids.

“But you can’t do that for free,” Heim says. That’s where the fund-raisers come in; but even those will have an artistic bent.

The first fund-raiser, Soup for the Arts, will feature a soup supper where adult diners will leave with a hand-thrown soup bowl made by Heim.

The arts group approached Historic Warren Inc., which sponsors the annual Holiday Walk and Festival of Trees, to discuss the possibility of holding Soup for the Arts on Nov. 17, the same night as the existing festival.

“They were all for it,” Heim says.

Soup for the Arts, to be held from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Knight Bergman Center in Warren, will include a craft session for kids and a gingerbread house display and competition.

The gingerbread houses, which were suggested by historic Warren Inc., continue a house theme that began with a birdhouse contest held in conjunction with the Salamonie Summer Festival art show.

Heim’s planning to make between 100 and 150 soup bowls for the event, and says he’s not sure if that will be enough.

“We’re hoping not,” he says.

While Heim is taking the lead on the soup supper, he says leadership roles cycle through members of the group.

“For the art show, I was just along for the ride,” he says. “It’s a very fluid, moving group of people. That’s good, because all the weight is not necessarily on one person all the time.”

Once Warren Creative Arts Outreach hits its stride, Heim doesn’t want to limit its efforts to just the Warren area.

“We want to get the surrounding area aware of the arts,” he says. “Let’s make this bigger than we are.”