A home for the arts

Castle Gallery celebrates 20 years of style

Mark Paul Smith and Jody Hemphill-Smith, photography by Ellie Bogue

Mark Paul Smith and Jody Hemphill-Smith, photography by Ellie Bogue

For 40 years, artist Jody Hemphill Smith and her husband, attorney Mark Paul Smith, have been the loving caretakers of the West Central neighborhood they call home. And for 20 of those 40 years, they have offered fine art in their Castle Gallery, located in the former home of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

The gorgeous Wing-Mahurin-designed “castle” at 1202 W. Wayne St. was built in 1902 as a wedding present for B. Paul Mossman and his wife. It’s in the Richardsonian-Romanesque style, built with granite blocks quarried hundreds of miles away, according to a history of the building, and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Mossman donated the building to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in 1949, and it was the center of the city’s art world until 1982.

“It’s about preserving the city’s history,” Mark Smith said. “Now the dream is coming true.”

The building was divided into three condominiums after the Fort Wayne Museum of Art moved into its present location in 1982. The Smiths  have restored four houses in the neighborhood. When Mark saw a “for sale” sign in front of the Mossman house, he told his wife they would buy it “when pigs fly.” Now, Jody’s art studio in the backyard carriage house is dubbed Flying Pig Studio.

The couple restored the house down to the intricately laid hardwood floors. A large, open stairway curves gracefully up to the second floor, all walls covered with gorgeous paintings.

Indeed, art and culture have been at the heart of Castle Gallery’s mission since 1995, when the Smiths first opened the gallery. At first, the couple lived elsewhere, but in 2005 they made it their permanent residence. That means that when people tour the gallery, they are quite literally seeing art displayed in the couple’s bedroom and bathrooms. The Smiths don’t mind, though Jody noted that they are careful to make sure they make their bed each morning!

And the house – the home – is filled with art. Mainly oils, from such notable local and regional artists as famed Impressionist plein-air painter C.W. Mundy (Jody’s college classmate), as well as local artists Fred Doloresco, George McCullough and Michael Poorman. Jody’s beautifully colorful pictures are also well represented in the gallery.

Stained glass, sculpture and jewelry enhance the paintings on the walls. Gorgeous Oriental rugs carpet the floors, while Ringo, the couple’s collie, escorts visitors through the house.

“We go all over the world to find artists,” Mark said. “Buying art is investing in your soul. Art can lead Fort Wayne into the future.”

First appeared in the April 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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