New energy on Broadway

Terry Ratliff's gallery opens

Terry Ratliff, photography by Ellie Bogue

Terry Ratliff, photography by Ellie Bogue

Terry Ratliff is probably one of the most well known artists in Fort Wayne. You can find his brightly colored, action-filled paintings and murals all over town – from inside the Casa restaurant chain to Indiana Tech. Now, he’s opened a gallery on Broadway in one of the brightest spots of downtown.

The space he’s leasing was once Phil’s Barber Shop (for more than 60 years) and sits right next door to The Phoenix, another newcomer to downtown and Broadway. Ratliff sees great potential on Broadway, and he said he’s thrilled to be a part of its ongoing renaissance.

“It’s all so great for Broadway,” Ratliff said. “I’d like to see this become an arts corridor. (Broadway) has to be one of the most interesting streets in town.” He’s not the only one fascinated to see that every walk of life is represented there.

Another intriguing idea Ratliff has for the area is a Broadway-based arts fair that would showcase the talent that lies along the street. Ratliff’s gallery is just one of several other arts-and-crafts-related businesses on the corridor, including The Potter’s Wife Gallery and Aaron’s Oriental Rug Gallery just down the street. The old Canton Laundry, just north of Ratliff’s studio, has been the site of “pop-up” art galleries, and several buildings have been or are in the process of renovating, as part of the rebirth of downtown. The street has long been a go-to destination for antiques shoppers and collectors.

At Ratliff’s gallery, which opened Nov. 14, the walls are filled with his works, from his wildly colored and energetic abstracts to his Picasso-like floral bouquets to his monochromatic streetscapes of Fort Wayne’s past. But he also wants to show other artists’ work and said he would charge a lower commission rate than other galleries, in order to support up-and-coming artists. One example is metalsmith Ron Ostlund’s work, which repurposes industrial metals into funky and functional clocks, furniture and jewelry.

Ratliff is prolific, creating his works in a matter of hours or a few days. He created 67 pieces for Indiana Tech’s academic offices in just a few weeks last summer, often painting eight to 10 hours a day in his late father’s garage. (Due to the size of some of his murals, he had to have a large enough space to create the giant pieces.) His father, who died about a year and a half ago, used that space to paint cars, Ratliff said.

“The energy was just amazing,” he said of the garage-turned-art studio. “When you paint fast, it captures that energy. It’s almost like you’re doing sports. If you’re fast … you have a lot more agility (to) capture that energy.”

Energy flows through every Ratliff painting, where bright colors and movement dominate. In addition to selling his works, Ratliff also creates works to benefit charities, in particular Francine’s Friends, for whom he painted silk scarves to be sold as fundraisers. He also created the image of the late Francine Schubert that graces the group’s materials.

Upcoming in February is a show with photographer Tim Brumbeloe at Ratliff’s new gallery. It’s on Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be Ratliff’s birthday. As usual, he’ll be painting.

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

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