A segment of Hoosier heritage knocked on the door of an eastern Bartholomew County home about a year ago.

Suzie Rentschler offered a happy welcome to wandering artist Gwen Gutwein. The Fort Wayne painter wanted to include the Rentschler barn in a collection of 185 works reflecting such structures in every Indiana county. The finished oil-on-canvas piece features a weathered white barn next to a sycamore tree standing guard.

The hillside serene scene looks like the center of America’s heartland.

“It’s amazing,” Rentschler said. “I think barns represent much more than mere structures. They represent our history as a country in agriculture, and that’s important because we’re still the breadbasket of the world. And I see Indiana as a very important part of that.

“But, all too often, much of that gets overlooked.”

That piece is among 20 rustic representations in Gutwein’s “Heritage Barns of Indiana,” on display through Dec. 31 at Gallery 506, the new name for the exhibit space at the Columbus Area Visitors Center, 506 Fifth St. The artist tentatively plans to change the works every few weeks to include a wider variety in the display, which is free to the public.

Gutwein obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University, graduating with honors. In addition, she studied painting in Washington, Utah, North Carolina, Florida, Greece and Indiana.

The paintings, part of an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, depict a slower sense of life.

“It started simply because I was concerned about the demise of barns,” Gutwein said, speaking by phone from her northern Indiana home.

Along with the paintings, she collects each barn’s distinctive history. She completed about 85 percent of the barns on location.

“I did that specifically to capture all the character, mood, reflected light, shadows and nuances,” she said.

She found the Rentschler barn by simply driving Indiana’s country roads. She spotted it and found it “captivating,” as she put it, while she traveled from Decatur County into Bartholomew County. She loves the natural appeal of the older structures.

“Like a face, a barn has its flaws and wrinkles,” Gutwein said. “And that is always part of its beauty.”

Barn-raising awareness

What: Fort Wayne artist Gwen Gutwein’s display, “Heritage Barns of Indiana,” highlighting 20 of her 185 oil depictions of older Indiana barns from all 92 counties.

When: Through Dec. 31, with some works being changed out every few weeks to highlight a larger variety of barns.

Building hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. People can see the exhibit when the Columbus promotional film is not being shown to groups in the exhibit area.

Where: Gallery 506 at the Columbus Area Visitors Center, 506 Fifth St.

Admission: Free.

Information: 812-378-2622 or columbus.in.us.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.