New Art Gallery in Irvington: Q+A With Beth Clary Schwier

Image provided by Beth Schwier

A new gallery has opened up in the Irvington area: Beth Clary Schwier Fine Art. Let’s get to know the artist behind the space. 

Beth Clary Schwier has built a name for herself in Indianapolis. She has become known for her large, brightly colored floral and landscape paintings, in part through her and her work having been featured in the Indy-based HGTV show Good Bones. Throughout her career, she’s been recognized and awarded in many juried exhibitions across Indiana. 

Julia Bluhm: Before your career as an artist, you were a model and actress. How did your career path lead you here?
Beth Clary Schwier: Acting and modeling were a fun creative outlet for me. In Indiana, it’s not really a full-time gig. I graduated from Ball State in 1983 as a theatre major and moved to New York City for 5 years. I realized that everyone in New York wanted a house with a yard in the country, and it made me realize how special my home State of Indiana was. I moved back to Indianapolis in 1989, I signed with Helen Wells agency and began doing television and print ads. When I got married and started having children, I kept it up and was able to have my kids in commercials with me. Our oldest, Drew and I posed for an ad on the side of Wheaton Van Lines in 1998. You can still see those trucks on the road. When my second son, Jackson was born, Helen Wells called me in the hospital and asked if he and I could do a commercial at the same hospital two days later!

I gave up acting and modeling after my third child, Daisy was born. I was so happy to be a mother and wife and raise my children, but I wanted to stay creative. I had another daughter, Lilly, and then another son, Tucker, my 5th. I really was looking for a creative outlet. I saw a woman painting flowers on television and she sold a kit and instructions. I had never had art class before and I was mesmerized. I ordered the kit and I became hooked! I wanted to learn even more! But In 2004, at the age of 43, expecting our sixth child, Ezra, another son, and renovating a large farmhouse in New Palestine, my art was put on the back burner.

JB: When you started seriously studying art, you studied under renowned local artist C. W Mundy. What was that experience like?
BCS: In 2012, I saw CW Mundy’s paintings in a private collection. I didn’t know anything about him, but I flipped out when I saw his work. The color, the movement, the joy. I wanted to learn how to paint like that! I found out that he was an Indiana Master and had a studio at the Stutz Building. I was hoping that he taught classes, and fortunately, he taught workshops once a year in New Harmony, IN. I was fortunate to get in! The first and most important thing about CW is his faith in Jesus Christ. When I found that out, I knew I was in the right place. He brought so much knowledge and experience to his workshops and taught the fundamental truths of being a good painter, but helped me to find my own voice and to bring my faith into my art without changing what I painted, but how I painted.

JB: What motivated you when you started seriously studying art?
BCS: I had to set short-term goals for myself to find ways to exhibit my work and enter juried competitions. The first juried show I entered was the Will Vawter Exhibition in Greenfield, Indiana, and I won Best of Show. After the shock wore off, I was so encouraged and it validated my hard work, and the $1,000 prize helped me to buy more art supplies and keep painting.

JB: How would you describe your art and artistic style?
BCS: I didn’t know much about art, but I knew that I wanted to be free with my use of color and energy on the canvas. I later learned the name for that: “Expressionist”. I wanted to express the joy I have when I paint and in life. The more I painted, the more expressive my art became. I have also been influenced by one of the first female abstract expressionists, Joan Mitchell. I saw her work when I traveled to France several years ago and it changed my art. It was the freedom she had, it was contagious.

JB: How were you discovered by HGTV’s Good Bones?
BCS: I had a studio at the Stutz, starting in 2015, and in 2016, the design team for the show came to the Stutz building looking for artists to use in the show. They liked my work and asked if I’d be interested in working with them and letting them use my art in their staged homes. Of course, I was very excited to be a part of an HGTV show filmed in Indianapolis. The budget was pretty tight, and we volunteered our time and our art, but it was a wonderful opportunity to get our art to a larger audience. It was important to Karen and Mina [the show’s hosts] to use local artists.

JB: What was it like working with them?
BCS:
It was a very significant turning point for me. It helped me grow as an artist because I was able to try new things, like the large, expressive pieces I saw in France. They would give me their design visions and special projects and let me run with it. I got to work with Karen on several special projects. I did a series of Monet inspired Lily Pad paintings for her Carriage House. One was so large we had trouble figuring out how to hang it in the rafters. We also collaborated on a design competition with Mina decorating side by side condos. Karen chose a French Provençal theme and she gave me creative license to paint French inspired paintings. As an actress, it was also fun to be in front of the camera again. They incorporated me into the story, visited my studio during the show, and let me deliver the paintings on camera. This helped people get to know me as a person as well as an artist. The crew was fantastic and just like you see on the show. Both Mina and Karen are very generous and want to promote local artisans.

In 2017, our oldest son, Drew, was shot and killed by intruders at his Indianapolis home. It was a very public story because of the tragic situation and who Drew was as a person. I felt the love and support from so many people in Indianapolis and all over the country who reached out to me after hearing of Drew’s death and his story. They shared in our grief. Our faith in Christ, and the outpouring of love from so many helped us get through that difficult time. It was important for me to have a reason to paint and to keep moving forward.

JB: What inspired you to open your own gallery?
BCS:
Having my own gallery wasn’t anything I had ever dared to dream about. I was happy at the Stutz and it had been a great place to grow as an artist, surrounded by other artists, and have people visit my studio during our annual events. But when COVID hit, and the building shut down, I knew I would need to find a place where I could paint my large pieces, and people would be able to find me. The space in Irvington was ideal because it was in a perfect location, right on Washington St. between Jockamos Pizza and Black Acre Brewery. It had been demolished in a fire and was completely gutted when I first saw the space. It gave me the opportunity to have a blank canvas, so to speak. I use it as my working studio and gallery. Irvington is a wonderful historic community so close to downtown Indy with amazing shops and restaurants. It has such a rich art history of its own, and it’s wonderful to be a part of that.

JB: What has been the most rewarding or proudest moment of your art career?
BCS:
That’s a tough one. I have been very fortunate to have been recognized and awarded in many of Indiana’s juried exhibitions: The Indiana Artist Club, the Will Vawter Exhibition, the Richmond Art Museum, the Hoosier Salon, and Indiana Heritage Arts. In 2018, I was given the Gold award, Best of Show, in the Indiana Heritage Arts exhibition and that was a huge honor because of the talent of the other artists in that exhibition and its historical significance. But I think more than anything, I’m proud to have the love and support of my family to keep pursuing my dreams.

Beth Clary Fine Art is located at 5636 East Washington St, and is open to the public on Wednesday- Thursday from 11am to 6pm, and on Friday and Saturday from 11am to 7pm. More info here.

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