BY JANET MANDELSTAM
When Jaime Sweany became director of the Brown County Art Guild last year, it was “with a sense of reverence for the history of the place,” she says. Artists began finding their way to Nashville, Indiana, as early as the 1870s, and it soon became one of the country’s best-known art colonies. The guild was established by a group of artists more than half a century ago.
Honoring that history while growing the guild as a contemporary art organization is Sweany’s dual vision for Brown County. The guild is both a museum exhibiting the works of the founding members and a modern gallery showcasing the art of its current members.
“When I see the work from the early days, I feel like a steward,” she says. “I feel a responsibility to honor, respect, and preserve the integrity of that collection.”
Still, she says, “no organization can tread water.” Since becoming director in November 2010, Sweany has been swimming fast. “Part of our mission is to educate the public and increase appreciation of the fine arts. Therefore, one of my main goals was to increase public accessibility to the guild. Some people thought that it was a private club.” Her first action was to literally leave the door open to encourage more visitors.
She began a series of workshops and artist demonstrations “to help with the educational goals,” she says.
She also opened an Artisans Shop featuring the work of nonmember local craft artists. The sale of pottery, jewelry, wooden bowls, and other crafts will benefit the guild in what Sweany calls “a tough arts economy.”
This job is somewhat of a homecoming for Sweany, who previously owned Wandering Turtle Art Gallery & Gifts in Bloomington. “I had memories of going to Nashville on weekends with my parents, who were both artists. I was taken with the beauty of Brown County and knew I wanted to live there.” Her father knew Marie Goth, one of the founders of the guild.
Now that Sweany is there, she says, “I have lots of visions for the guild. I want to make Nashville a really happening art place.”