This ominous pandemic has upended what was considered “normal” since March 2020 for most everyone globally. Masks, hand washing, and social distancing have replaced the old routines with an under current of stress. An artist, Edwin Shelton was also impacted, but in a tremendously positive way. The Indiana superintendent declared no access to school buildings during the lock down in Indiana. Edwin Shelton, who is the art teacher at Marquette Catholic High School (in Michigan City, Indiana) suddenly could no longer work on his large, mixed materials, wall panels in the basement art room which was a cafeteria space. The large space had doubled as his unofficial studio for about four years.
His next option was the kitchen table in his home which is four blocks
away from the high school. Shelton rummaged around his various art supplies at home. He discovered a batch of handmade paper that he had made with the supervision of Andrea Peterson at Hook Pottery and Paper in LaPorte, Indiana. He was inspired to create a series of 18” by 24” drawings based on the small, abstract back stitches for his wall panels and drawings. Instead of using conventional drawing materials, Shelton stitched twine covered in silk fabric that he wrapped in fluorescent upholstery thread. The special cord formed the image in the paper. He sometimes enhanced the drawing with acrylic paint, enamel spray paint, etc.
Sometime in July 2020, Kie Constantinov, a talented local painter sent out a group email to artists explaining that new studio spaces were available in the Saint Mary Building. She opted for a second floor corner classroom. It was built as a Catholic school building in 1886. Shelton
arranged for a tour of the former classrooms. He chose a second floor
space with windows facing the alley across from the Marquette Catholic High School. The classroom is about 25’ by 30’ with 10’ ceiling. A small sink is located in a coat room. Four sliding windows provide some natural light to supplement the two tracks of fluorescent lighting. A green “black board
occupies each of the remaining three walks. He needed a blank wall without a green black board. The floor tile is dark brown with a surface that reflects the many years of use.
Edwin Shelton obtained permission to build a temporary “gallery” wall. He engineered 8’ by 40” compressed chipboard panels that were framed by 2 by 4’s. The panels were bolted together and primed. The wall reaches almost to the ceiling. The wall was painted a basic white. His artist wife, Laurel Izard suggested he create storage space behind the gallery wall for the completed artworks. He can now work on large scale wall panels.
Edwin Shelton and his wife have lived in Michigan City for almost 30 years. They had a ceramic object business called Izwin for almost two decades. The talented couple designed, marketed, and produced ceramic jewelry, Christmas ornaments, and whimsical dinnerware. Craft galleries, boutiques, and department stores. Department 56 licensed some of their designs for several years. A recession and imported ceramics brought their amazing collaboration to an end. They reinvented themselves. Eventually Izard became the art teacher at Marquette Catholic High School. Shelton became the program director for the Blank Art Center (now known as the Lubeznik Center for the Arts) for almost five years. He obtained his art teacher’s license. Shelton taught art at Notre Dame School, Queen of All Saints, and Andrean High School at different
times. After nine years of teaching at Marquette, Izard was replaced by
Shelton after nine years of teaching at Marquette. He was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to be an exchange teacher for four weeks in the Zhangdian Experimental Middle School in Zibo, China. The phenomenal travel experience was life changing as the cliche goes for Shelton.
Laurel Izard works on embroideries to promote the awareness of
endangered species. In 2019, she was awarded an On Ramp grant from the
Indiana Arts Commission. The funding allowed her to purchase a Juki sewing machine. Izard completed the grant project with an exhibition of these amazing embroideries at the Art Barn in Valparaiso, Indiana.
About four years ago, Shelton considered working large canvases. He
realized transporting them would be challenging without a large truck. He
figured out wall panels that did not exceed 8 feet could fit in his Odyssey van. The panels had the advantage of rolling up. The shapes could vary instead of conventional stretchers. His format invited using repurposed and new materials. Shelton experiments with an assortment of materials and objects. Often the wall panels were fabricated from plastic cat litter bags, window screen, fabrics, matte medium, etc. He also shops the Thrift Store on the Saint Mary building first floor for fabrics, shirts, and blouses.
Many other artists occupy the classrooms in the Saint Mary building. They are generally experienced creators. They are impressively still practicing and enhancing their respective talents. The building’s name is Saint Mary Arts.
Edwin Shelton will have three artworks in the 77th Annual Juried Salon Exhibition at the South Shore Arts (http://southshoreartsonline.org) in Munster, Indiana. Another Saint Mary Arts artist, Jane Cowley also has a wonderful painting in this salon exhibition. Chicago Conceptual artist and cultural producer, in Lauren M. Pacheco was the juror. Bridget Covert, the Director of Exhibitions said “There were 60 pieces chosen from 41 different
artists out of over 280 pieces submitted.” The show will run from November
21st through January 24th.
The pandemic provided a fresh opportunity to establish a new studio for Edwin Shelton and other exceptional artists. The Saint Mary Arts Building has been repurposed from its original mission as a Catholic elementary school. Edwin Shelton’s creative career has taken on many variations over the decades. To complete this theme, he takes great joy transforming discarded materials into visual treasures. Life continues to evolve. His contactinformation is firstname.lastname@example.org. Shelton’s website is edwinpshelton.com