Northern Indiana Company Enlists Hoosier Painter to Illustrate Its History

Justin Vining, a popular professional artist in Indianapolis (originally from Etna Green), created a remarkable mural depicting the history of Urschel Laboratories at the company’s new global headquarters in Chesterton. This time lapse video shows the painstaking process that goes into working on such a comprehensive piece of art.

Vining relocated to the area for three months in order to complete the mural.

Boston Magazine Changes Cover on the Run, Reflects Spirit of Recovery

For all Americans, there are many dates that resonate, sadly, all too well. For me, the first was the Challenger explosion. I remember exactly where I was at the moment the shuttle erupted in the sky. I can still picture all of my classmates crowded in the tiny gymnasium of my small elementary school, watching on TV.

Or learning about the Columbine tragedy from the couch of my first apartment. Who can forget where you were when the first plane struck the World Trade Center, or when an elementary school in Connecticut transformed into a killing field? Sadly, we can add one more event to the list. On Monday, April 15 we all stopped in horror as bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

We witnessed people from all over the country – but especially Bostonians themselves – come together in support of a city. On Facebook, people replaced profile pictures with images of shoelaces twisted into ribbons, a sign of support for the runners, spectators and everyday citizens affected by the terror. One of the most poignant acts of solidarity in my mind was the playing/singing of “Sweet Caroline,” the Boston Red Sox’ unofficial anthem, in stadiums and ballparks across the nation, including at the home of Boston’s nemesis, the New York Yankees. Elsewhere, the Milwaukee Brewers showed a video tribute to the city of Boston at a recent home game that included the theme-song from Boston-based “Cheers.” And nothing gave me chills more than at the entire crowd singing the "Star Spangled Banner" at the Boston Bruins first home game after the bombing.

So how does a magazine capture all that emotion? Can it even be done? The answer is a resounding yes, as Boston Magazine proved.  The magazine’s current cover features hundreds of shoes worn by runners in the April 15 marathon set up to form a heart, with the words “We Will Finish The Race” in the negative space. It is a simple but poignant image.  And it is all the more amazing given the deadline staff faced.

Staff members at the magazine were in the midst of wrapping up their May issue when they got news of the explosion. They immediately knew they had to do something that would re-write their magazine, literally. I can tell you from my experience to have to do what they did, change the direction of the magazine, is an incredible undertaking. Scrapping much of their content in honor of all those who were there was bold and tremendous. It required everyone on staff to step up and contribute in a way they may not have normally. Editor John Wolfson explains how the idea came about and what it took to put hundreds of runners’ shoes on the cover and in the magazine in the span of only days. But it was worth it. These efforts truly honor and tell what Boston and America is all about, coming together in the midst of such tragedy.

For me, when I think of the marathon bombings years from now, I’ll recall this cover.
 

Hoosier Painter Discovers Art of Social Media Marketing

Indy residents strolling down the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple this summer may see a man on his front lawn in a white T-shirt covered in paint (one could argue getting it on your Hanes V-neck is much safer than eating it, like I did as a child — and I prefer blues, thanks for asking). This painter is Etna Green (Kosciusko County) native Justin Vining. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because you might be one of his many, many fans on Facebook.

Vining, a graduate of Purdue and Valparaiso University’s law school, has built such a huge fan base — largely using social media — that he recently quit his job as a corporate head hunter to become a full-time painter. He credits his newfound autonomy to his ability to take the utmost advantage of marketing tools on Facebook.

"Before the suggest-a-(fan page) button was launched on Facebook (in 2009), I had around 500 fans," he says. "Then I just hit up my friends (to suggest him to others) and would incentivize people as well with either free paintings or even money.

"I don’t think it’s as effective as it once was, so part of the trick was using that tool right when it came out. That kind of goes to the overall gist of social media; be in tune with what’s happening today and how to best utilize the changes that occur so frequently."

He notes that giving away paintings to those who recommended him was quite useful in building recognition and rapport.

"It’s such an invasive thing to do — to ask people to endorse something they may not know a whole lot about, so for me the trick was giving away something of big value," Vining explains. "That made them willing to do something a little more personal."

Vining also credits targeted advertising through Facebook to art gallery owners, professional artists, art teachers, etc.

"But that was when you could advertise on Facebook for pennies on the dollar; now it’s a lot more expensive," he contends. "It’s not that cost effective anymore."

In the span of two years, Vining’s Facebook fan base has jumped from around 500 to over 10,100. He places the source breakdown of his Facebook fans as follows:

  • 6,000 – 7,000 from the suggest-a-fan page button from Facebook
  • 1,000 – 1,500 from targeted advertising on Facebook
  • 500 – 1,000 from organic growth
  • 500 from Twitter

"Part of it is also about engaging the fans," Vining says. "Pretty much anybody that leaves a comment — positive or negative — I try to respond to. It takes probably 30 minutes to an hour each day to do that. But just this morning, I was responding to this guy and — since you can now see your message history on Facebook — I realized I’d actually sent him a note two years ago. So I was able to thank him for his continued support."

He adds, "I have a 3% interaction rate — but with 10,000 people, that’s a lot."

When addressing the effectiveness of social media, Vining relays that he’s yet to find much benefit from LinkedIn, with Facebook and Twitter being his core focus.

"Twitter and Facebook are quite different," he says. "I’ll post something on Twitter and I won’t get much interaction at all, but it seems like the bit of interaction I get is like bits of gold. But on Facebook, I’ll post the same things and get tons of interaction, but it’s more surface level. It’s weird. But following up with all those people is fun and can lead to some really cool conversations — and through that I’ve found that there are some pretty established artists who have been following my work for years."

Vining, who indicated all but several of his current paintings are sold or spoken for, typically paints 24 X 48-inch arcylic work (both color and black & white), normally running $500.  He also offers 16 X 22-inch marker drawings for $40.

His work can be found at www.justinvining.com;  www.facebook.com/justinvining; and on Twitter @justinvining. He’s also offered business advice for other artists at Northwest Indiana Creative.

Warhol Exhibit to Display the Business of Art

Sarah Green of the Indianapolis Museum of Art discusses the upcoming Andy Warhol exhibit (beginning October 10), which will show the entrepreneurial side of the late artist. She explains he did not shy away from exploring the "comingling of art and commerce."

Our very own Tom Schuman delved into the issue with his article, "Business of Art: All $ign$ Point to Warhol," in the September/October edition of BizVoice.

And Mom Said Not to Play with His Food

As an artist myself, I find myself drawn (pun intended) to other artists around the world who are doing what they love. The invention of the Web and the prevalence of blogging have made my life easier. Now all I have to do to take in a good gallery exhibit is go to my preferred browser and search.

Over the past two years I’ve been doing just that. I’ve logged countless hours and have lost more sleep than I can imagine scrolling through some of my favorite art blogs. I’ve discovered everyone from a guy who created a skull out of a different material each day for a year to someone who routinely inks an old-fashioned comic strip. In between I stumbled upon someone who is eerily similar to me: he’s bald, sports a goatee and is an artist with a dream.

His name is Terry Border and he lives here in Indianapolis. For about three years he’s been bending the fabric (or wire) of reality. He takes wire and ordinary objects we see around our houses (corks, spice jars, fruit and cheesy snacks to name a few) and literally bends and shapes them into something else, injecting personality and life into them along the way. He then photographs them and posts them for all to see.

Within these photos we get a glimpse of what really goes on behind the cupboard. Why are carrots such great parents? What do people really think of Hamlet? How do you fight a cold? All these questions and more are answered on Terry’s blog.

His site boasts over 10,000 unique visitors per month. Now, he’s put some of his most creative creations into a book. “BENT OBJECTS: The Secret Life of Everyday Things,” was released on October 6.

I encourage those interested in good humor, great art and a desire to support local artists to check out his blog http://www.bentobjects.blogspot.com/ and pick up the book. Or drop him a comment at [email protected].