Madison, Ind., area residents
have fond memories of artist Chapman
The wood turning artist died in September from ALS
(October 2018) – For many area residents of Madison, Ind., this year’s 2018 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art generated fond memories of Madison artist and teacher, Gary Chapman. The local arts community still feels the recent loss of this unique man whose life touched so many.
It was Chapman, with fellow teachers, Lou Knoble and Hal Davis, who helped found the Chautauqua back in the 1970s with local jeweler Oscar Bear. Davis and Bear are now deceased.
That first year, local artists set up booths outside of local shops on Main Street. Each shop sponsored an artist. That festival evolved to become the Chautauqua Festival of Art, with more than 250 artists participating in the juried fine arts and crafts show. Chapman himself participated in recent years in the art show to display and sell his wooden bowls, which he made as a woodturner.
Artist Gary Chapman is pictured in 2016 at the Madison Art Club’s Gallery on Main.
Chapman died on Sept. 16 at age 74 following a nine-month battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In addition to his family, he leaves behind a community and fellow artists who have many stories about his gifts and generous spirit.
“Gary Chapman will definitely be missed. You will never find another one like him,” Barnes said.
Teresa Waller, president of the Madison Art Club, said she met Chapman while serving on the Art Club Board. He was very active, attended every meeting and helped at the club’s Gallery on Main in many ways. Waller reflected that Chapman was always ready to do whatever was needed: patching holes in the wall when pictures were moved for a new display, selecting paint colors, moving a wall, and then helping paint the gallery walls.
“He just took the initiative and made it happen. He had many skills.”
Social events provided another opportunity for Chapman to engage his fellow artists. Each December, he invited the Madison Art Club to his home for a winter social that included the sale of “white elephant” gifts for a fundraiser. Chapman was an enthusiastic auctioneer for the event. Each June, he played host to a summer event where he grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for an Art Club potluck. Waller said Chapman was always happy to provide tours of his workshop for his colleagues during those events.
One year, he was able to get the alley adjacent to the gallery closed temporarily so that he could set up a woodturning demonstration with members of the Southeastern Indiana Woodturners.
“He was always willing to expend time and effort for the betterment of the c and the gallery. He was a terrific guy with a great attitude,” Waller said.
Chapman is remembered as “one of the most talented artists in the area,” according to fellow artist Linda Wood. Chapman and Wood were each recognized with awards at the 2013 Regional Fall Art Show. Chapman was recognized for the “Best Three-Dimensional,” work and Wood received Honorable Mention for her entry titled “Main Street Charm.”
“Chapman was a superior woodturner; he was a perfectionist,” Wood said. Most notably, Wood said Chapman was the kind of person who helped make other artists better – a really wonderful person who was always willing to share his knowledge.
Another individual who echoed those comments is Bob Hudson, who remembers Chapman the high school teacher. Even more important to Hudson was that Chapman actually got to know him better after graduation. “He always took time to speak with me,” said Hudson. “He always had a smile on his face. He always called me ‘Robert.’ He is someone I will really miss. I will never forget him.”
Don Barnes was the president of the Southeastern Indiana Woodturners in 2016. Chapman followed Barnes in that role the next year. Barnes remembers Chapman’s innovative ideas and enthusiasm because he always looked for special projects for the club.
“He had ‘out of the box’ ideas and kept us on our feet,” Barnes said. For example, one time he gave each member a 2-inch thick square of wood, with the challenge to see what they could make from it on their lathes. Another time, the challenge was to turn something on the lathe using a material that was not wood.
Barnes has “lots of memories.” He proudly recounted the story of Chapman’s work being selected by Gov. Mike Pence as gifts for dignitaries in Southeast Asia to highlight the quality and craftsmanship of Indiana-made products. The seal of the State of Indiana was placed on the bottom of each Chapman-turned wood bowl. Barnes explained that Chapman’s teaching style always came out; that he was always willing to help. He took time to show others the fine art of a creating a beautiful finish, a process that requires great patience.
Chapman was a renowned woodturning artist, but in the end, it is Chapman, the man, who is remembered for his gracious spirit and passionate teaching style.
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