Unleashed! Facebook group showcases talent

Published 9:24 am Thursday, March 13, 2014

“The Sith of Anarchy: Vader,” pen and ink, digital, by Dennis Anderson. (Submitted photo)

“The Sith of Anarchy: Vader,” pen and ink, digital, by Dennis Anderson. (Submitted photo)

EDWARDSBURG—For many of the 1 billion Facebook users around the world, the popular social network is a place to share news, photos, interesting links and other personal tidbits with friends and family members.

Yet, as with any other type of technology, there are groups of people who have adapted the site to suit their own needs and desires.

That’s what Dennis Anderson, an artist based in Edwardsburg, and an ever-growing group of more than 200 artists from around Michiana have done by creating, joining and supporting the Facebook page called “The Artists of Michiana …Unleashed!”

Anderson started the page in August 2013 with the purpose of creating a space where artists of all stripes could come together and support each other.

As the page’s description states,“Unleashed! exists for local artists to find solace in knowing… you are not alone. Art is what you make of it. Your personal day-to-day struggles with creativity in the face of all sorts of other life problems are probably no different than mine, or the next artist.”

Administrators welcome posts on all sorts of art-related topics: “Our local scene, new projects, collaborations, anything.” The only real rule is that comments be supportive.

With such an open-armed policy, visitors to the page will find an amazing variety of artists creating in all sorts of media. There are even some musicians who post on the page.

“The goal is to bring in those creative people and allow them to unleash their inner creativity—to know that their goals are probably very similar to the other artist who sits quietly at home wondering how to get their work out and to be seen,” Anderson said.

One of those artists is Sarah Dolezal, a South Bend-based artist who posts photos of her found-object artwork under the moniker “Gears on Acid.”

“I love the feedback from the other artists, and the support that everyone is willing to give everyone else is really encouraging,” Dolezal said. “The largest gain I’ve gotten from this group is the feeling that I can do this. I’m not as afraid to show them what I have because they are doing the same. The atmosphere is really positive and the sense of community is astounding.”

Other artists express similar feelings about the network that Anderson created now and maintains with the help of several other administrators.

“I love keeping in contact with the local art community … they all inspire me. I enjoy that we can put shows together, ask questions, and lend each other a hand,” said Kelsey Frederick, a site administrator and painter based in Mishawaka. “I feel that it is a huge part of a great art movement in a city that can be blind to what art is.”

Serving many of the same purposes, “The Artists of Michiana…Unleashed” is reminiscent of the physically-located artists’ colonies that were popular in late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Manda Vazquez, who describes her work as “modern fine art,” called the forum “a great tool to have at our disposal! Personally, I use it to connect with other local artists, get feedback on work, and give/receive advice and tips of the trade. Even with it being a virtual community, there is a great sense of camaraderie.”

While the site was originally created for the purpose of bringing artists together so that they could support and share experiences with each other, Anderson also welcomes art lovers to join the group.

“While the goal really was to create a space for the local artists only, I’ve not been turning down anyone who wants to join to check out what we’re up to and maybe even glimpse at how we think and work while creating,” Anderson said.

Potential art buyers are welcome to join the site, whether they are looking for a completed piece or a commission piece.

“It’s a place for all creators or enthusiasts equally. Social media has definitely been interesting as a tool for artists, bringing us together and getting us out in the public eye,” Anderson said. “We have a wonderful pool of very creative folks in Michiana.”