Dogwood Festival unveils latest piece of art

Published 12:05 pm Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dogwood Festival Secretary Bobbie-Jo Hartline stands next to the newest addition to their art collection. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Dogwood Festival Secretary Bobbie-Jo Hartline stands next to the newest addition to their art collection. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

A painting done by a hometown boy now has a permanent spot in Dowagiac for the public to come and enjoy.

Dowagiac’s Dogwood Fine Arts Festival unveiled the latest work of art donated to its ever-growing downtown gallery Wednesday afternoon. The painting, created by Dowagiac native Rick Herter, is titled “DFC Over Baghdad,” and depicts a real life operation by the 172nd Fighter Squadron during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

“[Herter] put a lot of time and energy into the capturing that moment,” said Festival Secretary Bobbie-Jo Hartline. “You can almost taste the fuel and soot that must have been in the air that day.”

The painting is one of 350 authorized reproductions of the original, Hartline said. It was given to the festival by a local couple that wished to remain anonymous.

“They told us that they wanted to make sure that the painting stayed right here in Dowagiac, where it belongs,” Hartline said.

Around 25 people attended the unveiling ceremony Wednesday, including members of Herter’s family, his former teachers and a few of his high school classmates, Hartline said. One of the people who stopped in was another local artist, Rick O’Konski, who knew Herter growing up.

“It was obvious from an early age that he had ‘it,’” Hartline recalled O’Konski saying. “It’s nice to see someone grow up and develop as an artist.”

Organizers originally wanted to bring Herter back to his hometown for the unveiling, closer to the opening of the festival in May, Hartline said. However, complications with his schedule prevented that happening, so they had the unveiling this month instead.

Herter has spent the last few decades creating paintings with an aeronautical theme, participating in the Air Force Art Program in 1987. The artist recently completed a mural depicting the history of aviation for Kalamazoo’s Air Zoo museum, which is currently the world’s largest indoor hand-painted mural.

“I had the opportunity to watch him while he was painting it,” Hartline said. “It’s an inspiring sight to see and it’s pretty darn cool to think it’s right here in our backyard.”

The Dogwood Festival office, which is located in the Huntington Bank Building on Commercial Street, features art comprised of both gifts given to the festival and of pieces that are loaned to them for display.

“We have art that falls into two categories: Ones that are created by local artists or art from people we’ve featured in past festivals,” Hartline said.

The first donation the festival received was in 2004, when photographer Algimantas Kezys offered to give the organizers their choice of one of his photos after being featured in the festival that year. Since then, it’s expanded to encompass 24 paintings and photos.

The Dogwood Fine Arts Festival begins on May 9 and runs through May 19. Ticket information and a schedule of events can be found on the festival’s website,