Wabash, Ind., is just a short distance from Lake Country and offers some rather interesting and unique attractions. Known mostly as the first electrically-lit city in the world when inaugurated in 1880 and a cross-road for the Wabash and Erie Canal, it is also the county seat with the picturesque Wabash County Courthouse sitting on a hill overlooking the Wabash River.
Although the city population has seen a downward trend since the turn of the century, there is a remarkable renaissance taking place downtown to make Wabash a destination for entertainment, antiques, boutique clothing, arts and food. The beautiful, 1,500-seat Honeywell Center schedules entertainment throughout the year with many headliners such as Kenny Rogers, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Josh Kauffman, Mannheim Steamroller and others.
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Market and Canal Streets are lined with coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, galleries and antique stores. Also on Market Street, is the Charley Creek Inn. This is one of the finest boutique hotels found anywhere. The inn is such a great destination spot few know about that the makeover of the inn, including the Twenty Restaurant and the shops, will saved for another time.
Among all these fine shops in downtown Wabash, Gallery 64 stands apart as one of the more unique venues. Nestled at 64 Canal St., in a circa 1850s side-by-side, the building has had just four owners over all those years. Initially, the building was occupied by Woolworth’s for many years then Resnick’s Department Store took over. Later, a local artist named Bill Stouffer purchased the property and turned it into an art gallery.
In August 2013, the property changed hands again, but in this case, the new owner, Mary Hettmansperger, had a vision: To teach methods in creating fine arts and fine food. Therein, she created a gallery and teaching studio for fine arts, but she also installed a complete country kitchen for cooking classes, baking sessions and special event dinners.
With its opening in spring 2014, Gallery 64 has been on the fast track, scheduling two to three cooking classes per week and three to four art classes per month. The gallery also offers works from local artists, boutique clothing and special food items.
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Mary, originally from the Denver area, moved to Indiana in 1980 and has been doing basket weaving and jewelry designs since. She originally started making jewelry using basketry techniques, then progressed from there into other techniques. She became so adept at jewelry making that she wrote a few books, published by Barnes & Noble:
- “Heat, Color, Set & Fire: Surface Effects for Metal Jewelry”
- “Mixed Metal Jewelry Workshop: Combining Sheet, Clay, Mesh, Wire & More”
- “Low-Tech Metal Apps: Wire, Foil, Mesh, & Screen”
- “Fabulous Woven Jewelry: Plaiting, Coiling, Knotting, Looping & Twining with Fiber & Metal”
- “Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet: Making Designer Metal Jewelry”
In the world of fine art, the books have become standards and are well known internationally. So much so that Mary travels to many countries to teach at universities, art schools, conferences and other venues. She has taught her style of jewelry in Europe and Ireland, on cruise ships, and on PBS programs along with DVDs. One of her most interesting stops was in Singapore. Next spring, Mary will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand to share her creative skills with others. When traveling abroad, she generally schedules six to eight events for each trip.
Meanwhile, between trips overseas, she travels North America sharing with others the skills she has developed over the years.
Mary also invites guest artists to the gallery four times a year to teach classes about their respective artisan techniques. Some come from afar to participate in these special classes.
COOKING AS FINE ART
Mary’s vision of combining creative art designs with creative cooking quickly established Gallery 64 as a learning center. Cooking classes in the gallery’s certified commercial kitchen have become especially popular. Mary invites local chefs, former chefs, cookbook authors, local bakers and even private individuals.
Classes vary in theme, including Mardi Gras, Italian, Thai, Mexican, desserts and variations on common dishes. I was honored to participate in two classes last fall. The first class featured turkey two ways (turkey leg confit cooked in duck fat and turkey breast roulade, both accompanied by a root vegetable gratin). The second focused on several appetizer dishes for the holiday season.
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Lately, Mary says the more popular classes have been traditional Greek dishes by Conrad and Diane Morris including country lamb, spanakopita and saganaki, sushi by Twenty Restaurant chef Jason Winterfeld and bread by Darcy Vail.
The artisan bread event has been such a success that Darcy now bakes 60 loaves each week for the gallery to sell. Described as a yeast artisan loaf, Darcy makes several types of infused loaves each week including roasted garlic, cranberry/blue cheese and jalapeño cheddar, among others. Bread is available every Friday and Saturday at the gallery for $10 per loaf.
With the gallery recently receiving a full liquor license, Mary now plans to partner with Darcy to do in-house catering for special events. High on the list are events like birthday and anniversary parties. This expansion notion came from the success of several special evening events they created.
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For Wabash First Fridays, they served beer, wine and mixed drinks with appetizers to draw folks to the gallery. Other special evenings have been sandwich night, appetizer night, soup night and cinnamon roll night.
“I want an open event venue where people can learn, share and experience something they have not done before,” Mary said.
With only a year and half removed from opening, Gallery 64 has become a centerpiece of the downtown Wabash renaissance scene. Look for a schedule of special events on www.gallery64.com. If any of these events are of personal interest, it is well worth the trip to meet Mary, learn from her or one of her guests and see many of her original creations and those of others. She is one super-talented lady!
For more dispatches from the dining scene in Kosciusko County from Loren Shaum, subscribe to the Lake Country Escapades email newsletter.