May 26, 2017
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Go Team Go!

Nothing beats a tailgate party — especially one that raises money for a good cause. SWIRCA & More will host its 12th annual auction Feb. 27 from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Ivy Room at SWIRCA & More, 16 W. Virginia St. with a new theme this year — tailgate party.

“In years past, we’ve always done a black tie and gala, but this year we decided to change it to tailgate,” says Rachel Sievers, development coordinator with SWIRCA & More. “We’re trying to get more of our members, employees, and supporters to attend this year.”

The focus of this year’s fundraising is on the activity center. SWIRCA is looking for funds to keep the activity center thriving, allowing members a place to network with others, stay healthy, and have fun.

“We’ve had to do a fee, which is $30 for a (membership to the center),” says Sievers. “We’re just trying to ask our auction participants if they’d be willing to help cover that cost for a senior.”

Those attending the auction are asked to wear a spirited outfit for a chance to win an award. The night’s activities will include a silent auction, stadium food, beer samplings from Turoni’s and Carson’s breweries, and other tailgating activities. Tickets will go on sale Feb. 1 and are $30 per person.

For more information about SWIRCA & More’s auction, call 812-464-7800 or visit


Musical Connection

University of Evansville strives to create sense of community through arts
Director of Bands Dr. Kenneth Steinsultz conducts the University of Evansville Wind Ensemble at the annual Holiday Pops concert.

Then University of Evansville alumna Kaitlin Emmert was completing her practicum as a music therapy major, she worked with a mother and her baby in the neonatal intensive-care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“She was doing skin to skin contact with her baby,” says Emmert, who is a music therapist at the Cleveland Clinic. “We were singing a couple of her favorite lullabies and I was helping her sing them in the right tempo and tone. She wasn’t a very good singer, and I kept reassuring her that it didn’t matter. She made an obvious connection with her child, which is hard to do when they are in the NICU.

“That was a memorable moment for me. I knew right then, I was supposed to be a music therapist.”

The May 2014 graduate is one example of the thousands of music students who have studied in the University of Evansville’s five undergraduate degree programs with more than 100 majors offered.

“The opportunities offered are so varied and meaningful,” says Emmert, who is originally from Ferdinand, Indiana, and returned to Southern Indiana to work for six months before moving to Cleveland. “I felt very much a part of the Evansville community. I really became connected with St. Mary’s and the EVSC. Some people go to college and stay isolated in their college life, but at UE, it wasn’t just college life, but a connection to Evansville as a whole.”

Emmert’s take on the department of music at UE is the vision Chair Dr. Thomas Josenhans and his faculty hope to achieve through all of their students — a deep-rooted connection to the community, and a community that is connected to the university, located on Lincoln Avenue.

This strong relationship forms while students complete internships at area institutions. Music therapy undergraduates intern in various units at St. Mary’s, at the Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center, and at Easter Seals. Music management students have opportunities with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, the Arts Council of Southwest Indiana, WNIN, and the Guitar Center. Music education pupils work with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. and Warrick County schools.

“They are putting things in practice that they have learned in the classroom and they do this for six semesters,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Wylie, a music therapy professor at UE. “We are appreciated by the places we go to. We are valued in the agencies.”

After cuts to the 2016 city budget, which reduced funding for several local arts organizations such as the Evansville Philharmonic, Evansville Symphonic Band, and the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, Donald Jones, UE Vice President for Marketing & Communications, says it’s important to keep students active in community outreach so they will be more likely to call Evansville home long after graduating.

The music department has a host of successful student examples to pull from including David Smith, the EVSC superintendent, Tad Dickel, president of Mater Dei High School, and Jennifer Nowaki-Pruden, a music therapist at Integrated Music Therapy.

“The concern in our city now is the brain drain — how do we keep young professionals here?” says Jones. “We have to think in bigger and longer terms. We need people in the community to fight for us. The city is about to take off, and UE gets that.”

UE hopes to bring the public to campus through its concert series; more than 90 concerts a year are hosted on campus with the majority free and open to everyone. The public has opportunities to experience the department’s music off campus through Holiday Pops, a free annual holiday concert at The Victory Theatre, Aces Brass, a pep band that performs at basketball games at the Ford Center, and community festivals and ceremonies.

Students also engage with the city’s youth through summer camps, workshops, and clinics.

“Music is part of the quality of life for a community, and music is part of the quality and the experience of life for our students when they come here,” says Josenhans. “Music has a lot to offer those students who are trying to be successful professionals; they get to experience working with professionals in the Evansville area and get to interact with those people. We are trying to expose our students to people who are successful.”

In order to help further the connection to the community, Josenhans says the university is in need of a performance hall. The current recital hall, Wheeler Concert Hall, is designed for soloists or small groups, like quintets.

“As we look at the different cultural districts, UE doesn’t really have a place to bring large numbers to campus,” says Josenhans. “That’s what we would really like to have.

Creating a sense of community not just with the city but the area where there is a place to come to see great art, that’s the vision.”

For more information about the University of Evansville Music Department, call 812-488-2754 or visit


Fundraising Fun

Take down Vectren, Fifth Third Bank, and other successful Evansville businesses and corporations in a friendly competition during Aurora, Inc.’s 10th Annual Trivia Tonight on March 5.

Trivia teams can have up to eight players. Teams with four or fewer players may be placed on another team. Participants also can enjoy a silent auction, delicious dinner, and cocktails at Evansville Country Club, 3810 Stringtown Road. The cost to participate is $75 per person or $600 per team of eight, making each ticket $50.

All of the money raised through the event goes to Aurora to continue their mission to prevent and end homelessness for individuals and families in the community.

“Aurora has three major events throughout the year and two of them are fundraisers,” says Administrative Assistant Shari Gesser. “One fundraising event is our Midwest Gingerbread House Competition and the other is Trivia Tonight. They both go toward furthering our mission.”

The trivia isn’t the only exciting part of the evening. The silent auction features many interesting items up for grabs.

“In past years, we’ve auctioned everything from jewelry from Brinker’s Jewelers to an inflatable soccer goal,” says Gesser.

Companies, individuals, and participants can donate auction items as well as sponsor portions of the evening.

For more information on Trivia Tonight, call Shari Gesser at 812-428-3246 or visit


Ride of a Lifetime

Dream Car Museum brings international motor experience to Tri-State
Jason Ailstock, curator of the Dream Car Museum, stands next to one of his favorite cars in the collection, a yellow Lamborghini

There’s nothing within a 1,000 miles of Evansville quite like the Dream Car Museum. That’s according to Jason Ailstock, a finance director with Bennett Motors and the curator of the Dream Car Museum, located at 2400 N. Heidelbach Ave.

“There’s not an open museum to the public, for free, that has such a wide variety,” he says. “Nobody has put it on a scale like this before. The only place that rivals it is the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.”

Opened in October 2015, Ailstock says the idea for the museum started as a bit of joke between Larry Bennett, owner of Bennett Motors and Audubon Chrysler in Henderson, Kentucky, and his employees. After Bennett, who never owned a super car, purchased an orange Lamborghini Gallardo, a Rolls-Royce Ghost, and a red McLaren MP4-12C Ailstock says he and others persuaded the car dealer to open his own museum.

“And we were really just joking, but Larry was like ‘You really think we could start a museum, buddy?’” says Ailstock.

The response promoted Ailstock to start some research about car museums in the country. What began as a joke would flourish into the gallery that is open today, featuring some of the 70 cars in the collection ranging from American muscle cars, Corvettes, European super cars, and older models such as the Model A and T. The museum also displays neon signs and various car memorabilia from restored gas pumps to the hoods of early racing Ferraris.

“It’s been extremely popular. It’s kind of taken us aback a bit,” says Ailstock. “The collection sets itself apart. There’s so much stuff throughout.”

While the museum is free, a charity box made from a supercharger sits at the exit for patrons to donate to the charity of the month.

“We match all donations … each month we have a different charity that we give the money to,” says Ailstock. “We match all the money that is collected that month.”

Another aspect of the museum that sets it apart is the rotation of cars on display, says Ailstock. “Every three or four months, we’ll pretty much rotate our museum,” he says. “So if you’ve been here once, you come back three or four months later, it’ll be nothing like the same.”

For more information about the Dream Car Museum, call 888-482-9864, visit, or find the museum’s page on Facebook.


Musically Inclined

Evansville native and opera singer partners with WNIN for project

Early October brought a rush of activity to the home of Matthew O’Neill on Sunset Avenue in Downtown Evansville. The Evansville native was working on the project “Sunset at Semper Fulgens” (which means “Always Shining” in Latin) with local public television station WNIN, and O’Neill couldn’t contain his excitement for the home concert series.

“It’s been crazy around here,” he says as he sits in the carriage house behind his 1905 historic home that he owns with Kristen Holt Burckhartt. “This piano just came from Louisville. Then WNIN just brought over the lights. It’s just been crazy.”

A graduate of Harrison High School and the University of Evansville, music has played a large role in O’Neill’s life. After earning a degree in guitar from UE and with the intention to teach guitar at a collegiate level, O’Neill began taking courses at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. But by the time he graduated, his master’s was not in guitar, but in voice.

“I started gigging around the Twin Cities then I decided to have a go of it professionally,” says O’Neill. “I had a little job at Lyric Opera of Chicago and took an audition that really changed things for me.”

That audition was with the San Francisco Opera training program, which earned him a two-year fellowship with the program. From there, he found himself performing as a tenor on stages in Los Angeles, Dallas, Southern Europe, and Japan to name a few.

“I really enjoyed the repertoire and the story telling component of opera,” says O’Neill. “I liked the environment. I liked the expansiveness of it, the fact that it’s pretty large scale.”

In 2014 during a visit to Evansville to see his parents, O’Neill met Burckhartt. The couple has since spent the last year fixing up their home in Downtown Evansville.

Now he finds himself wanting to get back to playing and exploring different genres of music. After playing again for the last three and a half years, he has enjoyed performing in different environments including at his own home for the “Sunset at Semper Fulgens” series. A small number of tickets to the concert and filming of the pilot episode were sold to benefit WNIN. The first episode currently is in the editing process, says O’Neill, and is expected to air on WNIN Jan. 21.

What was the turning point that made you want to become an opera singer?
Frankly, it seemed to be (that) I was a good musician, so I was prepared for work. And it was simply a matter of I was getting hired and that I was making some income. Ultimately I discovered that I had an instinct toward it. So it was a combination. It was never my passion to begin with, but it was a combination of sort of almost developing a passion for it and also a practicality that it seemed to be the thing that I was the best at.

If you had to pick one favorite aspect of opera, what would it be?
I love the repertoire and the work, and I love the experience of performing, but honestly my favorite part about it is the shared community experience of a cast. You get together for, let’s say, six weeks and it’s sort of like a little family. It’s pretty cool because you’re working on a specific project and then it ends.
Obviously the performing is a great experience. I always was into rehearsal; my thing is rehearsal. Performances are when you get paid and it’s for the audience, but it’s a different thing. For me, the thing I get the most out of is rehearsing with a community of folks.

Do you have a memory from your career so far that stands out to you the most?
Actually my favorite memory is something I did. It was for an opera called “The Makropulos Case” by a Czech composer named Janacek. There was a wonderful part called Hauk Sendork but he happened to be very, very old. Probably in his late 80s. I think that early on, the director got a hold of me and thought I was really too young for it. I think they were really concerned about it once I showed up. So I went to the casting director and said, “What if I just did something like bleached my hair white?” He said, “Well yeah, try it. Absolutely.”

I showed up in rehearsal and it was some of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten. Something as simple as bleaching your hair — people can see you in a different way. That was a really successful (show), one of the best experiences I’ve had in opera.

What do you have coming up for your career?
Several years ago I was involved with the world premiere of an opera called “Moby Dick” with the Dallas Opera. Dallas had a brand new opera house called the Winspear Opera House and they commissioned this opera Moby Dick … it was a co-commission with several companies. I ended up doing it in San Diego and then in San Francisco. We filmed it for PBS Great Performances and it was broadcasted a couple years ago. I’m doing that now in Los Angeles.

Before I left, I did this show, “Sunset at Semper Fulgens,” sort of co-produced with WNIN. It’s a house concert show. I always liked house concerts. I liked the intimacy of just a few people. I wanted to find a way that I could bring in some friends and colleagues from outside who don’t live here, keep active musically with those people, and explore my own interest in a lot of genres of music.

I was talking with Brad Kimmel, president and CEO of WNIN, and we sort of came up with this idea for a house concert/television show series. The idea is to bring in a guest of note — the first is a friend of mine and a wonderful musician named Matt Rollings, one of the leading studio-session pianists and producers in Los Angeles and Nashville. It’s sort of a discussion and collaboration.

The idea is kind of showing off Evansville. We’ll get a little footage of going out to eat lunch and maybe a little bit of the riverfront, sort of showcasing Evansville. Because the idea would be that this would be a series that would be syndicated in some way. So the idea is to bring in guests, treat them as guests, and show off the hospitality of this community.

How often do you find yourself back in Evansville?
In a perfect world, and it just depends on when the work comes up and things, but in a perfect world I would like to do one or two (opera) engagements per year but also be involved in other music and run a career from Evansville. I find that while Evansville is certainly not a musical hub, its proximity to other hubs is convenient. I was just rehearsing with my guest in Nashville yesterday, and we are talking a two hour and 15 minute drive. It’s not a big deal.

Also I think for me, being down here in Downtown, in this exciting period, this revitalization of Downtown, is a pretty neat time with everything that’s going on with Haynie’s Corner, the medical school, and all these things. It’s a good time to just come down here.

For more information about home concert series, visit Facebook and search “Sunset at Semper Fulgens.” The first episode is set to air at 8 p.m. Jan. 21 on WNIN.


Out of the Park

Lori and Don Mattingly

Evansville native Don Mattingly, a former New York Yankees captain and recently named manager of the Miami Marlins, along with his wife Lori, and Mattingly Charities are hosting a fundraising event to support inner-city programs in Evansville.

An Intimate Evening with Friends presented by United Companies will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at the University of Southern Indiana Performance Center. With seating at approximately 300, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a cocktail reception and a question and answer session with Mattingly, country musician Toby Keith, and current Los Angeles Angel Albert Pujols.

Money generated from the event will benefit Evansville youth in the inner city through programs such as the Boys and Girls Club, which offers positive after school programs for children 6 to 18 years old to instill in them a sense of belonging, usefulness, influence, and competence on a daily basis. The Boys and Girls Club of Evansville serves more than 2,000 children at their two sites, Bellemeade Avenue and Fulton Square on Dresden Street.

Individual VIP reception tickets for $500 as well as individual general reception tickets for $300 can be purchased online at the Mattingly Charities Website until Nov. 19.

For more information about An Intimate Evening With Friends, visit


Deck the Magnificent Halls

Reitz Home celebrates 36th year as a Christmas season destination
A Christmas tree, decorated by Jim Lang, occupies the study’s bay windows in the Reitz Home Museum.

An annual Evansville holiday favorite will transport visitors to the Victorian era when it begins its Christmas season on Nov. 15.

“Victorian houses certainly lend themselves very well to Christmas decorating and a traditional type of Christmas,” says Matt Rowe, executive director of the Reitz Home Museum, located on historic S.E. First Street, in the Riverside Historic District near Downtown Evansville. “So it seems like a natural sort of thing for us to be doing during Christmas.”

The Reitz Home was completed in 1871, built by John Augustus and Gertrude Reitz. The couple had 10 children. Reitz, known as “the lumber baron,” built a sawmill on Pigeon Creek near the Ohio River in 1845. By the 1880s, the Reitz mill had produced more hardwood lumber than any other in the country.

This is the 36th year for the Reitz Home Museum Victorian Christmas. Decorations will interweave traditional Christmas stories, including Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Schulz’ “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the song “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Decorating the 8,000-square-foot structure takes nearly a village of volunteers. The museum is closed the week of Nov. 1 to deck the halls for the holidays.

Volunteers donate their time, talents, and materials to help decorate the home. Many give up their own Christmas ornaments and embellishments during the holidays to give others joy. It’s an honor to sacrifice the beautification of his own home to help preserve the Reitz family’s history, says Evansville resident Doug Patberg, who has beautified the Reitz Museum 34 of 36 years. He serves as the chairman of the Reitz Home Museum Victorian Christmas.

Patberg, who teaches alternative education and coaches cheerleading at Harrison High School, is one of 16 decorators who have agreed to help this year.

“Our volunteers are those who express an interest,” says Rowe. “They are not all professional interior designers.”

Those who regularly devote their time to decorating for the Victorian Christmas event are the Reitz Home Guild, Kirsten Wagmeister of Newburgh, Indiana, Julie Williams of Evansville, Mary Stratman of Evansville, Keith Bauer of Huntingburg, Indiana, Jim Lang of Evansville, Liddy West of Evansville, Christi Goodman of Evansville, Pamela Hemmersbach of Owensboro, Kentucky, Pinch of Sugar and Dianne Miles of Newburgh, Bobbie Gilman of Evansville, Veronica D. Hamilton & Co., and interior design students from Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.

Each volunteer is assigned a room they are responsible for and each room is assigned a different storybook. Patberg’s room will be decorated in the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Rowe emphasizes he wants the Reitz Museum decorations to reflect antique ornaments. “Glitter is forbidden,” he says. During past years, all of the embellishments were authentic to 1871 when the home was built. Flowers were dried, paper ornaments were created, and plastic decorations were set aside.

The exterior of the Reitz Museum also is decorated with help from Rowe and Patberg. The two will place wreaths on the door and garland on the iron gates.

The one-hour Christmas tours of the museum begin Tuesday, Nov. 15, and run from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., with the last day Dec. 31. The museum is not open Mondays, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day.

“Christmas is the only time of year we have when there is a line when we open,” says Rowe. “We really enjoy having all those people.”

In addition to noticing the Christmas decorations, Patberg says visitors often gravitate to the dining room where they can view all of the collections of 19th century glass and porcelain, and Francis Joseph Reitz’ room because of his notability in Evansville.

“It pleases us very much to have such a high volume during the holiday season,” says Rowe. “It is a gateway for visitors and they make it a point to visit during the summertime where they can focus on the decorate art, finishing, and furniture.”

In addition to the Christmas tours, the museum offers a self-guided candlelight tour on Dec. 12 from 5 until 8 p.m., with Santa Claus arriving in a horse drawn carriage.
“The real Santa,” says Rowe. “This Santa experience is one you can’t get at the mall.”

For more information about the Reitz Home Museum Victorian Christmas, call 812-426-1871 or visit


All Thriller, No Filler

“The Nutcracker,” one of the longest standing Christmas traditions among American ballet dancers and audiences since the late 1960s, is getting a makeover from Studio 321’s Ballet Directors David and Sarah Goud and Ballet Indiana.

The ballet academy’s adaptation of the 1892 E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which normally is a two-act ballet, is condensed to one hour and gives every Studio 321 dancer a chance to take the lead.

The Ballet Academy at Studio 321 has offered comprehensive pre-professional ballet training for serious-minded dancers or recreational dancers ages 3 to adult since July 2014. David and Sarah, who also are artistic directors of Ballet Indiana, a nonprofit organization that sponsors performances, teach up to 80 students a week on the studio’s specially engineered dance floors.

“We’ve made an adaptation where Clara, who is usually the star little girl of ‘The Nutcracker,’ is now a grandmother and when her grandchildren are going through the attic on Christmas Eve, they find the magic chest where she has stored the nutcracker,” says David. “The nutcracker has since enchanted this chest and made it a portal to the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets.”

“Sarah had the great idea to make every little girl Clara in our adaptation,” says David. “We have like a wolf pack of little girls who are all Clara’s grandchildren, all going on this journey, and vicariously the audience will go with them.”

To transform a two-part ballet into a one-part, one-hour performance, the Gouds decided to only include the most popular “Nutcracker” musical selections.

The Studio 321 performances of “The Nutcracker,” which the Gouds titled “The Nutcracker Sweet,” are at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at AIS the Diamond Center (formerly North High School).

For more information about Studio 321, visit


Feature Presentation

Bollywood movies come to Evansville AMC Theatres
The newest film to be released Nov. 12 is "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo."

With a mix of bright colors, song and dance, and sweeping story lines, Bollywood movies are designed to provide an escape from reality for moviegoers. This Indian movie industry based in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay, thus the nickname of Bollywood) rivals Hollywood in Southern California in size and popularity; in 2014 it totaled $2.1 billion in revenues. Now AMC Theatres in Evansville has brought these blockbuster films to the Tri-State area.

“We’re trying to bring in new Bollywood titles and the goal is to open them the same time they open internationally,” say Josh Boze, general manager of the AMC Evansville 16 Theatre. “We’ve had a lot of help from the Indian community locally and the studios who have produced the content.”

Bollywood movies are very progressive says Dr. Rajiv Sharma, a native of India and currently a gastroenterologist at Digestive Care Center in Evansville. “The whole goal basically is to have a film industry that will reflect Indian culture, the changes in Indian culture, and how India may look in a few years.”

Indian cinema arriving in AMC theaters in the Tri-State happened thanks to a series of fortunate events, says Sharma. A good friend of Sharma’s who works at one of the largest movie distribution and production companies in India asked where the local doctor watched Indian movies. Upon hearing Sharma waits for new films to be released on DVD, the friend contacted AMC and the rest is history.

“We’ve already seen a lot of benefit from them because there’s been a strong audience,” says Boze. “What we’ve also seen is other independent studios are taking notice too. So we’ve seen an increase in independent products.”

The happiness and joy expressed in Bollywood movies is why Sharma believes the films are so popular. “They want to make sure when you pay money, you escape the reality and look at what’s out there and enjoy it,” he says.

By having Indian and other international movies available to Tri-State moviegoers, Sharma says it brings a focus on cultural awareness to the community. As the world becomes more connected, he says having an appreciation and respect for Indian culture could have benefits for the future.

“Our children, no matter where they grow up, they are going to be growing into a world that’s very global,” says Sharma. “It’s helpful to their evolution as American citizens to be exposed to the global landscape.”

The popularity of Bollywood in Evansville expands beyond the movies as well. Sharma and his wife Monica coordinated the Bollywood Bash Nov. 8 at D’Alto Studios. The event featured Indian music, dance performances, food, shopping, and a fashion show. For a time, D’Alto Studios even offered a Bollywood Body Fitness dancing class.

“The whole idea is to bring people close to what Indian culture is and what we do,” says Sharma. “We want to show we’re a fun culture.”

Boze agrees and adds treating Bollywood movies just as Hollywood releases and opening them to the public offers a cultural experience to everyone. “I think that’s an important factor … it allows it to be shared with everybody.”

Sharma hopes AMC’s showings open the door for more things to come, including possibly welcoming Indian cinema productions to Indiana. “I just want people to be aware of India. Keep an eye on India, on the arts and culture.”

AMC Evansville 16 Theatre’s next Indian cinema movie will be “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo,” a musical about the unconditional love that all families must have for each other. The movie will premiere Nov. 12.

For more information about AMC Evansville 16 Theatre’s Indian cinema releases, visit


New Beginnings

Dakri Sinclair reflects on creative inspirations and her new studio
Newburgh, Indiana, artist Dakri Sinclair works in her studio, the garage attached to her home that was converted.

When Newburgh, Indiana, artist Dakri Sinclair begins a painting, she sometimes writes the words “new beginning” on the canvas. With every vibrant and colorful brushstroke, the message disappears and her final artwork shines through.

It’s a season of new beginnings for Sinclair, 47, who experienced the passing of her mother Angie Sinclair in 2012. The artist used her mother’s home, a small rented cabin on the Ohio River in Newburgh, as a studio until recently when she was forced to relocate. Sinclair debated about where she should start again, and the decision was reached to convert the garage of her Newburgh home, which she shares with her husband Jim Herrell of 15 years and their three children Brauly Sinclair, 16, Maggie Herrell, 14, and Graden Herrell, 11.

Sinclair, who attended Evansville Day School and Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she studied fashion design and illustration, also has seen her artwork transform. Her career was jumpstarted through her parents’ former manufacturing company Arbor Hill House (makers of decorative hand-painted wooden alphabet letters and accessories, and writers of stories of their adventures under the name Tootie Mouse), which took her to Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and others. Although she continues to create products for her Etsy account, a popular online commerce retailer of vintage items, arts, and supplies, and has done commissioned murals all over Evansville, including several in Jane Schroeder’s Newburgh home (Look for “With Open Doors” on page 50), Sinclair says she now has the confidence to paint without knowing what the end result will be.

How has your artwork changed during the many transitions in your life?
I will hibernate and lock myself in my studio and paint, which I’ve never really had the time to do. I’ve always been busy with commissioned work, or the products, or the murals. I usually start with however I’m feeling and lately those feelings have had to do with the transitioning into a new space. If I don’t know where to start or what the subject matter is I want to paint, I will just write “new beginning” on a canvas and just go from there. I will flip it over, turn it over, by the end of it, you don’t see the words. I blow dry a lot as I go. I paint very fast. It takes about an hour and a half to two hours. It’s fun. It’s a very therapeutic process.

Who inspired you to start painting for yourself?
Last year, I hosted artist Tracy Verdugo from Australia in April. She’s on a nine-month tour doing workshops and she’s phenomenal. That really enlightened me a lot. She has become a good friend in the process. Everything I’ve created has been very specific to a room, whether it is a mural or a canvas. I have to look at the bedding colors, the wall color, and I have to take all those factors into consideration. After I took her class, that’s really the first time I felt comfortable and confident in grabbing a canvas and having no idea what I was going to do. I’ve spent years knowing exactly what I had to do and what the final product was going to look like. Especially the murals, I would sketch them out before I would start painting. It was very different for me to grab a canvas and start painting. That’s been so much fun and it’s all I want to do. She will be back again next May.

How did mural painting become your specialty?
Friends of mine Don and Lisa Cobb had a restaurant Rosie O’Gradys Sports Bar in Downtown Evansville. I hadn’t really thought of doing large-scale art. He asked me to do a mural of Evansville with the river and a paddleboat. I went and grabbed tiny little paintbrushes for this huge wall — I didn’t know what I was doing. I just started painting. It was life changing. I’ve done a lot for St. Mary’s and Playville J.L.E. (a project of the Junior League of Evansville, located outside of St. Mary’s Pediatric Unit). It has kind of morphed into specializing into children’s rooms and environments.

I knew Jane Schroeder’s daughter in high school and she knew me and was familiar with my work and that I painted murals. It was a perfect fit. It was definitely a subject matter that was out of my box and my comfort zone. She made it easy. I did a mural in the hallway going back to the bedroom, which is called The Scripture Gallery, a baptism scene, three panels in the guest room upstairs, a painting of a church, and canvases here and there throughout her home. When you hear the whole house is white, you think sterile and uncomfortable, but it is so not like that. It is so well done.

What does the future look like for you and your creations?
My own home has more of my kids’ artwork than mine. I love working with kids and art. I aspire to get involved with more workshops, host more artists like I did with Tracy, and look into possibly getting a commercial space. (Creating art) is a part of me. It’s in my blood. It’s my happy place. What I hear a lot from people is that my work makes them feel happy — what more can I ask for?

Look for Sinclair’s work online at her Etsy store, visit her Facebook and Instagram pages to watch videos of her painting process, or stop by the 10th Annual Jingle Mingle Mart from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 13 at Christ the King School. Last year the event had more than 70 vendors, and more than 900 shoppers attended.