In December 2015, Gwen Gutwein made her final trek-- searching out distinctive and historic Indiana barns. Her barn painting project trademarked HERITAGE BARNS started in the fall of 2004, over eleven years ago!
Gwen had specific criteria in mind when she started her project way back then:
Create a painting of two historic barns from each county in Indiana (92 counties).
Collect the history from each barn owner and document each barn.
Complete as many paintings as possible on location.
Promote exhibit tours of the paintings with each barn’s distinct and fascinating history.
Practice the art of painting.
Ask Gwen “WHY?” and her answers come easily.
“Over the years I have seen so many barns disappear. With each barn we have lost so much. The old barns are
very beautiful, literally and figuratively speaking. Literally, 100 or 150 years ago the materials used to build a barn are almost non-existent today.
The size and length of some of the timbers is extraordinary. Many old barns were built with our native timber!
The skills used back then are unique, ingenious and quite astounding. The time and skill used to decorate barns must have given such great satisfaction to the barn owner. Over the years, their barns have graced our countryside with their unique beauty.
And then there is the beauty expressed through time that becomes an integral part of the structure itself, such as the family history, the cultural history, the farmers’ integrity and the farming ingenuity. Certainly too, I was able to practice my art of painting. Each painting is a portrait, a barn portrait. So, like capturing people on the canvas, capturing the essence of each barn’s character was of the utmost importance.”
But that’s not all. Gwen goes on to express yet another facet of her inspiration… “It isn’t just the capture of the barn on a canvas that is important. It is also the action of ‘shining a spotlight’ on the demise facing our barns. The best way I could do that was to promote exhibit tours of the barn paintings with each barn’s history exhibited with it."
The paintings and the histories are compelling. The exhibits have been drawing in crowds and promoting barn awareness. In this way, I can use my talent to give back to our community and our state.” And...That is exactly what has transpired over the years since Gwen started her project. Exhibits of her barn paintings and histories have been touring the state since 2009. Currently the Columbus Indiana Visitors Center is hosting an exhibit, installed through the end of 2016.
Beyond exhibits, Gwen has promoted barns and preservation through interviews, newspaper articles, “barn
talks” and more. Her HERITAGE BARNS series of paintings, all 185 (one extra) have been endorsed by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. What next? Gwen isn’t quite finished with her project. She is pursuing a book of the barn paintings and histories. Currently Gwen is in the process of compiling the wealth of information she has gathered over the years in preparation for a book proposal.
Want to see more paintings? Visit Gwen’s web site at: www.gwengutwein.com