Public ruins radiate in exhibit
By Bob Kostanczuk Post-Tribune correspondent December 12, 2012 4:12PM
An image of Memorial Auditorium 1925 is part of "The Common Good" exhibit at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Michigan City. On view through Feb. 24, it features black-and-white photos of Indiana places that served the public. | Photo courtesy John Bower
If you go
What: “The Common Good” photo exhibit
Where: Brincka/Cross & Robert Saxton Galleries at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, 101 W. 2nd St., Michigan City
When: Through Feb. 24. Normal hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday, 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Admission: $3 suggested donation.
More details: www.lubeznikcenter.org or call 874-4900.
Updated: January 15, 2013 6:10AM
Forlorn and abandoned, Indiana structures that once served the public are a source of fascination for John Bower.
“I love these old places that have been just walked way from,” Bower, 63, said in a recent phone interview. “When I’m walking around them I think of all the stories that could be told that never will be, and how important they were to us as Hoosiers.”
Bower’s passion is captured in “The Common Good,” a black-and-white photo exhibition that opened this month and runs through Feb. 24 at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City.
As promotional material explains it, the exhibit showcases “Indiana places built for the public interest,” such as schools, churches and courthouses.
A resident of the downstate Bloomington area, Bower eschewed color photography when gathering images of the stark magnetism of rundown buildings.
“I think you can see more energy there in the black and white,” said the owner of Studio Indiana in Bloomington.
“Sometimes color gives you too much information and it kind of detracts from the essence of what I’m trying to capture,” Bower continued, noting the images in the exhibition are from his book, “The Common Good: An Indiana Heritage Built With Taxes, Tithes and Tuition.”
Available at www.studioindiana.com, the collection features haunting photos that range from a bleak mental hospital to lonely country chapels.
“It’s the seventh Indiana photography book I’ve done,” Bower, one of the artists associated with the state economic development program known as Indiana Artisan, said.
His journey through Indiana for “The Common Good” included a stop in Gary, where he said he spent time “taking pictures of some abandoned public places and just really some amazing buildings.”
The Steel City is represented in the Lubeznik Center exhibit with photographs of the decrepit Memorial Auditorium and an old post office.
The project to document such crumbling history was aided by Bower’s wife, Lynn, who did the design and layout for “The Common Good” book.
The eye for detail is reflected on the couple’s website, which tells of a visit to a closed-up gym “whose leaky roof led to vegetation growing in the soggy maple planks.”
Such sites reveal slivers of Indiana’s past.
“They have this emotional energy; they were really the core of the communities they were in,” Lynn Bower, an artist, said. “They’re all things that communities came together to pay for, to build — from jails to schools to asylums to county homes.”
Bower and his wife took a trek in search of shuttered jewels.
Of the people, for the people and by the people, those locales were filled with visual nuances.
A certain school was especially memorable.
“We found one place that had an old, dead piano still laying in there that the teacher probably played and the kids sang to,” Bower recalled.
He has been on a mission of sorts on behalf of collapsing construction that once served society.
“These places are just slowly disappearing,” Bower said. “But I can save them in photographs.”