Indiana University Northwest and the South Shore Center for Visual and Performing Arts have served as co-hosts for the significant international art exhibit “From Rust to Restoration: Basque Art and the Bilbao Effect.” Debuting in December 2006, this exhibit features the work of 20 Basque artists and is running concurrently at the Savannah Gallery for Contemporary Art at IU Northwest and at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster. Experience the creativity that revitalized Bilbao, Spain through art and architecture, featuring internationally renowned and emerging Basque artists.
A closing reception will be held on Fri., Feb. 16 at 4:00 p.m. at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster. The reception is free and open to the public. Culminating in a two month run, the exhibit will close on Sun., Feb. 18.
Located on Spain's north coast and populated by more than 350,000, Bilbao is the largest Basque Country city. For nearly a half century, the city and the region, which dips into the south of France, have been rocked by economic and political unrest, with a faction attempting to gain autonomy both countries. Once a thriving city nurtured by steel and iron factories and shipping, Bilbao went through an economic depression in the '70s and '80s, and jobs were lost. Bilbao also was plagued by a Basque terrorist organization known as Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA.
Within the last 20 years Bilbao has revitalized itself by implementing a new underground transit system and cleaning up the debris along its riverfront left by abandoned manufacturing mills and also attracted internationally renowned architects to enliven its skyline. In addition Bilbao was selected as the location for another Guggenheim Museum in Europe. Designed by renowned Canadian-American architect Frank O. Gehry, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao cost $135 million.
There are many similarities to Bilbao in Northwest Indiana. When IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland led a delegation in spring 2005 to visit the city and the new museum, they were impressed. They studied how the city had transformed itself from a depressed industrial area to a thriving urban metropolis and saw many comparisons to the hurdles faced by the region and the local force to enhance the region's lakefront with the Marquette Plan.
"We saw so many parallels between Bilbao and Gary and the region and Northwest Indiana, that we thought it would be really good to ... mount an exhibition that would not only give the Basque art a wider audience, but (also) demonstrate how Bilbao is a model for the Northwest Indiana communities," said Eve Mendieta, professor of modern languages at IU Northwest and native of Bilbao.
"Rust" marks the first international exhibit in the seven-decade history of South Shore Arts, according to John Cain, exhibit curator and executive director, South Shore Arts.
"It's hard to assimilate in a way because it happened so fast. In the period of 10, 15 years, it just looks like a different city," Mendieta said. "The river was brown when I growing up there. It was a joke. It was just terrible with the problems they had with the pollution with the steel mills. There was a huge, very expensive cleanup of the water and the air quality."
In its inaugural year in 1997, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao attracted more than 1.25 million people, easily eclipsing the 400,000 visitors needed for the museum to be deemed successful. It also has generated nearly 4,000 jobs.
For more information on the exhibit showing at IU Northwest, contact Ann Fritz, IU Northwest gallery curator, at (219) 980-6891. For more information on the exhibit showing at South Shore Arts, please call (219) 836-1839.