April 2017 Artist Spotlight: Roger Beehler


This past July the Prairie Arts community lost one of Rensselaer’s most beloved, retired art teachers and coach, Roger Beehler. After teaching art and coaching at a number of schools around Indiana from 1958 to 1968, Mr. Beehler came to the brand new Rensselaer Central High School, introducing the first baseball program and serving as its head coach and, more importantly, the art teacher.  After 35 years of dedication to education, Roger retired in 1993.

It has been said that Roger touched many lives through coaching athletics but “coaching” his students through the world of art was one of his finest accomplishments and greatest strengths. Roger instilled a strong work ethic in his art students, gave them confidence, and nurtured their creativity. Many students returned to visit Roger over the years and told him that he was one of the most inspiring people in their lives outside of their own parents.  A remarkable number of his art students have pursued successful fine arts careers or continued with a passion for art as an avocation.*

Prairie Arts Council joins with Judy, Roger’s wife of 58 years, his siblings, children and grandchildren, his many former students and athletes, and the Rensselaer community in honoring Roger and the positive impact he had on so many of his students during his long teaching career.




January 2017 Artist Spotlight: Lori Murphy

Written by Maia Hawthorne


Maybe you know Lori Murphy as South Newton’s art and physical education teacher. Maybe you know her as a sports photographer. Maybe you know her because of the accolades she’s won for her art, including being one of 29 Hoosier women awarded the honor of showing her work in the Indiana State House for a year. Lori Murphy’s career and art portfolio are wide and varied, but she knows there’s a connective element running through all of it. When she’s asked to put that element into words, she does it like this: “My work is repetitive layering of an undulating bulbous organic deep-seeded guttural growl that is engulfed in a rustic tranquility.” “I know that sounds crazy,” she adds, but when you look at her work, you see that she’s right.

You start to see it in Murphy’s digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) sports photography at or on Instagram @murphysclayaction. These are an ongoing series of dynamic, high-stakes athletic moments captured on film. “It makes my athletic guttural growl emerge from deep within,” she says. “It stops a sliver of a moment in time that often can’t be seen by the naked eye. The drive to capture ‘that moment’ keeps me moving forward every day. I WILL get it next time.” In 2013, Murphy’s ability to capture “that moment” won her the Robert’s Fan Photographer of the Game award in partnership with the Indianapolis Colts. The award-winning photograph was of an intense breaststroke swimmer coming up for air.

Murphy’s desire to capture “that moment” doesn’t end when she takes off her sports photographer’s hat, though. Murphy’s collection of images from her fine art Instagram feed, @murphysclay, suggest that her artist’s eye works 24/7. Through the juxtaposition of close-ups and quiet moments, you begin to see that she’s captured the miraculous of the everyday. The collection feels spontaneous, modern, haunting. Murphy likens it to “the continuous base of a techno song searching for the unreachable last beat.” That quality comes in part from the media platform, she says. “Instagram attempts to subdue that insatiable itch that antagonizes you to keep scratching,” she says. “Around every corner there is an itch waiting to be scratched and I’m grateful to have Instagram by my side to help.” Murphy has recently printed the last five years of Instagram into books. “The gratification of holding digital work in hand is satisfying,” she says of that experience.

Though much of her current artistic energy is channeled into photography, she still expresses herself with the medium that was her earliest love: clay. Murphy says she has always found working with clay therapeutic: “I have used throwing as therapy many times in my life. I try to relay that to my students. I tell them, ‘When you can’t control anything else in your life, you can control this clay right here and now. Get lost in it, become one with it and tell it what to do.’”

Clay and teaching have gone hand-in-hand for Murphy for a long time. In high school she had the opportunity to teach her principal how to throw on the potter’s wheel. That and other, similar moments caused Murphy to recognize that she had a talent for seeing the parts of a whole, and of communicating that information to others. “I found that I was able to break down skills of any kind into steps and explain them as instructions for someone to follow. This gave me the desire to share that knowledge in order to watch others develop various skills and grow artistically. I decided that art education and physical education were my destiny.”

And Murphy has continued to create art in clay. She sees in that work in clay, as well as in her drawings and paintings, a “layered organic undulation.” When you look at this work on, you see what she means. Her two-dimensional works are a vivid, surreal dreamscape of shape and form, and her impish clay figures look as if they gamboled right out of those environments and into ours to have a bit of a look around. (When she showed these clay figures at the Tippecanoe Arts Federation gallery some years ago under the name “Textured Curves,” she called them “a family.”) Even Murphy’s abstract photographs contain elements of that undulation, rolling waves of color or trailing smoky tendrils past our field of vision. Murphy loves the curvature and the movement of these shapes and forms and hopes that they please viewers as well. She says she likes to think of viewers “speculat[ing] the lower layers in my watercolor and colored pencil work.” “All of us protect a portion of ourselves from others and allow only certain parts to be seen,” she suggests. The layering is a way of inviting viewers into the piece, to consider: “With this layering a mystery is left for speculation.”

As you’re speculating, you may wonder where this versatile artist will channel her talents next. When asked, she says, “This year has brought on some challenges that have made me excited to see how I emerge on the other side. I hope to tackle new artistic endeavors and revisit old ones.” No doubt the result will be new and striking, while containing shades of the organic layering and signature guttural growl we’ve come to expect from Lori Murphy.



Upcoming Fall Events

Riverine has done its thing to me,” says the Chicago Tribune’s Beth Kephart of DeMotte native Angela Palm’s new memoir. “It has seeped into my blood and left me messy inside — alerted, diverted, and scrambling to get a hold on time. I want a conversation with the author.”

You can have a conversation with the author on October 24th, when Palm will be hosted by the Prairie Arts Council and Saint Joseph’s College to give a public reading from her book.

More details about Palm’s visit will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, you can order a copy of her book, which Graywolf Press calls “a spellbinding memoir of place, young love, and a life-altering crime,” for $9.95 on Amazon here.


Also coming to Rensselaer November 2nd through a partnership with Saint Joseph’s College is a visit from Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner. Again, more details will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, you can read about Shari’s work at



Prairie Writers Guild - New Release!

The Prairie Writers Guild will be releasing its 2016 volume of From the Edge of the Prairie during PAC’s Holiday Art Show and Sale, where your copy will be waiting for you—Hot Off the Press!


This year, in celebration of Indiana’s Bicentennial, the secondary theme for this volume is Indiana Waterways and Byways. There are many wonderful ways to recognize two hundred years of history, but meditating on rivers, lakes, roads, highways, bridges, and streets—circulatory systems in both the literal and figurative sense—allowed the Guild to get right to the heart of this place. We hope you enjoy this year’s edition.


Prairie Writers Guild

Prairie Writers Guild



October 2016 Spotlight: Jasper Bison and the Bison Belles

This article originally appeared in the Rensselaer Republican, July 25, written by editor Caitlin Sievers and titled “Group paints pieces of Jasper County: Bicentennial bison shows off local history, pride”  


Through hundreds of hours of work, five local artists transformed the county’s state bicentennial bison into a piece they hope represents the essence of Jasper County.

    The bison is one of many purchased  throughout the state through the United Way with the intention of having one to represent each county. The local bison is a colorful melding of meaningful images from all over the county, from well-known landmarks to local flora and fauna.

    The five artists, dubbed the “Bison Belles” by their oldest member, Doris Myers, nearly 95, decided to work together on the bison after three of them, Christine Herre, Cindy Ziese and Kayla Groen, submitted separate proposals for the bison’s design to the Jasper County Tourism Commission. The commission asked Myers, a long-time local artist to contribute to the project. Completing the group was Lindsey Preston, Groen’s former art teacher at Kankakee Valley High School, who the ladies asked to join them.

Photo by Caitlin Sievers

Photo by Caitlin Sievers

    Each woman worked on separate specific images gracing the bison, but they all came together to work on some portions, like the Indiana State Tree.

    “I wanted to represent the north end, so I chose to do the old Kankakee River before it was dredged with a couple of explorers kicking off from the shore,” Myers said.

She also painted the Wheatfield Library, the Potawatomi Park Bridge in Rensselaer, and the state flower, the peony.

    Herre chose to represent the agricultural parts of Jasper County.

    “I am born and raised a farmer,” she said.

    She covered the bison with a harvest scene at sunset, a cow and pig, as well as an Indian and eagle, representing the county’s Native American history. Preston’s contributions to the bison included Indiana wildlife, such as a native butterfly and a white-tailed buck. She also transformed the bison’s tail into one of the county’s crops: wheat. Ziese painted notable landmarks like Saint Joseph’s College and the Remington water tower. She also represented the state bird, the cardinal, and a wine bottle and label which contains the ladies’ signatures. Groen worked on mostly images of DeMotte, including the windmill, tulips, and wooden shoes to represent the town’s Dutch history. She also painted the DeMotte Train Depot with a Studebaker (an Indiana-made car) in the parking lot as a representation of all the car shows in the county. Groen’s other contributions included a grain elevator, a sandhill crane, representing Wheatfield, and a scroll with the lyrics from “Back Home Again in Indiana,” a song written by James Hanley, who was born in Rensselaer.

    The artists hope that the bison inspires some curiosity about the county in those who view it.

    “I hope they learn the history of the 200 years that it’s supposed to represent,” Ziese said.

    The Belles learned some new things about the county themselves as they researched images to paint on the bison.

    “I think there are things on there that people wouldn’t think about,” Myers said.

    Those who view the work of art continue to find new aspects that they might not have caught at first glimpse.

    “I think another important thing is just that people take pride in where they live,” Preston said. “That this is an important place and that they’re proud to be from Jasper County.”

    The women estimated that they spent a total of around 500 hours working on the bison. The work began June 6, as they prepared the bison to be painted by sanding, patching holes, and applying a base coat. That alone took around 15 hours. The group completed the bison on July 10, after which it received a clear coat from Jonkman Garage.

    The women all agreed that it was an amazing experience to work on the bison together. Most of the time, two or three of them worked on the project during the day while the others labored over the piece at night, but there were a few times when all of the women worked on the bison together.

    “It was one of those relationships, though, that we almost hated to see end, or at least that’s the way I feel,” Myers said.

    The others agreed. The Belles who were not previously part of the Jasper County Art League plan to join so that they can all stay in touch.

    The women said they felt humbled and honored to have worked on the bison, which will tour the county’s festivals this summer and will be featured in the state’s bicentennial torch relay when it comes through the county on Oct. 11.

    “They may have chosen my design, but we put our designs together to come up with one design,” Herre said. “It’s an honor to call it our design.”

    The bison, named “Jasper” was officially unveiled at the opening of the Jasper County Fair. After the torch relay, the bison will be permanently displayed at an undetermined location in the county.

    “I think the county’s going to be proud of it, too,” Myers said.



Bison Group Photo (above): The artists who transformed the county’s bicentennial bison into a work of art are back row left to right Doris Myers, Christine Herre and Cindy Ziese. Seated are Kayla Groen (left) and Lindsey Preston.