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'It's great to be back in Peru'

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ANOTHER ACT:Beth Clary Schwier, right, talks with Gallery 15 partners Tana Bondar and Sarah Luginbill on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. Schwier is an Indianapolis artist who grew up in Peru.Many of her circus inspiredpaintingswill be on display at the Main Street art gallery for the month of July.
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ON DISPLAY:Beth Clary Schwier’s circus art hangs in Gallery 15 at 15 Main Street in Peru on Monday, July 8, 2019.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

Although she lives in the Indianapolis area these days, a big part of Beth Clary Schwier never left Peru.

That is why it just felt right to the ownership of a local art gallery to have some of the artist’s circus paintings on display during a time of year that is so important to the city.

“Very fitting,” Tana Bondar, one of the partners at Gallery 15 told the Tribune on Monday. “We wanted circus. We wanted to support the circus.”

Bondar and her friend, Sarah Luginbill, who is one of the Main Street gallery’s other partners, said they knew that Schwier had a growing collection of circus art so they approached her about showing it at their gallery for the week of the Circus City Festival and the rest of July.

Schwier, who was in town on July 2 to hang some of her paintings, said it feels good to have her art in a local gallery for the festival that begins July 13.

That’s largely because she was an amateur circus performer herself.

She said she still remembers the day she caught her first act and got hooked on the idea of doing it.

“And I saw that and I am like, ‘What? I can be in a circus? You’ve got to be kidding,’” she said taking a break from her work.

She was 9 years old and a “gangly girl” who would soon spend her days hanging out and training at the circus building after her father dropped her off in the morning, she said.

She stayed with it for about 10 years.

“I was never a star, but you feel like you are special,” she said.

Schwier said her time with the circus was likely what got her “addicted to applause” and led her into a life of acting.

But she gave that up eventually, seeking an artistic outlet that produced something more tangible lasting.

“That’s what is so awesome about art, because you paint a painting and it is around forever,” she said.

During all of that, Schwier said, she raised six children and brought them back over the years to see what she was once a part of.

That link to the area and the past, it seems, helped give birth to much of what is now hanging at Gallery 15.

“I started painting seriously just about five or six years ago,” she said. “And it was always my dream to capture the circus.”

She realized early success once she started fulfilling that dream, too.

In 2017, she met a representative from the Smithsonian Institution who was in Peru for the festival and invited her to display her art and paint in Washington D.C. as part of a circus exhibition the Institution was hosting.

Much of what she has created over the years are works inspired by photographs taken through the decades of performances. There is one of the old “slide for life” act that at one time was performed above the city square, and another of Ringmaster Bruce Embrey in full regalia.

“I like to have color and movement,” Schwier said, looking at the paintings and discussing ideas for future work. “There’s so many things I’d like to do, so it’s great to be back in Peru.”

Gallery 15 is hosting an opening reception for Schwier’s exhibit on July 13 from 5 to 9 p.m. 

They will also be showcasing circus themed work from gallery partners and local high school students.