Madison Chautauqua

Orlando-based jewelry maker
takes top honors at art show

His wife selects the stones
and he makes the unique rings

(October 2019) – Jewelry maker Christian Nevin did not expect to win Best of Show in his first ever appearance at the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, but that’s exactly what happened.
“I didn’t see that coming. I’m shocked but very honored because there are some very good and talented artists at this show,” said Nevin, 53, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who lives in Orlando, Fla.
Nevin won the top award on Sept. 29 in Madison, Ind., with his beautifully carved rings and pendants adorned with natural stones. He uses lost wax castings and bullet-proof glass for the colors. To make the carvings, he uses dental tools, files and rotary bits, he said. His rings range between $125 and $3,800, and he has no problem selling them and taking orders for special requests. He has been making them for 26 years upon graduating from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and moving to Florida.

Photo by Don Ward

Christian Nevin of Orlando, Fla., won Best of Show with his unique diamond and topaz rings and pendants. This was his first appearance in the Madison Chautauqua.

“When I first graduated I figured I was going to be poor, so I might as well be warm,” he said.
Nevin uses mostly diamonds and topaz in his rings and pendants. He also makes ear rings. He is assisted by his wife, Kelly, who is a gemologist. “She selects all the stones that I use.”
The show judges’ comment was “very beautiful and unique to the show.”
The couple makes what he calls mini-tours to sell this work on the road. He participated in a show in Kansas City prior to Madison, and then he was off to St. James Court Art Fair in Louisville and then to Nashville, Tenn., before heading home on this trip.
First place winners in Fine Art and Craft included two locals – artist Alann Boatright of Madison in Fine Art, and pottery artists Bill and Gean Bowen of nearby Charlestown, Ind., taking first place in the Craft category. Multiple winner Jeri Landers, a children’s book author and illustrator from Nashville, Tenn., won for Best Presentation.
Second place in Fine Art went to Robert Bridges of Georgetown, Ky. Third place in Fine Art was awarded to Don Tran of St. Louis, Mo.

Photo by Don Ward

Alann Boatright of Madison, Ind., won First Place Fine Art.

Second place in Craft went to John Laupp of Howell, Mich. Third place in Craft went to Melissa Senetar of Paint Lick, Ky.
Honorable Mentions were given to Madison’s Nathan Murphy, who makes guitars in his home shop, and to Paul Murphy, a fiber artist from West Carrollton, Ohio.
The two-day show attracted a large crowd both days despite temperatures in the mid-90s. “We are very happy with the turnout, and everything went well,” said Chautauqua Committee President Kara Hinze. Her committee of 10 people was assisted by nearly 200 volunteers over the weekend.
“We look forward to next year for our 50th year in 2020,” she said.
Last February, the VisitMadison Inc. tourism board, voted to do away with using outside contract employees to plan and direct its three festivals – RiverRoots, Ribberfest and the Chautauqua – and instead hire two part-time in-house employees for the job. But since ­planning for the Chautauqua began a year ago, the board allowed the committee to finish out this year before instituting its new plan.
Chautauqua’s paid co-chairs Amy Fischmer and Jenny Straub stayed on as advisors through the summer but did not take part in managing the art show in late September.

Photo by Don Ward

Bill and Gean Bowen of Charlestown, Ind. won First Place in the Craft division.

A few months after the decision was announced, the Chautauqua Committee submitted a proposal to the board to allow it to form its own nonprofit entity and take over ownership of the art show. But the board has yet to make a decision on that proposal.
VisitMadison Inc. Executive Director Tawana Thomas said the board would render a decision after this year’s festival was over.

Hinze said her understanding is that the board and the committee want to finalize the plan before the end of October because planning must soon begin on next year’s show. “We plan to meet with the board in the coming weeks to see where it goes from here.”

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