Artistic Storytelling

Tennessee couple to open art studio
in a former funeral home in Madison

Kathryn Rutherford is known for her 'Spiritual Paintings'

(December 2021) – Kathryn Rutherford could be considered a jack-of-all-trades. She holds degrees in Art, Music, Theatre, Costume Design and Special Education, and is adept in six languages. Her resume is sizable and her talent highly acclaimed, but one of the most unique parts of her career is what she describes as “Spirit Paintings.”
Appropriately enough, Rutherford and her husband, Greg, recently purchased the property that housed the former Lytle-Welty Funeral Home on Madison, Ind.’s Main Street with the intent of it becoming the new home for her art business, Heirloom Art Studio.
Rutherford is originally from Ontario but has operated her business from the United States since 1997. She currently has a studio in Wears Valley, Tenn., but is preparing to relocate to Madison once their home in Tennessee sells.
“I wanted to be in a place where artists are thriving,” she said, noting that the tourism industry has changed a lot for her in recent years. She initially considered moving back to Canada. However, her husband is originally from the Paoli/French Lick area, and the couple began looking into Madison after one of his cousins suggested it might be a good fit.

Kathryn Rutherford

Photo provided

Greg and Kathryn Rutherford will bring their Heirloom Art Studio to Madison, Ind.

“After learning more about Madison’s arts community, I could see that I have a lot to bring and add to the city,” she said. The couple began house hunting and found the former funeral home to be the perfect fit. “It was conducive to what we want to do,” she said, noting the home, which is more than 9,000 square feet, will serve as their residence and hold a sizable art gallery, classroom and future event space.
“We’ve already met a number of people related to the arts community, and I want to be of assistance to the Arts Alliance and what’s going on in the community,” she said.
She plans on moving Heirloom Art Studio to Madison and offering the services she already does – original fine art, photographic/fine art restoration and digital artistry – from a new locale. As an art instructor, she also has a passion for collaborating with other artists to share gallery space or teach classes.
Greg currently works for the National Park Service but also holds many artistic skills. He had a commercial screen-printing business for 40 years and, among other things, weaves Nantucket baskets, wood turns, upholsters and repairs guitars.
The quirkiness of living in a former funeral home is not lost on Rutherford. “The embalming room is going to be turned into our classroom,” she said. Even more so, Rutherford is thrilled to feature her Spirit Paintings within a building that has seen its fair share of eerie history.

Rutherford painting

Photo provided

Kathryn Rutherford's 'Spirit Paintings' are storytelling portraits of lost loved ones, fantasies, family histories and/or metaphysical beliefs.

The Spirit Paintings began as a project for Headrick Chapel, located in Wears Valley. As a way to raise money for the chapel’s steeple restoration, Rutherford offered to sell paintings of individuals related to the history of the chapel. She asked locals to send her photographs of their ancestors and produced four paintings that captured the history of the chapel through visual storytelling and ghostly imagery.
The illusion of the Spirit Paintings is that they feature transparent or reflective objects and play with light and shadow effects. Rutherford uses this technique primarily to bring stories and family histories to life in a way that photography cannot. She said that many of these paintings highlight metaphysical ideas or religious beliefs. The Spirit Paintings became highly popular and launched her painting career.
To create these paintings, Rutherford uses layer upon layer of color and does not mix paints. The finished pieces are boldly colored and eye-catching with nuanced details that require a second glance.
Jan Barnes, a jewelry and leather bracelet designer from Sevierville, Tenn., became friends with Rutherford after meeting as fellow members of the Tennessee Artisan Guild. Barnes describes Ruther-ford’s Spirit Paintings as different from the work of any other artist she’s seen. “They tell one-of-a-kind stories, and I’m always amazed when I see another of her creations,” she said. “She’s very talented and has an extraordinary knowledge of the application of color to canvas.”

Lytle Funeral Home

Photo provided

The former Lytle-Welty Funeral Home has been sold and will soon become the Rutherfords' art studio and workshop.

Rutherford said she is excited to settle in Madison and anxious for their home in Tennessee to sell so they can relocate permanently. Currently, they are working on renovating the home. “It was built in 1840, so we’re trying to put back in the flavor of the house,” said Rutherford, noting that they’re uncovering the homes original floors and that the downstairs still contains many of the original historical elements.
Barnes said that the Madison community is in for a treat once the Rutherfords open for business. “You can expect to see an outstanding gallery and specialty shop once Greg and Kathryn finish remodeling. Not only are they attempting to put the historic charm back into the building, but the services and products they will offer to the public will be just as special. Tennessee’s loss will be Indiana’s gain.”
Rutherford said, “We’re looking forward to opening our doors and inviting people in. We chose Madison because we want to contribute.”

More information on Rutherford’s work can be found at www.heirloomartstudio.com or www.kathrynrutherford.com.

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