Best in Show: Fishers artist wins top award at annual Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists


The Fishers Arts Council’s September exhibit features more than 40 artists, with 57 pieces displayed in the annual Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists at the Collaboration Hub gallery, 11810 Technology Dr., Fishers.

During the Second Friday exhibit reception on Sept. 8, “Ricky,” a painting by Mark Rouse of Fishers, was named Best in Show. The painting features a closeup of a pair of raccoons peering out of some foliage.

Mark Rouse’s “Ricky” won Best in Show at the 2023 Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

Rouse said he didn’t expect to win. He said he was sitting on the floor as the judges’ comments were read and was trying to guess who the winner was based on those comments. The description was nonspecific at first, and he guessed a couple of other artists’ pieces.

“And then she says, ‘The two raccoons,’ and I thought somebody was going to have to help me up off the floor,” he said. “I did not expect that at all.”

Rouse said he likes animals, and his family had raccoons in their barn when he was growing up. They can be friendly animals, he said, and he decided he wanted to paint them. He also loves painting cars and music-themes pieces.

Rouse describes his style as “contemporary realism.”

“Although, some of it leans more toward cubism (and) there’s some expressionist functions,” he said. “I don’t think people have any problem recognizing my work. There is a cohesiveness to the style, but there is also a lot of variety in it.”

He said his painting style changed in 2018 after a three-year recovery from diabetes-related blindness.

“One of the things that I decided at that point was that I wanted to just paint the things I love,” he said. “I stopped trying to come up with a new new way of doing things that nobody else had ever seen.”

Les Reinhardt is the Fishers Arts Council Executive Director. She said the annual exhibit is sponsored by Jiffy Lube of Indiana, and highlights artists who either live or have lived in Hamilton County. She said 73 paintings were submitted to the exhibit this year, and the judge, Indiana artist Rena Brouwer, selected which ones would be displayed.

Brouwer also chose all the category winners except People’s Choice.

In her comments about Rouse’s winning piece, she said the painting “shows a wonderful sense of design as well as the ability of the artist to work the subject into both the background and the foreground. The transitions between lights and darks are beautifully done. The viewer’s eye is able to determine what the shapes are without them having to be further defined. Each time I look at the painting I find something more to look at. Both raccoons exhibit a great deal of personality and contribute to the story in the painting. The design has wonderful movement which keeps the viewer engaged and keeps the eye moving throughout the painting.”

Rouse’s work is displayed in other galleries, including High Frequency Arts at the Hub and Spoke, 8100 E. 106th St., and Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy on 126th Street, both in Fishers; and he will have a solo show at Two Chicks District Co. at 1531 S. East St. in Indianapolis in October and November.

Other 2023 Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists winners are:

  • Frances Ruiz’s “Romance” won the Florals and Other category.
  • Leslie Ober’s “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait” won the Portrait/Figurative category
  • Laura McCormick’s “Koi Under Reflection” won the Abstract category
  • Sabrina Zhou’s “Morning Hike” won the Landscape category
  • Blake Dauby’s “Cool Desert Night” won People’s Choice

Reinhardt said anyone could vote for People’s Choice online and during the Sept. 8 Second Friday reception.

“It’s always great to do a people’s choice because then the community really has a voice and gets involved,” she said during a tour of the exhibit. “And we were able to share the artwork from Hamilton County with over 20,000 individuals and had over 3,000 active engagements. That to me is thrilling. I always love the people’s choice award because the judge picks everything else, but the community picks this piece.”

The exhibit closes Sept. 29. It can be seen Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  and Friday by appointment with Fishers Arts Council.

For more about the Fishers Arts Council, visit For more about Rouse’s work, visit his Facebook page, Images by Mark Rouse, or go to mark.rouse.ART.

Some of the winners and sponsors of the Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists are, from left, John Lee, co-owner of MashCraft Fishers (award sponsor); Leslie Ober, Best Portrait/ Figurative; Les Reinhardt, executive director of Fishers Arts Council; Frances Ruiz, Best Floral/Other; Mark Rouse, Jiffy Lube of Indiana Best in Show; Blake Dauby, MashCraft People’s Choice winner; Laura McCormick, Best Abstract; Scott Marshall, General Manager for Jiffy Lube of Indiana (title sponsor). (Photo courtesy of the Fishers Arts Council)

Best in Show reward

As the Juried Exhibit of Hamilton County Artists Best in Show winner, Fishers artist Mark Rouse will have his own exhibit in January at the Fishers Arts Council’s gallery space at the Collaboration Hub.

“It will come up faster than I expect it to,” he said. “It’s a pretty big gallery, too.”

It won’t be a solo show, though. Rouse said he plans to invite some of his family members to contribute.

“I have some other family members that are quite artistic,” he said. “There’s kind of a generational thing. I’m happy to see my kids and my grandkids have been interested in art.”

He added that traditionally his family has leaned toward music rather than visual arts, and his brother and sister both teach music.

“I tell people I started painting because I couldn’t play the piano,” he said. “I was the first artist, and my oldest daughter is an accomplished photographer. My grandson is at Ball State now and he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to major in music or art education. So, I’m hoping to get some of his work (for the exhibit). It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun more than anything.”


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