Pratt metal crafter Dick Bixler and his wife, Nancy, have created a studio for art that is, in itself, a work of art.
There’s a new art barn in town. Actually, it’s the only art barn in town.
And technically, Dick and Nancy Bixlers’ gift to the Pratt art world isn’t in town. The Bixler Art Barn and Studio is a stone’s throw from the Bixlers’ home on the southern outskirts of Pratt.
Completed in February, their art barn showcases Dick Bixler’s artistic talents in creating unique art objects from metal.
It also showcases Nancy’s talents in making the art barn feel like a place to call home. Ace, the couple’s three-year-old Goldendoodle, seems already to feel at home in the spacious area.
“I love doing art and this is our way of sharing art,” Dick said. “Art can’t just be seen. It also has to be felt.”
Last year, while Dick and Nancy were musing about adding a structure to their property, son Matthew pointed to the existing barn, suggesting, “Why not enclose what you have?”
Construction on the 980-square-foot art barn started last July with Ronnie Kessler and Nate Kuns of Merlin Kessler Construction in Sawyer taking charge.
“They just did a wonderful job. They’re not carpenters, they’re craftsmen,” Dick said.
Visitors to the art barn will step into the 980-square-foot exhibit area that also features a loft for overnight guests. There’s a Murphy bed downstairs and a sofa that converts to a double bed, providing sleeping room for up to six guests.
Tucked away under the staircase is Dick’s work desk which is on rollers so he can slide it out when he wants to be able to see Playboy — the family horse who comes to greet them daily— or the cows, calves, deer, turkey, roadrunners and other wildlife that abound.
Aside from the loft, the art barn was designed to be completely handicap-accessible, including a full bath with handicap-accessible shower.
Dick crafted most of the furnishings, including a 10-foot bar with four stools and a patio-style wrought-iron table and four chairs.
Each of the bar stools took about 35 hours to complete because of Dick’s special attention to detail.
When folded into the wall, the Murphy bed’s facing is century-year-old farm wood from Nancy’s girlhood home in rural Trousdale, where she still has family.
“There isn’t anything we make that doesn’t have a reason,” Dick said.
Although Dick does the actual crafting in an adjoining workshop, together Dick and Nancy envision projects they hope will inspire.
Dick’s published book, “The Art of Self-Inspiration,” features 54 of his works with a picture and brief description and also offers space for the reader to record personal reflections. The adjoining page gives the thoughts Bixler had in mind when he created the piece.
Among the numerous pieces on display in the art barn is a four-foot “Stairway to Heaven.” There is also “The Painter’s Stand,” covered with defined drops of paint from the past and “Spiral Vase” that depicts times when life seems broken.
“We all have ups and downs,” Dick said, “but the spiral vase gives the message that we do have friends or support groups to rely on to become whole again.”
A picture of a 10-foot cross with flowing cloth also is on display, while the actual cross is currently in storage.
“The cloth on the cross is all metal and I spent two days beating it with a hammer to get the right effect,” Dick said.
The tools of Dick’s trade include a hammer, torch and wire welder.
“I’m very simple, very old-school,” Dick said, allowing that he also uses a plasma cutter to make designs and for fine-detail cutting.
One of their hopes for the art barn, Dick said, is to host tours for area students, since both he and Nancy have backgrounds in teaching. Another hope is to host weekend retreats.
“We get excited about it,” Dick said.
The Bixlers are planning an open house in the next few weeks. In the meantime, pictures of the art barn interior are posted on their website www.dickpixler.com.
Dick and Nancy are also actively involved with the Vernon Filley Art Musuem where Dick held a one-man show in November 2015. On April 5, Dick and Nancy will be featured as the first presenters for a “First Friday Lunch and Learn Series” at the Vernon Filley Art Museum, 421 South Jackson, according to Executive Director Stan Reimer. Those attending the session will also be invited to follow Dick and Nancy out to the art barn for a guided tour.