Creating Vibrant Communities

Creating Vibrant Communities 2013The Indiana Arts Commission hosted its tri-state colloquium, Creating Vibrant Communities through the Arts, on June 6-7 at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. The event sold out and hosted attendees from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

The colloquium, in partnership with Ball State University’s Building Better Communities program and with the support of the Ohio Arts Council and Kentucky Arts Council, focused on fostering growth and introducing innovation for arts organizations in order to better connect the arts and communities.

Creating Vibrant Communities through the Arts included sessions with presenters from Indiana and across the country who used best practices, planning tools and examples of community and arts engagement.

CEO of Arts Engaged Doug Borwick presented a pre-program workshop titled “Mainstreaming Community Engagement.” This workshop began a dialogue about the interaction between the arts and community.

Borwick also lead a breakout session and was a speaker for the colloquium.

“[The arts can] raise an issue’s visibility, foster relationships and create an understanding across cultural and social boundaries,” Borwick said in his keynote address. “The arts are an underutilized resource in civic progress.”

Over the two days of the colloquium, attendees had the opportunity to attend three of six breakout sessions lead by various leaders of arts organizations, cultural districts and art-related initiatives.

“In the community, there is much to gain from embracing the arts as a resource for positive improvement,” Borwick said.

Tracy Taft, executive director of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA), came from Ajo, Ariz. to lead a breakout session. ISDA engaged in the redevelopment through the arts of a small, rural area near the United States and Mexican border. The Curley School campus redevelopment in Ajo provided live/work space for artists and support and resources for the artists and community.

“I learned a lot from the folks in the three sessions I led,” Taft said. “I was really inspired by the few of the organizations I talked to and their projects.”

Taft said that her community would have never accomplished growth in economic development through the arts if it did not have the help and support of others, and she now finds it is time to give back.

“It’s a long way for me to come, but when they showed me the plan for the agenda, it struck me as so thoughtful and so well-planned, and with people coming in teams, I thought that change would actually start to happen,” Taft said.

Helen Davis Johnson, arts and culture program officer at the Kresge Foundation, led a plenary session on “Creative Placemaking” and Elaine Fisher, president of efisher+associates led a “Community and the Arts” session.

The IAC invited Sara Peterson, management consultant from Bloomington, as the IAC is one of her clients. Peterson said the conversation flowed well, and she was “impressed with how engaged the group was.”

 “I think, unfortunately, we have become disconnected from ourselves and deny our appreciation of the arts from time to time,” she said. “It’s filling a blind spot for a lot of people.”

At the end of the colloquium, attendees had an opportunity to develop their plans for the arts in their communities, lead by Fisher.

Greg Ziesemer event coordinator for the RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival in Madison, Ind., came to the colloquium with nine others from his community to form an arts alliance for the Greater Madison area in Jefferson County.

“We all learned a lot of new things about resources, about funding… strategic planning and following through with and implementing a plan, about mission and vision statements, and how others have successfully done it. We can use them as models,” Ziesemer said. “It was a very healthy, inspiring and encouraging event.”

The group from Madison that wishes to form an arts alliance following the colloquium will continue to meet twice a month.

“We’re excited and ready to move forward,” Ziesmer said.