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Arts Drive Economic Development and Quality of Life in Indiana

IAC Program Manager, Anna Tragesser's top five examples of how arts and culture drive economic development and quality of place in Indiana as demonstrated by statewide designated cultural districts.

1. Cultural districts are significant, proven, economic generators which lead to employment, small business development, and enhanced commerce.

Cultural districts are focused marketing and development instruments which concentrate creative businesses and goods. In the State of Indiana over 160,000 citizens are employed in the creative industries, and nearly 60% of these are entrepreneurs running small businesses. The cultural district strategy brings these creative business people together through sales and performance opportunities on an ongoing basis.

  • Neighborhoods adjacent to the Madison Arts and Cultural District saw a huge upswing in real estate transfers in 2017 as residents relocate to the downtown due to interesting real estate, lively environment, and walkability of the district.
  • Cultural districts reported over $392 million of investments and revitalization projects in or nearby the district boundaries in 2018. The most commonly reported additions to cultural districts in 2018 were restaurants, arts facilities, housing, historic renovations, mixed use development, public infrastructure, and real estate services.

2. Cultural districts are rich, community centers for enhanced quality of life.

Districts are an enduring community center for community gatherings, activities, events, and shared experiences. Their rich cultural activity and commerce are a focal point  for their own community, and surrounding  counties.  The cooperation of major cultural, civic and commerce institutions at the heart of every district enhances community involvement, access, and as such serves to attract and retain population.  They also attract relocating businesses looking for quality of life options for their employees.

  • The Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District stimulated over 15,000 square feet of new murals in the community in 2017 alone.
  • Madison arts and culture programming has been themed around mental health, suicide prevention and kindness, keeping these topics front of mind for residents.

3. Arts and culture thrive in rural or urban settings.

Cultural districts can and do work in the smallest of settings (Nashville) or in a large, urban setting (Carmel).  Since cultural districts are based in a uniqueness of place in conjunction with a uniqueness of local arts and culture, it is a totally scalable concept.  It can be rural and crafty, urban and upscale, two square blocks or twenty square blocks.  The appeal for a visitor or resident is the same: a place where the arts make things happen and define the look, feel and vibe of a vibrant place to eat, shop and explore.

4. Arts and culture highlight local identity and history.

Whether it is a Victorian river town like Madison, or a modern architectural destination like Columbus, cultural districts embrace and amplify local identity and history and underscore a sense of uniqueness of place.

  • The highest concentration of French residents in Indiana is in Hamilton County, and the Carmel Arts and Design District is now home to this community’s annual Bastille Day celebration.
  • Exhibit Columbus Symposium focuses residents and scholars on the architectural significance of the buildings throughout the community.
  • Bloomington launched the Black y Brown Festival to build opportunities for artists and creative people of color to be represented in the cultural district programming

5. Cultural districts bring money into a community.

Cultural districts are magnets for commerce, bringing money into a community through tourism and its associated revenues, opening up new revenue streams for local businesses and municipalities.

  • Tippecanoe County landed businesses including Rolls Royce and GE Aviation as results from the community's focus on quality of place like the Tippecanoe Arts and Cultural District.
  • BlueSky Technology Partners built a multi-story, mixed-use headquarters on the western edge of the Noblesville Cultural Arts District.
  • The newly launched Indiana University Eskenazi School of Arts, Architecture + Design J. Irwin Miller Architecture program located in the Columbus Arts & Entertainment District.
  • Columbus’s Creative Role Call programming opened up a conversation on how to support the creative ecosystem for local artists, designers and creative entrepreneurs.