Sweltering heat and humidity didn't seem to bother crowds at last month's Taste of the Arts. They wandered from Barr Street, where plein air artists gathered, to Main Street, with vendors selling artwork and food. Just beyond, a shady Freimann Square was filled with family-friendly activities. Across Clinton Street, one of nine performance stages drew observers to the Rousseau Center plaza; to Calhoun Street, where artist Adam Garland created a colorful crosswalk mural; to more performances and attractions on The Landing and at Promenade Park.
Festival-goers demonstrated what Arts United officials have long suggested: Residents and visitors have an appetite for the arts. They want to gather in spaces where they can enjoy them. The Allen County Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board's decision to dedicate $3 million toward renovation of the Arts United Center is a strong step toward protecting one of the most important of those spaces.
The 50-year-old Arts United Center was designed by internationally famed architect Louis Kahn as part of a planned Fort Wayne Arts Campus. While other additions to the campus never materialized, the foundation of it looks more important today than ever. The performing arts center needs and deserves the support.
The building is Kahn's only work in the Midwest. It's not unusual for architects and architecture students to make a pilgrimage here to see the distinctive building. But the building is in dire need of an update – it was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act required public venues with access for all. It requires technology upgrades and repairs to its distinctive brick facade. Arts United officials plan changes that will make the building more useful and secure it as a key element of the emerging Arts Campus.
Jon Bomberger, a Fort Wayne attorney and Arts United board member, said the project will cost $30 million. The private, nonprofit organization hopes to raise $15 million from public sources and the balance from donors. The CIB funds, which come from food and beverage tax revenue, are an important contribution. The project promises to deliver Taste of the Arts energy year-round, drawing patrons to performances and activities and, inevitably, to restaurants, hotels and other area businesses.
In June, the Indiana Arts Commission designated Arts Campus Fort Wayne as a Statewide Cultural District, the first cultural district in northeast Indiana and one of 12 statewide. The distinction can't help but draw more interest to the jewel we hold in the Arts United Center.
The Capital Improvement Board contribution should be followed with generous community support.