The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:38 am

Arts united in moving area ahead

You might not consider yourself an arts connoisseur if your favorite thing about the Johnny Appleseed Festival is the fried apple blossom concession. 

Think again. The popular festival is every bit as much of the community’s cultural fabric as the Heartland Chamber Chorale or Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Combined, the community’s arts, social and cultural features benefit the local economy and – more important – quality of life here. 

Arts United wants to know how it can do more to support those features and, in turn, the initiative to improve the region.

The goal is to align arts and culture with broader northeast Indiana initiatives surrounding downtown development, the Regional Cities plan and riverfront development, according to Arts United President Susan Mendenhall. 

"The goal is to look for the connective tissues," she said. "To determine the programmatic steps we need to take from an arts and culture and perspective."

In combination with its own assessment over the past six months, Arts United recently conducted a public survey on the arts. Two meetings this month will continue the discussion.

Chuck Surack, chairman of Arts United’s Cultural Advancement Committee, said the survey and input from the town halls will be used to create its 10-year Platform for Cultural Advancement. 

"We’re looking at this as our marching orders, not just another plan," he said.

Mendenhall said the results of a creative sector survey also will be released at the meetings. It’s expected to offer the first measure of the size and economic impact of the local "creative class."

Arts United can serve a key role as Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana work to redefine themselves. Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and other thriving communities have capitalized on their arts and social and cultural offerings to bolster development. Recognizing how much the region already has to offer in those areas, as well as figuring out how to build on it, is important work worth supporting.

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