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Art of the $ale

Growing arts scene
bodes well for Madison, La Grange

Madison Art Club finds success
on Main Street, giving local merchants,
economy boost in tourism

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

September 2012 Edition Cover

September 2012
Edition Cover

MADISON, Ind. (September 2012) – As the recession continues, cities across the United States search for ways to boost their economies. Some cities lure large employers to their locale. Madison, Ind., while welcoming business investment, promotes a different focus – the arts.
Eric Freeman, Director of the Indiana Artisan program, lauds this choice. He quotes Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, saying, “Artists are place-based assets – assets already in place.”
Indiana Artisan leverages these assets by helping artists expand their business. As artists sell more of their work, they hire locals to renovate their building or provide equipment. Thus, artists’ expansion creates jobs that drive the local economy.”
Artisans also help attract tourists, which in turn, help boost local business for retailers and restaurants.
Indiana Artisan promotes artists throughout Indiana with a variety of programs. Recently, Indiana Artisan invested nearly $85,000 to help local developers create seven art trails. The trails group artists of certain genres. Trail guide books detail the artists on a particular trail directing travelers to the artists of their liking. “The trails drive the market to the artist,” Freeman notes. “As travelers get to meet the artist, talk and watch him paint, they connect. If they purchase a piece of art and later want more, they can reconnect via the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, an online site for buying the work of member artists. This drives the work of artists to the market.”

Upcoming Arts Events:
• Sept. 8: Henry County Arts & Crafts Guild Show, Henry County Fairgrounds, Hwy. 421, New Castle, Ky. Sponsor: Henry County Arts & Crafts Guild. (502) 845-4560
• Sept. 8-30: Madison Art Club Competition & Exhibition, Art on Main, 309 W. Main St., Madison, Ind. Sponsor: Madison Art Club. (812) 265-2923
• Sept. 15-16: Rising Sun Festival of Fine Arts and Crafts, Rising Sun, Ind. Sponsor: Rising Sun-Ohio County Tourism Commission. 1-888-776-4786
• Sept. 29-30: Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, downtown Madison, Ind. Sponsor: VisitMadison Inc. (812) 265-2956
• Oct. 1-31: Trimble County Arts Festival. Display and show at the Trimble County Public Library, 35 Equity Rd., Bedford, Ky. Sponsor: Trimble County Arts Guild. (502) 255-7362
• Nov. 2-4: Oldham Fine Art Show at Quality Place, YMCA Indoor Arena, 20 Quality Place, Buckner, Ky. Sponsor: Arts Association of Oldham County. (502) 222-9358

The “By Hoosier Hands” art trail brings travelers to Madison in search of art.
Eric Phagan, owner of Gallery 115, is among the featured artists. Freeman focuses on Phagan as a prime example of what Indiana Artisan promotes. Indiana Artisan recently awarded Phagan the status of juried artist – a high distinction that allows the artist’s work to become part of the Indiana Artisan brand. Only 20 percent of artists applying to belong actually achieve this status. Phagan, a painter and sculptor, recently opened his own gallery at 115 E. Main. St. After years of displaying his work at other galleries, Phagan wanted the opportunity to take complete control of marketing his work. Yet, Phagan also realized he could not simply rely on selling paintings to make a living. So he included a variety of facets in his gallery.
Gallery 115 includes “W of Madison,” a gift shop featuring home accents; Gallery Café, an eatery offering a full lunch and dinner menu; Gallery Suite, a bed-and-breakfast style apartment for lease by night or season; a meeting room for business meetings or catered dinners – all in addition to Phagan’s own studio and gallery. Whether he’s playing host to a rehearsal dinner for a wedding, offering an evening of tea and art in the studio, or simply serving a slice of pie to a patron, Phagan ties all he does back to his art.
Phagan’s obvious artistic gifts shine through the incredible beauty he has drawn from a building that once housed a meat market and J.C. Penney store. Large windows at the front of the gallery bathe the wood floors and brick walls in soft sunlight. A table made of concrete slab and old radiators, surprisingly, warmly invites patrons to sit and gaze on the paintings or enjoy a quiet place to work.
“We focus on the history of the building from the 1920s to 1940s era. Everything, from the music to the food to the video running on a screen, ties back to that era.”
The focus creates both a uniform feel and a marketing tool. “The building reflects my paintings. I want the building to create a ‘Mary Poppins’ feel. When customers enter this place, it’s like stepping into one of my paintings,” says Phagan.
Artists throughout Madison focus on diversity as the key to economic survival. Peggy Attenberger and Analisa Strickland, owner and manager of Madison by Design, created a mall for artisans and crafters to display their wares.
“Unlike a gallery where they can display only a few pieces, here artists rent space and display whatever they choose,” Attenberger said. “They operate a mini-business but have us as the presence for selling and daily operations. We have over 40 artists – photographers, jewelers, leather crafters, fabric artists, and sculptors. This variety draws a wide customer base.’

Eric Phagan

Photos by Tess Worrell

Eric Phagan (above) works in clay
in creating a sculpture at his
studio on Madison’s Main Street,
while Peggy Attenberger
(below) works with beads,
which she sells in her store,
Madison Buy Design.

Peggy Attenberger

Madison by Design also plays host to a working bead store where patrons can come to bead whenever the store is open or to take one of the regularly scheduled classes. Finally, Attenberger and Strickland create beadwork to sell in their store and to other stores in the community.
“We make beaded dog tags for the Blue Cerebus and wedding jewelry for Wedding and Prom bridal shop. Those sales draw more customers to our store,” says Attenberger.
“Drawing customers must become the focus,” says Bob Maile, owner of Madison Table Works and Artisans Gallery. Maile notes that Madison possesses all the necessary ingredients to develop the arts. “We have one of the largest historic districts in the country, beautiful natural resources, Hanover College, and easy access to Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. These aspects draw the educated, more affluent people that buy art.”
Maile praises the work already done by local organizations to develop Madison – the development of the Madison brand and logo as examples. “Now we need to get the message out,” he urges. “A free-lance writer happened to come to Madison several months ago. Several local merchants took him on a tour of Madison. He went back to Columbus, Ohio, and wrote an article praising Madison. I had a huge increase in customers from Columbus. When the article syndicated in Akron and Toledo, I got customers from Akron and Toledo. When people hear of Madison, they come. Store owners are too busy with day-to-day operations to get the word out. That’s where we need a cooperative effort. Madison is as good as it needs to be. We just need to let the rest of the country know.”
Linda Lytle, Executive Director of VisitMadison Inc., the town’s tourism bureau, focuses on letting the rest of the country know. She reports that it’s working.
“During one of the worst recessions known, our tourism has increased 6 percent in the last five years and dramatically in 2012,” she says. “People don’t generally buy art in their home town. They buy as they travel – to preserve a memory or bring a piece of their destination back. So they look for art venues when choosing where to travel.”
Madison’s presence in the “By Hoosier Hands” art trail and its coming presence in the “Indiana Glass” art trail make Madison an art destination. Lytle notes, “Madison has over 150 artists with 10 juried artists through Indiana Artisan. The quality of the art draws visitors to Madison. That leads to economic growth.”
Uric Dufrene, Economics Professor at Indiana University Southeast, agrees. “When a community has a broad range of art, like Madison, the community becomes a destination that attracts tourists. Art also attracts companies. Companies locate where employees want to live. The arts play a big factor. Some support the arts for the beauty, and that’s good. But the arts also hugely impact economic development, especially in small communities,” Dufrene says.
Stable economies require creativity and diversity. Yet, as so many communities look outside for growth, Freeman urges leaders to focus on what is already in place. “Artists are place-based assets. Leverage the artist, and you’ll grow the economy.”

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