Promoting the Arts

New arts group forms in Madison

Goal is to create more
arts-related tourism for the area

(November 2013) – Members of the Madison, Ind., area creative community are looking to join forces to help shape a bright future for the arts. In March 2012, a group of 55 community members met to discuss what the area needed in respect to the arts. Out of this gathering came a sense that there was a need for additional promotion of Madison as an arts and culture destination, as well as assistance in marketing, funding, and political advocacy.

Bill Barnes
Bill Barnes

As discussions continued, it became apparent that the time was right to begin to establish the Madison Area Arts Alliance, an organization that would help bring together the existing arts groups and individual artists in a way that would allow for new cooperation and collaboration.
“Art touches everyone in one way or the other; it’s all around us,” said Madison’s Kim Nyberg, who is serving as a facilitator for the group.
October has been a busy month for the 13 volunteer committee members working to get the alliance off the ground. Bill Barnes, president and CEO of the Community Found-ation of Madison & Jefferson County, explains that the foundation was interested in hearing a grant proposal to help provide funding to allow the alliance to study what other community arts alliances have done for their towns and hire a consultant from the Indiana Arts Commission to help the group start off on a firm foundation.
In preparation for the final grant proposals, on Oct. 3 the committee met with 40 individual artists. Then on Oct. 8, a broader community meeting attracted more than 50 business leaders, elected officials and patrons of the arts.
The position statement of the alliance explains that the group was “created to build, inspire and nurture a sustainable arts movement.” The alliance plans to organize as a non-profit and seeks to provide peer-to-peer networking opportunities, entrepreneurial assistance, educational programming and political advocacy for artists.
On Oct. 23, the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County announced it would award a grant valued at $40,000 toward this initiative. The grant is designed to “support the creation of the Madison Area Arts Alliance, and is encouraging others to support this exciting endeavor as well,” Barnes said in a statement.  
Nyberg believes that the timing is right for this type of an organization and says that the reception from artists and art educators has been enthusiastic at the community meetings.
“The last few years more and more things have been falling into place,” Barnes said. He added that individual art groups have been working together, and there came about a general “feel that there is interest in something like this.” Barnes believes that the “grassroots nature” of the alliance is one of the keys to its success.
According to Barnes, what helps make the group unique from existing area organizations is the fact that it draws from “the whole breadth and depth of the creative community – the whole spectrum.” He says that the alliance brings together visual artists, performing artists and writers in a new way.
Nyberg describes the purpose of the group as being “to promote a partnership with all these artistic groups.” She stresses that the intent is “not to replace any group,” but rather to bring different arts organizations and individual artists together in collaboration.
Committee member Leticia Bajuyo, an art professor at Hanover College, reflects on her personal interest in the group, saying, “Being a professor at Hanover, I see it as a way to link the college to the community and vice versa.” She believes that more coordination between the artistic groups will, in turn, lean to more opportunities.
Bajuyo said she is particularly eager to see the alliance’s proposed community wide, combined arts calendar become a reality. While the area is rich in cultural events, “It’s hard to take the time to look up and see what everyone else is doing,” she said.
Working on campus as an art professor, Bajuyo has already seen ways the that the college’s combined calendar can encourage departments to “piggyback” on upcoming events or simply avoid scheduling conflicts. She would love to see these same opportunities on a community wide level.
For Bajuyo, she is already seeing hints of the alliance’s potential emerging through the early planning stages. “There has been more cross-networking and coordination just in the past year,” she said. She added that volunteer meetings have put her in direct contact with fellow arts educators who she may not have had the chance to connect with regularly with before.
While Nyberg is not an artist by trade, her background in community development gives her a special perspective and enthusiasm for the potential offered by the alliance. “It’s proven that the creative economy is a viable opportunity,” she says. “Madison is very positioned to move forward.”
Nyberg said she believes that a flourishing arts scene will not only increase Madison’s tourism appeal but will also offer benefits to those who call the area home. “We really want to encourage art and the quality of life that artistic expression gives to a community.”

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