Artistic Endeavor

Consultant sees promise
for new Arts Alliance

Indiana Arts Council pays fees for
Peterson to assist in developing Madison group

(March 2014) – Steering committee members of the newly formed Madison (Ind.) Area Arts Alliance are getting some assistance in building a strong foundation for the group to develop and grow. With the financial help of the Indiana Arts Commission, they are working with management consultant Sara Peterson, who has been selected as a mentor to lead the new group.
Peterson, who helps non-profits build their boards and plan for the future, explains that she helps emerging groups ”go through the steps in a way that is a little more efficient,” rather than relying on trial and error. She says that the early stages of organizations are “really about getting them stable and sustainable enough to dream big and explore those dreams.”



The Arts Alliance is a collection of all the organizations in the area dedicated to lifting up the creative arts in the community. Alliance members hope to do this by identifying and harnessing local assets, whether an individual artist, a creative organization or an educational group, says Kim Nyberg, former founding director of the Madison Main Street Program.
Nyberg believes it is important “that the arts are recognized as a valid economic development tool in the area – a drawing card for the area.”
Rex Van Zant, the IAC’s director of Marketing and Communications, says there has been a growing movement across the country to capitalize on the arts as a way to promote community development and growth. He says that, in the past, “the arts have been overlooked as a tool that can be used to encourage economic development and tourism.”
But this has been changing.
“A community can come up with ideas on how to use the arts the same way as an industrial park,” Van Zant says. He says companies are coming to realize that “employees only spend a fraction of their day at work,” and that a strong arts community can add to the quality of life in an area, helping businesses draw and retain quality workers. While he sees the arts as important in and of themselves, he also believes that they are “definitely something a community could use to attract other things.”
The IAC is paying for her to work for 60 hours with the group up through June. After attending a 2013 colloquium put on by the IAC titled, “Creating Vibrant Communities through the Arts,” group members applied for and received an award of technical assistance in the creation of the Arts Alliance.
Arts Alliance organizers first met with Peterson Feb. 19 to begin laying out plans on how she can best assist the emerging organization.



Peterson said of the first gathering, “It was a lovely meeting, and we had a great deal of fun getting to know each other,” she says. “In broad strokes, my role is going to be a guide, mentor and facilitator as they solidify as an organization.”
Peterson has worked with several other towns across the state to link the arts with community development. She has assisted towns in developing an arts district or forming an arts commission as a part of city government. In her view, an Arts Alliance can help Madison “move things to the next level” by helping to aid in coordination and collaboration between existing organizations.
“Individual groups can only get so much done,” she says. “It is important to be very flexible. Every community that is a part of this is in such a different place.” She believes that every town “has its own flavor and challenges.”
Nyberg says, “The flavor the collection of creative folks and organizations in the area will make the organization a unique fit to the area.”
Nyberg says it is important to have strong advisers at this stage of the group’s development. “We need the proper organizational makeup, structure, policies and outreach. We believe that the guidance of the Indiana Arts Commission and a mentor like Ms. Peterson are key.” Nyberg said she hopes to use the time provided by Peterson “working on an organizational structure, identifying resources in Indiana to further the mission of the alliance and establish a set of tangible first steps for the organization.” Peterson describes the foundational work she will be helping with as being like constructing a “skeleton” that the group can then flesh out and bring to life.
Nyberg said the group is still looking to get more area residents involved. “It will be very important to identify all local artists, organizations and creative folks in the Madison, Hanover and Jefferson County area. We want to build a strong alliance with all the existing groups. It is important to understand what everyone is doing and how we can coordinate efforts all around.”

• For more information, email: MadisonArts@gmail.com.

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