Promoting Madison’s Cultural Assets

Newly formed arts alliance
taking shape as a formidable force

The advocacy group will hold
first board meeting in January


(December 2014)
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Don Ward

After a lengthy and exhaustive application process and weeks of waiting, the newly formed Madison Area Arts Alliance could learn by the end of the year whether the city of Madison will earn the prestigious designation as a statewide Cultural Arts District from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Considering the city’s cultural richness and wealth of visual and performing artists, musicians and culinary talents, alliance officials believe Madison deserves to be listed among the handful of other Indiana cities that already have earned the designation. These include Bloomington, Carmel, Columbus, Tippecanoe and Nashville. The designation would bring statewide attention to Madison’s rich cultural assets, according to Kim Nyberg, the alliance’s interim executive director.


Photo by Lisa Newlin

Bob Maile’s Rembrandt’s Gallery
& Wine Bar is an example of the cultural assets that Madison, Ind., has to offer. The wine bar opened Nov. 28 at 323 E. Main St.

Nyberg and Linda Lytle, executive director of VisitMadison Inc., the city’s tourism bureau, traveled to Indianapolis in early November to attend a review of the application with IAC officials. The IAC also is reviewing applications from Elkhart and New Harmony. The IAC gave no indication whether the designation was imminent, Nyberg said, but a decision is expected soon. The IAC accepts applications for the program every two years.
“Our proposed cultural district is large, geographically, but the National Park Service (in 2006) awarded the entire downtown area as a National Historic Landmark District, and we didn’t want to carve off any of the district in our application,” Nyberg said. “The Madison Area Arts Alliance is moving forward with our plans to identify, catalogue and promote our area local artists and craftspeople. The designation is just going to give us the validation and puts on paper everything we already know. It’s amazing to see how deep and broad the arts community is in Madison area. We don’t have to build it; the Madison area is already rich with so many talented people.”
Lytle had worked on a previous project a few years ago to identify and catalog southeastern Indiana artists for the state tourism office’s project, the Indiana Artisan Trail, and she said it was challenging.


She says having the alliance collect and organize the Madison area’s cultural assets will make her staff’s job easier to locate artists and musicians. “Many times, we need information in a timely manner for us to promote it. I don’t think our community has any idea just how many artists we have. When the alliance gets all these people registered, its’ going to be amazing to see.”
The alliance is in the process of transitioning from a steering committee to a board of directors, and generating “creative rosters” of the more than 400 Madison area artisans in various categories and listing them, with biographies, on a new website. These artisans do not have to be residents of Madison, but instead live in the Madison “area,” with a range of about 50 miles out in both Indiana and Kentucky.
The alliance has created mission, vision and by-laws and obtained its 501c3 nonprofit status in October and is preparing to launch the “Friends of the Arts” campaign and has created a Facebook page.
The alliance is also planning a comprehensive marketing strategy called “Arts Here Now!” that will highlight each of the art forms in the area. “The marketing strategy will be cool and innovative,”
The Alliance has been working since late 2013 and has held bi-weekly meetings with the 11 member steering committee representing all art forms in the area. The MAAA Board of Directors will be made up of half artists and half community members and the first meeting of the new 12-member board is planned for January 2015.
The alliance is still working on filling two remaining artist seats, but so far the board consists of Teresa Waller, fine artist and small business owner; Cara Fox, business owner-Little Golden Fox; David Terrell, Ball State University Director of Economic Development Policy; Ryan Mahoney, vice president, Farmer’s Bank of Milton; Margo Olson, executive director of River Valley Resources; Robin Ryle, writer and Associate Professor at Hanover College; Theresa Strohl, professional photographer; Steve Thomas, culinary wine maker and business owner, Thomas Family Winery; Tracy Wyne, CPA at Sherman Barber and Mullikin CPA; Bill Barnes, CEO and president of the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County.
In 2012, Madison played host to “Feed the Arts,” an organized community conversation which brought 55 people, mostly artists, together for a retreat. Feed the Arts began the discussion and asked several key questions about the need for arts in the community.  There was a clear conclusion to develop an arts council. This realization, coupled with attendance at the Indiana Arts Commission’s “Creating Vibrant Communities through the Arts” at Hanover College, started the Madison Area Arts Alliance. 
Since late 2013, the alliance has participated in the IAC Community Consultancy Planning Program and submitted the IAC Cultural District Program application. The alliance was formed in December 2013 with a $40,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County Foundation. Barnes initiated the process after realizing that having visited Nashville, Ind., and realizing that Madison was just as abundant with creative talent, if not more.
Most of the grant money was used to hire Nyberg on a part-time basis. Nyberg and her husband, John, recently moved back to Madison from Nashville, Tenn., where she had served as statewide director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Despite those lofty positions with state government, Nyberg said the couple missed the small town charm of Madison and decided to move back to raise their two children there.
Nyberg is the founding director of the Madison Main Street Program, which began in 1991 as part of the local chamber of commerce. Main Street earned its own nonprofit status in 1993. Nyberg left her post in 2000 to become director of programs at Historic Madison Inc. The couple moved to her native Tennessee in 2006.
Nyberg began her new position with the alliance in February 2014, and her office is housed in the Community Foundation office at 416 West St. John Nyberg, meanwhile, was hired last year to take over as executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society for Joe Carr, who retired.
“Kim was the perfect fit for this position because of her knowledge of Madison and her experience in Main Street and rural development in Tennessee,” Barnes said.
Barnes says that in creating and funding the alliance, the Community Foundation “looked at what it could do to make a difference in recognizing and supporting the creative community of Madison – not just one show, but something larger and that could be sustainable. We wanted to build off of the 2012 “Feed the Arts” initiative to bring together artisans. After several meetings with artists, it became clear that an arts council or arts alliance was needed to provide a voice. We decided that an arts alliance was the way to go.”
Mary Jo O’Conner, president of the Madison Art Club, participated in those early meetings of artists, first led by Barnes and later Nyberg after she was hired. O’Connor said the main goal was “to have a strong voice for the arts community within the larger community and to get all the arts groups and individuals under one umbrella.” She said the alliance “is the best organization for the arts community to have a seat at the table” when public funds are being handed out. She said Nyberg “was the perfect for that position.” And she called Barnes’ approach of having the artists meet and decide how to move forward “was very meaningful and empowering and better than having outside people come in and tell us what we should do.”
Nyberg said the initiative has been building “from the ground up, with people pulling together and listening.” She said she hopes that future private fundraising and grants will enable the alliance to market the alliance’s programs and the area’s cultural assets. She also is planning a major public event in April 2015 to showcase these talents.

• To learn more about the Madison Area Arts Alliance, contact Kim Nyberg at (812) 801-9863.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.


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