We Want Art to Build Community

We Want Art to Build Community

Have you ever thought about art as a unifier? Here at Nickel Plate Arts, we think outside the box – or, should we say ‘the frame’? – in terms of art and use it as a way to bring people together. Art can be a great way to build communal relationships, and that is exactly what we try to do. Whether it’s through our unique events or various art classes offered throughout the year, we strive to cultivate a strong community through the arts.

Bob Burnett works towards this type of community involvement in his role with the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) as program services manager. The IAC is a state agency charged with bringing the arts to the forefront in our communities and making the arts available to all Hoosiers, according to Burnett. With help from the IAC, we succeed in making the arts a top priority for the public.

“I don’t think there’s really anything that Aili and the board don’t say yes to,” Burnett said. “If there’s a way to collaborate with a group in the community, they’re going to do it, even if the arts component is kind of small. It’s really important for Nickel Plate Arts to be seen as a player in community life.”

Burnett and the IAC work with Nickel Plate Arts fairly often, as we serve as the primary contact for the Noblesville cultural art district, one of seven in the state. These cultural districts help to easily bring arts to different communities, celebrating areas in Indiana where there is a density of arts and cultural assets. Becoming a state designated cultural district is fairly competitive. The city of Noblesville was chosen for its great cultural vibrancy, according to Paige Sharp, the director of programs at the IAC. Within her role, Sharp oversees all the IAC does to cultivate community, including bringing together the seven cultural districts in an effort to learn how they can better work together to expand arts across the state.

“We focus on communities; it’s central to our work,” Sharp said. “As the arts grow in communities, the communities thrive. And when the communities thrive, so does the state.”

Nickel Plate Arts and our partners work to foster that thriving creativity not only in Noblesville, but also in the surrounding area through engaging, unique activities. In fact, one of our partners makes it their mission to travel across the community offering “make and take” projects that are specifically designed for each area. Artists and educators Deanna Leonard and Erin Goodman run this traveling art studio called Caravan Classes. Both Leonard and Goodman have had their artwork displayed here at Nickel Plate Arts. They also serve as guest teachers for art classes.

Caravan Classes offers mobile, pop-up art classes and workshops in their brick-and-mortar studio in Downtown Noblesville, but they can also travel to markets, home residences and community events with their vintage-camper-turned-art-studio. Their programs are open to people of all ages, offering something for everyone, including classes in watercolor, metal, mosaic, silk scarf painting and paper flower making, just to name a few. According to Leonard and Goodman, Caravan Classes recently expanded to offer Community Story Time – a weekly public event hosting guest storytellers with a variety of vocations designed to make a community connection for all ages. Since these classes and events can essentially take place anywhere there is a need for involvement, this allows for a greater number of people to participate, fostering a sense of unity within the general public.

“Including the public in art making and viewing builds a sense of pride and belonging in the community,” Goodman said. “Art making creates memories and connections that are beyond valuable.”

Getting the chance to work with great organizations like the IAC and Caravan Classes makes our mission to cultivate community through the arts that much more tangible. The arts are a key component in fostering a sense of home for people, according to Sharp.

“When you see the arts work in that vibrant level, people want to be apart of that; they bring the community together,” Sharp said. “And when you bring a community together, they start to get excited about what they’re doing. They invest in community, they want to stay in community, and they want to be in community that’s long-term, growing and thriving.”

The arts are an important component in achieving that healthy, working community that Sharp mentioned. If you’re interested in getting involved with our efforts to build on the community, check out our volunteer page at www.nickelplatearts.org/get-involved to submit your creative work or to become a partner or donor. If you’d like to get involved with the IAC’s work, attend one of their upcoming informational sessions. The sessions detail grant opportunities for nonprofits and artists in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion and Shelby Counties. Click here for more information.

Spencer Hotz
shotz@bohlsengroup.com