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Jan 23

Community Engagement Leads to Thoughtful Arts Programming

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 4:24 PM by Tony Elliot

Fishers has grown rapidly in the past three decades. With award-winning schools, affordable homes and a plethora of recreational opportunities, Fishers quickly became one of the most attractive communities for families in central Indiana and has gained several national distinctions as such, including one of the 100 Best Places to Live in America.

Once a sleepy suburb of Indianapolis, Fishers needed a community identity, a sense of place.  Our economic development team began in the Nickel Plate District, Fishers downtown area. Through the Nickel Plate District redevelopment, a walkable, connected, destination for entertainment, shopping and restaurants in the heart of Fishers is beginning to emerge.

As the director of Fishers Parks & Recreation, my team and I have the responsibility of providing excellent programs and opportunities for residents in order to enhance the quality of life and build community.

As the economic development team set out to establish a sense of place, enhancing art and culture quickly became a priority. We recognize that art is a defining feature, providing unique opportunities to preserve and share culture, offer an exchange of ideas and values and create iconic spaces.

In partnership with local arts and culture organizations, the Fishers Arts Council and the Fishers Cultural Tourism Group, Fishers was the first community in Hamilton County to develop a community art master plan. The plan establishes a long-term vision and policy framework for community art projects in Fishers.

It was important that we took the lead in developing the framework and structure for community art – and we did so through a number of different initiatives, including the establishment of the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater where we host concerts, community events and festivals; monthly art exhibits in our City Hall by local artists and a public art space in a Nickel Plate District pocket park where residents are free to create and share their masterpieces or doodles on chalkboards. 

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Just as a house is not a home without the unique stamp of its dwellers, so it is with any community. The establishment of our identity requires the engagement of our residents and community groups.  

Since its inception, we’ve hosted more than 160,000 patrons at the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater. On the stage, we’ve welcomed local blues legends, big jazz bands, symphonies, and rock-and-roll cover artists. But for the first time last year, the stage was home to our first musical production – all because residents desired to see theatre arts programming right here in town. And together, we made it happen.

Husband and wife duo Ashton Wolf and Sandy Thorne proposed a local theater group that would perform at the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater. Thrilled by the opportunity to further diversify our programming, we quickly offered our support.  In July of 2014, the group, dubbed the Nickel Plate Players, put on their first production, BEEHIVE the musical, with more than 1,000 attendees. 

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Just this week, we were awarded the 2014 Award of Excellence from the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association for our commitment to embracing art and culture in our community. We share this recognition with our partners, the Nickel Plate Players and Fishers Arts Council, for stamping our community with local art. 

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We look forward to continually working with our residents and community organizations to develop a diverse opportunities for our entire community to enjoy. 


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