Public forum on Oct 2 continues arts-cultural assessment effort

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Tippecanoe Cultural Planning Steering Committee will seek input from the community in a public forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, as an important next step for assessing the contributions as well as short- and long-term needs for Lafayette-West Lafayette’s arts and cultural community.

Marc Goldring, associate principal of Massachusetts consulting firm WolfBrown, will moderate the forum, which will take place at the Tippecanoe Arts Federation building, 638 North St., in downtown Lafayette. Leading members of the Cultural Planning Steering Committee, which is working with broad-based support from TAF and local arts and cultural groups, also will be on hand.

The format will be similar to the initial public forum held June 26 to a full house at TAF’s offices.

“This second public forum is the next important step for this discussion about the arts and local culture with the entire Lafayette-West Lafayette community,” Goldring said. “The discussion from the first session was lively and instructive. And we invite more from throughout the community to come forward to help us continue setting short- and long-term priorities for the types of events, types of facilities, and types of education and outreach programs we would place on a wish-list for the arts/cultural community.”

The Cultural Planning Steering Committee has met for several months with support from TAF, representatives of the arts and cultural organizations, the Lafayette-West Lafayette Development Corp., local government and other groups to chart what steps are needed to engage a consultant to help develop a plan to ensure local arts/cultural organizations are healthy, vibrant and sustainable for the future.

The committee is using $75,000 generated with support from the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, arts and cultural organizations and the Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette to hire WolfBrown and launch the formal arts assessment process.

WolfBrown will lead, will conduct surveys, host communitywide meetings, examine funding options, and determine how the local arts venues, programs and events compare with communities similar in size to Lafayette-West Lafayette, said cultural planning committee co-chair Jim Bodenmiller.

“The arts play an important role in attracting knowledge-based businesses and industry to our community, and this assessment process through this second public forum, will help us determine our future community development,” Bodenmiller said.

Building on nearly 500 cultural events held in Lafayette-West Lafayette, the local arts community contributes more than $11 million each year to the economy, drawing visitors from throughout the region to performances and events as well as restaurants and retail outlets.

In addition, nearly 1,000 people are employed by the estimated 165 arts-related organizations and businesses in Lafayette-West Lafayette.

“Our local arts organizations are critical players in education, economic development and our quality of life,” said Sonya Margerum, co-chair of the committee and former mayor of West Lafayette. “But we need a model that’s sustainable for keeping our organizations and programs fresh and progressive.”
A total of 8,905 arts-related businesses were surveyed in Indiana last year and employed an estimated 53,924 Hoosiers, the Americans for the Arts reported. That represents an increase of 986 arts-related Indiana businesses from 2006 to 2007, and a growth of 4,650 full-time jobs during that same period.
With offices in Cambridge, Mass., San Francisco and Washington, D.C., WolfBrown has worked in the field of arts education and cultural planning for decades. Clients have included national service organizations, local coordinating agencies and individual arts education providers. Services include comprehensive research (including parent and student surveys), program design and the development of community wide systems for service provision involving scores of organizations and agencies.
A recent Money magazine ranking put Lafayette-West Lafayette as No. 2 small city in which to live in the Midwest in its annual listing of best places to live. Lafayette-West Lafayette scored highly on 37 “livability” factors such as clean water, good pubic schools and low property taxes. According to Money’s research, the area also excelled in categories such as low crime, the economy and quality of life.

The Tippecanoe Arts Federation, which was launched in 1976, is the nonprofit service and advocacy agency for more than 100 local member arts organizations.
Working from its offices in the Wells Center in downtown Lafayette, TAF also is the re-granting agency for state funds to a 14-county area (Region IV) through the Regional Partnership Initiative of the Indiana Arts Commission and regularly hosts, co-sponsors and participates in community events including its annual fundraiser, The Taste of Tippecanoe, a festival of food and fun for the arts held in downtown Lafayette.

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