News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 10, 2013

Cultural planning: Consultant to help city reach arts district designation

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute officials want a portion of the downtown to be designated by the Indiana Arts Commission as one of the state’s cultural arts districts.

Now, it will receive assistance from IAC to achieve that goal. Terre Haute is one of six Indiana communities approved by the arts commission for cultural planning consultant services.

“We’ve wanted to pursue the cultural arts designation with IAC,” said Pat Martin, Terre Haute city planner. “It’s not an easy thing to get.”

Currently, the state has recognized five such districts in Bloomington, Carmel, Nashville, Columbus and Lafayette/West Lafayette.

The idea is to celebrate the unique contribution of the arts in certain areas of the state, Martin said.

In requesting the consultant services, Martin wrote to IAC:  “Ultimately, over a five- to seven-year period, our goal is a thriving downtown cultural arts district that recognizes the diversity of our community’s rich cultural experiences.”

The consultant, who is from Bloomington, has expertise on cultural arts districts, Martin said.

The City Council designated a Haute Arts District in 2012, which includes the Seventh Street Arts Corridor, sculptures and institutional assets such as the Swope, Halcyon, Indiana Theatre, Children’s Museum, Tilson Music Hall and the Landini Performing Arts Center.

To be designated as a state cultural arts district, Terre Haute must meet qualifying criteria and show how it will sustain the effort.

The grant is for up to 60 hours of consultant services, which will be tailored to the unique cultural needs of the eligible communities. The consultants will work with communities from January through June.

The six communities to receive consultant services — Terre Haute, Decatur, Evansville, Lawrence, Madison and Westfield — were selected from 34 that were eligible to apply after taking part in one of the IAC’s Vibrant Communities meetings.

“From what I heard, there are so many amazing, wonderful things going on in Terre Haute in terms of the arts,” said Kristina Davis-Smith, IAC director of programs, who attended Terre Haute’s initial meeting with its consultant Monday.

Those attending indicated that what’s needed is “a bit more synergy between the players” as well as a way to get information out to the community about everything that’s going on, she said. “That’s always a challenge.”  

She also heard during the meeting that for many years, there wasn’t a lot of momentum in Terre Haute, but that’s been changing. “Now, Terre Haute is on a roll and we want to make sure the ball keeps rolling,” Davis-Smith said.

Jon Ford of Terre Haute, a member of the Arts Commission who recently stepped down as chairman, said the community was successful in qualifying for consultant services “because of the quality of our application and our cultural assets. That’s why we stood out.”

The consultant will walk the community through the lengthy application process to become a designated cultural arts district, said Ford, who is president of All-State Manufacturing.

The designation doesn’t have any money attached to it, “but the plan is that down the road, we would ask the Legislature to pass a bill to fund these cultural districts,” Ford said.

In a news release, Lewis C. Ricci, IAC executive director, stated that “increasingly, we see communities of all sizes and from all geographic regions of our state recognizing the power of the arts in enhancing job creation and quality of life that help build stronger, more thriving places to live and work.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or

What to know

• Currently, the Indiana Arts Commission has recognized five such cultural arts districts in Indiana. They are located in Bloomington, Carmel, Nashville, Columbus and Lafayette/West Lafayette.