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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Art is the Answer

After serving for more than a year as the executive director for the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, Anne Shoemaker McKim, 30, has pledged to make Evansville an appealing place to live. A graduate of Central High School and the University of Southern Indiana, she previously worked as program director for the Public Education Foundation. She believes art enhances the quality of life.

City View: What are your goals for the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana?

Anne Shoemaker McKim: We would like to change public perception of the role that arts play in a community. Arts should be a dynamic experience, not just something that you look at and walk away from. It should be a tool for economic and community development. All of the research says that a strong public art and cultural scene improves the quality of life. That’s good for everybody whether or not you’re an artist or an arts patron.

CV: What are some of the ways you help people become aware of and appreciate the fine arts in Evansville?

ASM: Once people are exposed to the arts, they recognize the value there. Increasing our exposure is a huge piece of that, and helping people see the art that already exists in our area. There are some really fantastic sculptures and really wonderful pieces that people aren’t aware of. I hate it when people say, ‘There is nothing to do in Evansville.’ Every night there is music being played, galleries opening, shows at the museum, events just social in nature or intellectual and spiritual.

CV: How would you describe the art scene in Evansville?

ASM: Some fantastic examples are the Haynie’s Corner Arts District artists, Blackford’s Grove artists and artisans, what goes on at Franklin Street in terms of music. (Blackford’s Grove consists of 16 acres of Evansville bounded by Washington, Powell, Parrett, and Garvin streets. During the Civil War, refugees who had fled from their homes were cared for there.) The Arts Council of Doom is a body of young contemporary artists. To describe a scene can mean something entirely different to a 16-year-old high school kid than to a 24-year-old college kid or someone like my grandmother in her 80s. Art is one of those things that is limited when you define it.

CV: How can art play a role in revitalizing Downtown Evansville?

ASM: Downtown and other urban core neighborhoods like Haynie’s Corner have the potential to echo what you see in other neighborhoods of that size where there are restaurants and bars, and music and art are all a part of that. The environment is creative. The environment is vibrant, and culture is a word that comes to mind when you’re in those places. We think of the Arts Council as a key player in developing those areas. When we talk about Downtown Evansville, the question is why would someone choose to live here instead of in a subdivision. Art has to be in the answer. Art has come to stand for a different way of living. We think art is vital to Downtown being a successful district to live.

CV: What potential do you see in Evansville?

ASM: Infinite potential. I have conversations with people on a weekly basis who are excited about giving back to the community and creating new projects. The idea is that I have two little children (Lily, 5, and Rory, 3) and in 30 years when they grow up, they are going to probably move away to go to school. And that’s fine, but I don’t want Evansville to be out of the question when they are thinking about where to go or where to raise their children. When I go to work each day, I look at the 30-year Lily and Rory timeline. What am I doing today to make this community really, really appealing 30 years from now?

For more information about the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, visit artswin.org.

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