A May 7 meeting at IUPUI, promoted as a forum to get Mayor Bart Peterson’s cultural initiative “on track,” generated a flurry of ideas from about 30 individuals. The meeting, called by Sotiris Avgoustis, an assistant professor in IUPUI’s Department of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management, and local arts entrepreneur Jeremy Efroymson, allowed people to, as Avgoustis put it, “express their position on what Indianapolis has to do to be a cultural destination.” Among those in attendance were several members of the mayor’s cultural initiative team, including Marty Peters and Keira Amstutz. Brian Payne of the Central Indiana Community Foundation and a member of the Cultural Development Commission was also in attendance, as was Greg Jordan, the Republican candidate for mayor.
IUPUI professor Sotiris Avgoustis
A previously outspoken critic of Mayor Peterson’s cultural initiative methodology, Avgoustis did not himself address any issues and he asked people to refrain from criticism. A position paper he distributed dealing with cultural tourism did not appear to differ to any significant degree with goals already articulated by the Mayor’s Office in terms of an expressed need to focus on local residents, city visitors, the city’s infrastructure and superstructure and, finally, principles of tourism development. Avgoustis told everyone that a research assistant in attendance would log peoples’ suggestions in order to begin a process through which a list of 10 to 15 recommendations for action might be developed. The ideas presented covered a wide gamut. Suggestions included making connections between art and public transit, creating a downtown venue for contemporary art, improving online communications regarding arts, better training regarding city attractions for local hotel and service providers and making low interest loans available to artists. Mayoral candidate Greg Jordan spoke briefly. Noting that his son has a degree in theater, he assured the group that the arts would be a priority in his administration, but did not provide any specifics. While everyone who spoke seemed to have a particular idea of their own to share, at least two themes emerged during the course of the meeting. The first concerned the difficulty artists in Indianapolis face in making a living. The city has yet to sustain the kind of economy congenial to people in a variety of creative fields — the very people who are cultural content providers. The other major theme related to the need for the city’s corporate and business community to take a more active role in supporting the arts. To date, the city’s cultural initiatives have benefited largely from the increased attention they have received from the public and philanthropic sectors. The private sector has not been engaged with the city’s cultural life to a comparable degree.