If you’re a regular listener to WFYI public radio, then you’ve heard Jill Ditmire’s voice. Among her other roles at WFYI 90.1 FM, she has been the longtime local news anchor during All Things Considered and a contributor to Morning Edition and to Sound Medicine.
We could run down a whole list of radio and television stations to which this Butler grad (Radio/Television, Journalism/Political Science, Butler University, 1986) contributed to throughout the Midwest. But, suffice to say that, over the past 30 years, this Indy resident has become something of an institution in the local broadcasting world.
For the past year, she has hosted the weekly arts program Curious Mix on WFYI, which showcases artists of all types, from painters to pastry chefs. In fact, March 1 was the one year anniversary of the show’s launch.
Curious Mix originally filled the hole left vacant when the long-running show Art of the Matter—hosted by Sharon Gamble and Travis DiNicola—was discontinued in January 2018.
But, you may not know that Ditmire is also an American Wine Society certified wine judge, and she was the owner of Mass Ave Wine Shoppe from 2007 to 2013.
Between those two sets of experiences, it's a a good bet that Ditmire has been to most places in Greater Indianapolis that could reasonably be described as arts venues. However, unlike the former Art of the Matter hosts—whose mantra was What will we do?—she is not so much focused on what's happening next week as what's happening all the time, all around us.
"The Curious Mix Stories are really evergreen stories," she says. "You could hear that story today or hear that story three years from now and it’s still interesting to you."
On the Friday afternoon that we talked, in fact, she had three distinct venues on her itinerary. She was planning to check out Healing Arts Indy (to see a painting exhibit by Merle Pace), Storage Space to see the prints of Dominic Senibaldi, and Kipp Normand’s Museum of Psychotronics in the Murphy Art Center.
And if you want to know what Ditmire, or one of her contributors, will have to say about any of these venues, well, you’ll just have to tune into the next Curious Mix broadcast.
We talked by phone Feb. 22.
[Editor's note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.]
NUVO: What’s you evolution with Curious Mix been over the past year?
DITMIRE: We’re going to continue to do our partnership with YELP in showcasing different ethnic restaurants in town; that segment continues. Our “Making It” segment which features a DIY artist or musician here in town; we’ll keep doing those stories. We’re going to keep doing the segment with Terry Border, where we shares some of the poems that he enjoys that encourage his photography and artwork that he does. Some of what I call the regular segments will continue as we keep moving forward.
I’m editing a show right now ... show # 27, so I’m recording a bunch of new stories in the next several weeks. I’ll still always do the first main story of the hour. I write the whole show, edit ... work with the contributors, and put it all together and then give it to [WFYI staffer] Matt Pelsor and he goes in and edits the entire show together and fine tunes our audio and makes it sound so great for us. It’s still curious; and it’s still a mix [laughs].
NUVO: Can you think of some highlights of the past year on Curious Mix?
DITMIRE: Well for me, it’s fun. I loved the two evenings I spent with the folks at the House of Trepidation, the haunted house on the South Side .. it was like a theater production and that was fascinating to me to learn how they do that and how they put all that together and how wildly successful haunted houses are. I had a blast doing the downtown walking tour with Kipp Normand. Not only did I learn a lot of things about downtown that I didn’t know ... The [Harrison Center’s] Art Dish was a fascinating thing to do.
That’s because I got to interview the artists and the chefs and the people who were there and the dancers and there was so much sound with that. I remember there was music and the sound of the glasses and the plates and the table when it comes down from the ceiling ... The art at the [Indianapolis International Airport], that was a very important story that we did because a lot of people still don’t realize that there’s so much local art at the airport and what an amazing opportunity it is for a local artist to showcase their work out there in front of thousands of people. And we did that whole Kennedy-King 50th anniversary series.
In most of our shows, everything is really different. There’s a musician, there’s a theater person, there’s an artist, there’s an entrepreneur ... food ... But for Kennedy-King a large part of the whole show was really wrapped around that with the interviews from the three people who were there that night when Bobby Kennedy came to the park to talk about Martin Luther King being assassinated. And we did that wonderful interview with Angela Jackson Brown the [playwright for Dear Bobby performed at the Indy Fringe Theatre in October 2018] I interviewed the whole cast and that was just a really cool story.
NUVO: I’d like to ask you about your experience at Mass Ave Wine Shoppe.
JILL DITMIRE: It was fun. It was a lot of hard work, but I really enjoyed it.
NUVO: What were some of the challenges?
DITMIRE: It’s 24/7, 365 days a year. You don’t just do one job you do everything, every job from cleaning the bathrooms to buying the wine to selling the wine to managing the employees ... It was fun because it was at a time when that whole east end [of Mass Ave ] was starting to blossom and we were ahead of our time in that I put a different local artist on the wall every month ... And we had the free tasting Tuesday; we did the wine and a psychic reading; we did wine and chair massage; we did Italian wine with Italian language lessons. We did crafting with wine. Now everybody does that; every brewery, every winery, everybody’s got an event going on all the time but nobody used to do that ... I would bring in local musicians and have them play… I think back on that now and we promoted so many local products. Actually, I used to drive to Sun King to get the beer from them. They were new at that time. And at time if you wanted to sell the beer, you had to have a cooler for it. New Day Craft, when they came on the scene, we gave them the opportunity to sell their products. And with a lot of the small distributors, we really worked hard to make sure that we were able to sell their products if it was good at a good price ... We used to buy products from Goose the Market. It’s interesting to see now how it’s so normal for everyone to expect farm to table stuff, local stuff. At the time, nobody was doing that. We kind of took a risk and did that.