Central Indiana Community Foundation, Ken Gladish

Sometimes, it seems, the arts are like children. no one, publicly at least, will come out and say they can’t stand ‘em. But while an increasing number of state and local leaders seem to be touting the importance of the arts to the growth and health of communities Indiana continues to budget less for the arts than almost any other state or territory in the Union.

Yet the demand for arts activities in Indiana continues to grow. This situation – an increasing demand for scant resources – compelled the Indiana Arts Commission to find a new way of delivering its services. IAC decided to decentralize itself. It divided the state into regions, each one administered by an organization that would work in partnership with the Arts Commission. In most parts of Indiana, the partners were, predictably, arts organizations. But in two parts of the state, South Bend and here, in Central Indiana, the job of regional arts administration has been adopted by community foundations.

In our region, the Central Indiana Community Foundation has taken up this arts challenge. Although it is still too soon in the history of this self-styled “experiment” to pass a definitive judgement on the outcome, early indications suggest that the foundation’s leadership could revitalize how we think about arts funding in this part of the state.

CICF President Kennerth Gladish and his colleagues observed the Arts Commission’s regional planning process from the earliest stages — although not with a desire to play an active role. “We know of the significance of state dollars as part of the mix of funding the whole charitable and artistic sector of the city and the counties that surround it,” explains Gladish. What’s more, the foundation has been — and continues to be — a funder, partner, and collaborator with the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

“From the very beginning,” says Gladish. “we have had donors to the Indianapolis Foundation who have made resources available for the purposes of supporting cultural and artistic activity in Indianapolis and central Indiana. So, in on sense our commitment grows out of our obligation to those who have established these endowment assets.”

Gladish, program officer Tony Macklin and the board of the CICF are convinced through experience and study that the quality of life in our community is closely linked to the strength and character of our cultural resources.

“You can’t observe community life here or anyplace else,” says Gladish, “without coming to the conclusion that artistic and cultural experience are absolutely central to who we are, to our identity as human beings, to the character of the place we call home, to the possibility of community with each other.”

Not everyone, admits Gladish, is completely comfortable with this regional scheme. Concerns are expressed about the availability of resources and the responsibility for decision making. “I think,” he adds, “it’s refreshing to see a state agency looking for alternative ways of doing business and thinking concretely with local partners throughout the state about how it might do that.”

Gladish continues: “We saw the possibility of participating in this effort as a means to strengthen cooperation with community foundations in the surrounding counties.”

Indiana is currently enjoying a boom in the creation and growth of community foundations. Macklin points out that most of the new foundations have yet to address arts giving. The CICF’s initiative can serve as an opportunity for them to get involved in this important area. Boone County, for example, has already used what’s happening as a spur to start its own arts council. Foundations in Morgan and Johnson Counties are renewing relationships with arts organizations.

In addition to administrative acumen, the board of the Indianapolis Foundation (which now operates under the CICF aegis) has committed approximately $250,000 to the ARts Commission’s $750,000 allocation for our region.

While the largest institutions in our region will continue to deal directly with the state Arts Commission regarding their funding needs, the Central Indiana Community Foundation will focus on medium-sized and small organizations in order to emphasize cultural diversity and access. “You’ve got to have as many ways for people to get into a cultural experience as possible,” says Macklin.

“It’s very important,” observes Gladish, “to have major, anchor institutions that have independent capability and, because of that, can make their own decisions about what’s best for their service. Our hope is that we can help to make the same level of capability in small and mid-size organizations.”

AS the Central Indiana Community Foundation works with its state and local partners toward the realization of its goals for the arts in this region, there is, perhaps, another benefit that its participation brings. Ken Gladish speaks of how sports and economic interests in Indianapolis have attracted community leaders willing to act as champions. But in the arts, he notes, “Advocacy sometimes seems to be the province of our professional colleagues in the arts. We know though that you have to have people there, not as a consequence of their professional passion, but because of their love and public declaration of engagement.”

A public declaration like that made by the board and staff of the Central Indiana Community Foundation.