“After a very long process,” Wabash was named the newest Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC), said Wabash Marketplace executive director Andrea Zwiebel. Provided image
“After a very long process,” Wabash was named the newest Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC), said Wabash Marketplace executive director Andrea Zwiebel. Provided image
WABASH – On Friday, June 25, Wabash achieved a statewide designation several years in the making.

“After a very long process,” Wabash was named the newest Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC), said Wabash Marketplace executive director Andrea Zwiebel.

At the same time, Arts Campus Fort Wayne also received the designation to bring the statewide total to 12 communities.

On Monday, June 28, Wabash Marketplace public relations and marketing manager Morgan Ellis said the designation was a “prestigious milestone” in the IAC Creative Community Pathway Program.

“The city of Wabash and its community partners collaborate to make Wabash the best city to raise a family and work,” said Mayor Scott Long. “This designation exemplifies the collaboration between organizations within Wabash to make our community a destination. I’m proud to lead a community that strives to be better every day.”

Ellis said downtown Wabash was “honored” to be recognized as one of the newest Indiana Cultural Districts.

“The Wabash Cultural District spans from the river to rails between Paradise Spring Park and the Honeywell Center. Downtown Wabash is the hub of arts and culture with assets such as Eagles Theatre, Wabash County Museum, Honeywell Center, Wabash River, Make It Your Own Pottery Studio, public art, First Friday events, Wabash Woollen Works and so much more,” said Ellis.

In the application process beginning in 2020, Wabash was selected as a Spotlight Community within the Creative Community Pathway and was invited to apply for the Cultural District Consortium. Wabash’s application nominated the Wabash Cultural District with an 85-page dissertation. The application also focused on the vaudeville roots of the community that began in the early 1900s and can be seen today at the recently renovated Eagles Theatre.

“Receiving this statewide designation from the IAC is a tremendous honor. Wabash joins a distinguished list of Indiana communities that uplift arts and cultural assets,” said Honeywell Arts & Entertainment CEO Tod Minnich. “Wabash is a remarkable city and the Cultural District represents how extraordinary our community is.”

Ellis said the Wabash Cultural District will continue to market the modern-day “Vaudeville Vibe” of arts and culture activities. The next steps for the Wabash Cultural District will be determined by the local committee, led by Wabash Marketplace. Additional community partners include the city of Wabash, Honeywell Arts & Entertainment, Grow Wabash County, Visit Wabash County, Wabash County Museum and a panel of artists.

“Downtown Wabash is excited to join Arts Campus Fort Wayne as a Northeast Indiana Cultural District,” said Zwiebel. “How exciting is it that [both] of these newly designated Cultural Districts are cities located in Northeast Indiana? The accomplishments of both communities further prove that both Wabash and Allen Counties are excellent places for people to live, work and experience arts and culture.”

Fort Wayne and Wabash join just 10 other communities as recipients of the Cultural District Designation. Indiana Cultural Districts also include Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District (BEAD), Carmel Arts and Design District, Columbus Arts and Entertainment District, Fishers: Nickel Plate District, Jeffersonville: NoCo Arts and Cultural District, Lafayette: Tippecanoe Arts and Cultural District, Madison Arts and Cultural District, Nashville: Arts Village Brown County, Noblesville Cultural Arts District and Terre Haute: 41/40 Arts and Cultural District.

On Friday, IAC director of marketing and communications Bridget Eckert said an Indiana Cultural District is a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area with unique, authentic art and cultural identity.

“The IAC provides project funding for designated Indiana Cultural Districts, facilitates statewide collaboration through the Indiana Cultural District Consortium, and provides other capacity-building opportunities for cultural district leadership,” said Eckert.

Indiana Arts Commission artist and community services manager Anna Tragesser said Wabash was a “collaborative community committed to working towards the vision of a vibrant, inclusive downtown.”

“With a rich history that connects to the present creative scene of the community, Wabash, and local arts organizations like the Honeywell Center, are building a new era of community connectedness,” Tragesser said. “Wabash has a compelling history and an even brighter future, and we are excited to have them joining the Consortium.”

To receive the designation, Fort Wayne and Wabash participated in the Creative Community Pathway program and most recently submitted an application that was reviewed by a public panel of experts specializing in economic and tourism development. Indiana Cultural Districts promote the exploration of and participation in the arts and humanities through cultural experiences that are unique to the individual communities.

“Fort Wayne is a community committed to collaboration. With a wealth of creative organizations, there is an incredible amount of opportunity for community engagement,” said Tragesser. “Regional leaders have done a wonderful job of working together as they establish opportunities for tourism and downtown development as a strategy for near-term growth.”

Wabash has been working toward receiving this designation for at least five years as the city first applied to a statewide committee in September 2016.

The IAC announced in early 2020 that the previous “Cultural District Application” was morphing into the “Creative Community Pathway.” The goal of the program is to recognize communities that utilize arts and culture as a strategy for growth. Communities can receive either “Creative Community Designation” or “Cultural District Designation.”

On Dec. 11, 2020, the IAC voted to approve Wabash, Fort Wayne, Goshen and Kokomo for Spotlight Community recognition as part of the Creative Community Pathway program. These four communities were then invited to apply for Cultural District Designation.

In May, the IAC announced that Fort Wayne, Goshen, Kokomo, and Wabash had their applications for Cultural District Designation reviewed. Reviewing the applications were peers from around the state specializing in cultural, leadership, community, economic and tourism development. Applications recommended for designation were reviewed by the IAC’s Programs, Grants and Services Committee, with final funding approval made by the full Commission at its Friday, June 25 Quarterly Business Meeting.
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