NewsSpring 2013

‘Why Arts?’ event looks to city’s cultural future

More than 300 artists, patrons, and arts administrators gathered in UIndy’s Ruth Lilly Performance Hall in December for a frank and spirited discussion on the challenges facing the Indianapolis cultural scene. “Why Arts? Why Indy?” was the brainchild of Dr. Kathleen Hacker, associate professor and chair of UIndy’s Department of Music. She was pleased with the turnout and plans to keep stoking the public discourse with future events on campus.

“I was just thrilled,” Hacker said, noting that 100 attendees responded to a follow-up survey with additional ideas. “We’re going to continue as an advocacy arm for the arts community. They need a place to be inspired, a place to connect, and a place to continue the dialogue.”

The event’s centerpiece was a panel discussion featuring Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Assisted by moderator Dennis Ryerson, retired editor of the Indianapolis Star, Kaiser talked and fielded questions with co-hosts David Hochoy, artistic director of Dance Kaleidoscope; Glen Kwok, executive director of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis; Beth Perdue Outland, vice president for Community Engagement & Strategic Innovation with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Steven Stolen, managing director of Indiana Repertory Theatre; and Jim Walker, executive director of the Big Car community arts collective. Although Hacker had been mulling the idea for some time, the viability of the city’s arts organizations became a hot topic last fall when budget concerns forced the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra to cancel performances. Amid the public concern over that issue, Kaiser and the other panelists were quick to sign on and participate in the event.

With that group now serving as an advisory board of sorts, Hacker is working to formalize the vision, mission, and structure to create an organization that can seek funding and host further discussions and other events. She also hopes to bring other universities, schools, and arts groups into the process. “How do the arts define Indianapolis? Why are the arts vital to the fabric of a great city? How can this community help its arts organizations face the current challenges?” Hacker said. “These are important questions. People need a way to discuss them, and I’m pleased that UIndy can provide that forum.”

See WFYI Production’s video of the December 10 “Why Arts? Why Indy?” at

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