Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
A new community arts center in Downtown Anderson will give artists space to develop their craft and serve as a launch pad for engagement projects.
A Town Center will function as an artistic co-op, where the organization will donate studio space for artists in exchange for community projects. Already, the center has spurred the painting of a huge mural by the city’s riverwalk and a pottery class. It’s also led to the installation of a disc golf course, a project that might not represent traditional art but goes a long way in community engagement.
“It gives an artist a creative space in an environment with others to work on their own art and to outreach to the community,” said Levi Rinker, artistic director for A Town Center. “The arts are quite important. We’ve got a number of very nice arts organizations. We just don’t have the communal space for artists to work together. This kind of gives people more of an opportunity to collaborate and create the area they want to be in together.”
Rinker also serves as Anderson’s downtown economic development specialist. In a way, the project is practicing what he preaches. He moved to downtown, and he’s invested in downtown, which has helped in his outreach efforts to local business owners as he talks to them about attracting tenants.
Through A Town Center, Rinker is replicating a model that helped him in his career.
When Rinker returned from overseas, he was gifted studio space as he was transitioning back to the community. With the gift, he did a large community collaborative art exhibition where he created 40 10-foot steel statues that “walked” around the city. It was a fun year of getting people out and seeing art, Rinker said, and he hopes A Town Center will build off that momentum.
At the time, other artists worked in the same former elementary school as Rinker – and several businesses grew out of that space with their owners buying homes and staying in the community.
“Part of the larger brain drain we see, everyone is wanting to live in a place where they feel comfortable in and that recognizes them and the value they hold,” Rinker said. “Hopefully through this we’ll be able to duplicate earlier efforts we had when we were at the elementary school.”
Eventually, he hopes the project could grow to offer housing for artists, similar to a program starting in Indianapolis’ Garfield Park neighborhood.