A district designation: Fishers seeks cultural title for Nickel Plate District


Fishers’ Nickel Plate District soon may receive a new cultural designation from the Indiana Arts Commission.

The City of Fishers is one of six communities applying for the biannual Statewide Cultural District designation from the Indiana Arts Commission.

Brandon “Taz” Niederauer performs during the 2018 Bluesfest at the Nickel Plate Amphitheater. City staff describe art in Fishers as stretching further than traditional definitions – including music, food and murals.

There are seven Statewide Cultural Districts in Indiana. They are Noblesville, Carmel, Tippecanoe County, Columbus, Nashville, Bloomington and Fort Wayne. If Fishers is selected, its designation would encompass the Nickel Plate District.

“(The application) really talks about what makes our district unique,” Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath said. “Here, it’s art and culture. But very true to the core of Fishers, it’s an innovative approach to art and culture. There’s a strong spirit of entrepreneurism.”

McGrath cites the new Ignite Studio makerspace in the basement of the Hamilton East Public Library as an innovative example of what art looks like in Fishers. Other art assets in the district include the Nickel Plate Amphitheater and outdoor artwork at downtown Fishers’ companies, such as Meyer Najem.

Assistant Director of Public Relations Stephanie Perry said art elements in the Nickel Plate District go beyond what traditional art looks like.

Travis Neal painted the “Aquarium Sunrise” on an electrical box during the summer. Electrical boxes throughout the city are painted in an effort to display public art.

“In the application, they have us call out economic assets, so it wasn’t just cultural assets,” she said. “It’s really things beyond traditional art.”

Perry said local food offerings and painted utility boxes were included as examples in the application.

“First and foremost, (the designation) recognizes that art and culture are a value for your community, which is why we wanted to do it,” McGrath said. “Part of it is the designation itself just comes with added credibility. It does open the door for additional grant dollars that the Indiana Arts Commission helps provide, and some of those grants are only applicable to the cultural districts, so there could be additional art grant dollars there.”

Special liquor licenses also are available to Statewide Cultural Districts, and McGrath said that is something the city learned of after it submitted its application.

“That was not a driver, it was something we learned after,” she said.  “It’s a big deal, especially when you are competing for limited licenses and trying to create an environment where you want entrepreneurs to try new things and bring new things to the district.”

If selected, borders of the cultural district would extend as far north as Holland Park, and its southernmost point would stretch to Fishers Point Boulevard. It would include Ellipses Parkway, Municipal Drive and Lantern Road, among other areas.

The Indiana Arts Commission has the option to grant the designation to all or none of the applicants. McGrath said the city should know one way or the other by the end of the year. For more, visit in.gov/arts.

Craig Martin painted a mural called “Blue Rose Junction” at Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt during the summer.

What’s next for art in Fishers?

City of Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath said applying for a Statewide Cultural District designation is only step one toward what the city has planned for art.

The other steps involve creating a collaborative effort between the city and arts groups within the city.

“In working with some local art advocates, we formed a steering committee with the three most recent Fishers Arts Council presidents, the executive director of Nickel Plate Arts (Aili McGill) and councilwoman Cecilia Coble,” McGrath said. “We came together to talk about what would it look like if we were to create a Fishers Arts and Culture Commission.”

The commission was approved by the Fishers City Council in August. The Fishers Arts and Culture Commission will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The seven commission members will be appointed by Mayor Scott Fadness, with one being a city council member.


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