“Our downtown Arts Campus is the kind of secret sauce that allows Fort Wayne to shine among its peer cities in the Midwest,” says Doug Wood, PNC regional president for northern Indiana and chair of the Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. Board of Directors. “As we look to improve quality of life and quality of space attributes and how to compete with other cities across the country, it comes down to having core cultural destinations such as the Arts Campus.”
Wood, who served as a board member for Arts United, was selected as board chair in the summer of 2016 and says the Arts Campus in downtown Fort Wayne is a hidden gem.
“There are very few peer cities that have an organization or an arts campus like we have here,” says Wood. “Our goal is to tout that a bit more and be more outwardly focused.”
“It can be hard to see your own community for what it is,” says Susan Mendenhall, president of Arts United. “So, we’re encouraging our community to begin looking at Fort Wayne from the perspective of a visitor or a potential employee. Through that lens, we must ask ourselves, ‘What do we offer that other communities don’t?’ When it comes to arts and culture, Fort Wayne has a lot to be proud of.”
Arts United is a non-profit united arts fund and local arts agency that serves the communities of northeast Indiana by assisting more than 70 arts and culture organizations.
“In the late 1950s, this community and the Arts United founders were thinking boldly and globally,” says Mendenhall. “They saw what was happening at Lincoln Center in New York City and said, ‘We can do that here. We can do it on a Fort Wayne-scale and we’re going to hire a world-famous architect to design it.’ Because of their vision, the Arts Campus now sits in our region’s urban core, anchored by the Arts United Center - the only theater designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn.”
What started out as one building is now a lasting legacy that has grown to a downtown campus encompassing seven facilities in a three-block corridor off of Main Street.
Both Mendenhall and Wood agree their partnership will allow for continued development of the campus and the ability to engage more people.
“This project is about human beings – about connecting the people of our community with the cultural amenities that make Fort Wayne a great place to live, work and play,” says Mendenhall. “It’s really exciting to see a bank like PNC step up to not only provide investments and philanthropy, but also to position its regional president to serve as an example of community leadership and volunteerism.”
“PNC is committed to strengthening the communities where we do business,” Wood says. “A legacy initiative such as this allows us to demonstrate that commitment and shows that we walk the talk. It also creates a dynamic opportunity for our employees to roll up their sleeves and volunteer in an environment aimed at fueling diverse arts and cultural experiences in the region.”
Last fall, it was announced that an architectural team had been selected by Arts United to lead a project that would create a new look for the Arts Campus.
Details are still preliminary, but this plan could add more space to the Arts United Center and create a more interactive, pedestrian-centric zone downtown.
“The need exists for us to increase the impact of arts and culture,” says Mendenhall. “As this community competes for talent among an increasingly mobile and global workforce, it is important to invest in high-quality programs and compelling places that make northeast Indiana attractive.”
Jim Palermo, Managing Director, Fort Wayne Philharmonic agrees. “Fort Wayne Philharmonic musicians live and work in the community, teach our young people, and contribute to our quality of life,” he says. “Development of a local arts economy produces a significant rate of return.”
Leslie Hormann of the Fort Wayne Youth Theatre says, “Fort Wayne has an incredibly rich, vibrant and active arts community that draws people here.”
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is yet another prime example of why people choose to live in Fort Wayne. “Our city is certainly poised to provide a significant cultural impact,” says Charles Shepard, President and CEO of the FWMoA. “I know several people here at the museum who have elected to remain in Fort Wayne because of that culture.”
In a recent study by Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, there are over 18,000 creative economy jobs in northeast Indiana, making up about 4.5% of the region’s workforce. This downtown initiative hopes to boost that creative productivity. (see info graphic above)
“The arts impact more than our emotions, they create new jobs, boost tourism, invigorate businesses and often act as a stimulus for others to invest,” adds Wood. “A thriving arts community is not only a significant driver of economic success, it also serves to attract creative and exciting new experiences for people of all ages to this community.”
110 W. Berry St.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
President: Doug Wood/PNC Regional President for northern Indiana
Number of employees: 54,000+
Years in business: 162
Products & Services: PNC Bank, National Association, is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC). PNC is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management.
Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc.
300 E. Main St.
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
President: Susan Mendenhall/President
Number of employees: 16 full time, 40 part time
Years in business: 61
Products & Services: Arts advocacy and promotion, Arts Campus venue management, fundraising and grant administration, and community development.