2019 reaffirming for Jasper Arts


JASPER — When Kyle Rupert thinks back on it, he believes 2019 was reaffirming for the Jasper Arts Department.

“We’ve built upon what was built in the years before, and then built upon what we did last year,” said Rupert, who is Jasper’s arts director. “And we’re just continuing to build. So it just reaffirms that. We’re moving in the right direction, and we keep tweaking as we go.”

The final year of the decade will be marked largely mostly by the groundbreaking of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center — a massive, multi-million dollar endeavor for the city arts department and the Jasper Public Library.

But that wasn’t all that happened.

“That has taken up a lot of our time,” Rupert explained of the cultural center construction kickoff. “But even with that going on, we were still able to provide all of the same arts opportunities that we’ve provided in years past.”

The department’s performing arts season was a success, and an estimate compiled by Rupert showed that revenue was up by about 6% in 2019 from the previous year. Engagement and overall activity usage is also higher, and the department is on track to sell more tickets this season than in 2018.

In addition to the traditional-style programs, new offerings also came to Jasper via the arts department. Rupert said the staff continued to “seek out partnerships” with other community organizations, and expanded the arts’ “growing circle of community members and organizations that we work with.”

These included events organized thanks to a collaborative grant from the Indiana Humanities, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting public humanities, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, and more of those grant-sponsored programs will come to the area in 2020.

Programming for residents with special needs continued in 2019 and will continue to be offered in the future, Rupert said.

“I think the cultural center will provide us with a lot of opportunities to further expand that,” Rupert said. “And we’re actively looking into forming stronger partnerships and bonds with organizations whose purpose is to serve that community. We have our strengths, they have their strengths. And so how do we marry those up together?”

Public outreach between performers and people of all ages was also a highlight, Rupert said. He explained that the department’s goal in 2019 was to grow its partnerships with other organizations, and he feels like his team is moving in the right direction.

“We’ve taken some small steps toward that this year,” Rupert said. “It can be a slow process for us to fill those partnerships and get them off the ground, but we’ve done some of that in ‘19.”

On a similar note, he later added that the department is committed to avoiding the idea of doing things at people or to people, but doing them with them. Readers with ideas are encouraged to reach out to the department.

“So, what goes into that conversation or that thought process is, we want to make sure we’re not just doing things to people,” Rupert said. “But that we’re doing them with them. So, involving them in the conversation.”

With the opening of the new cultural center just on the horizon, Rupert said the department is looking to improve in 2020.

“Great live performances, great visual arts, great exhibits,” he said, listing the group’s annual offerings. “The outreach, the school shows — all of that. And in addition to [those], continuing to lay that groundwork so that when we’re ready for programming in the new space, it’s really something special.”

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