Official hears triumphs, challenges of arts community

Candy Neal/The Herald
Indiana Arts Commission Deputy Director Miah Michaelsen, right, visits Romy Kissel and Clare Bies at Romy & Clare Design Studio Wednesday.


A member of the Indiana Arts Commission saw some of the local arts in Dubois County Wednesday.

Deputy Director Miah Michaelsen visited Dubois County to talk to local people directly involved in the arts, as well as to get ideas of what the arts commission could be doing to support local arts in communities. She started her day in Jasper and ended in Ferdinand.

She visited the Romy & Clare Design Studio in the morning. Co-owners Romy Kissel and Clare Bies gave Michaelsen a tour of their studio. They showed her the mosaic artwork and jewelry they create. They also talked about the studio’s activities, which include participating in art shows in the Midwest and selling their artwork in their online shop through Etsy.

“There are so many factors that you have to do to survive,” Kissel said.

Kissel suggested that the arts commission provide step-by-step training or guidance to teach how artists use Etsy. “For us, it has made our business totally different,” she said. “And there are a ton of businesses out there that don’t think they can do it. So I think that could help a lot of artists.”

Michaelsen asked the duo about the kind of support they get from the local community, to which they mentioned an upcoming show they are hosting next month. That show, called The Beehive, will be held Oct. 11 and 12 outside on the studio’s grounds. Although they have customers who come to the annual event from other states, most of the attendees are from the local area, Kissel said. At the event, the public will be invited to help paint the background of a piece Bies is creating for the new cultural center.

The arts commission has different training and financial resources that Michaelsen encouraged Kissel and Bies to apply for, one of which is an artist grant program.

“If you ever think about, ‘I would really love to go to a conference on this’ or “I would really love to purchase this piece of equipment’ to explore a new body of work,” Michaelsen said, “or to get training or assistance, this program would help you with that.”

Kissel and Bies said they try to help and encourage new artists. Michaelsen said the arts commission has programs and services geared to them as well.

Michaelsen also visited the Astra Theatre and met representatives of the theater, Strings Inc., Actors Community Theatre and the Jasper Arts Center. After seeing the facility, she heard about each group’s activities and their desire to be more involved with the local school districts.

Strings Director Rafaela Copetti-Schaick spoke about the public events they participate in, and the desire to have more partnerships and opportunities to connect with artisans that come to the community for performances.

Heath Kluemper of ACT talked about the company’s activities, including the performances it does at the Lincoln Amphitheatre and that it’s currently gearing up for the company’s 73rd season.

“Our struggle is people. We love to bring in new people,” he said. “In a community like this, it can be hard to engage an audience.”

Copetti-Schaick said that with so many activities going on, it is hard to get new people to come out for performances.

“You’re always vying for the attention. We see the same people,” said Jay Hamlin, a representative of the Astra. “How do we reach those people and engage the people in the arts that aren’t our regular viewers? How do we connect to them and their lives?”

Michaelsen mentioned that the arts commission’s annual conference, called “Indiana Arts Homecoming,” is addressing the issue of inclusion, diversity, equity and access. The conference is being held Oct. 24 and 25 in Indianapolis.

“We’re talking about diversity across all sorts of spectrums,” she said, “racial, cultural, socioeconomic, educational attainment, rural versus urban, and so forth.”

She gave them literature and encouraged them to attend the conference.

Michaelsen also attended an open session with the public at the train depot, called the Creative Indiana Art Café, where she talked to more artists and people from the community who are interested in the arts. She took down suggestions and ideas all day, and gave out information about the commission’s services.

Her day was originally scheduled to end after the café. But that changed after she got a call from Traditional Arts Today in Ferdinand.

“They saw the story in the paper and called and asked if I’d come see them, and I said you bet,” Michaelsen said. “We need to find out how to support them, so I am excited. We want to be as equitable and as helpful as possible.”

The Indiana Arts Commission is holding its quarterly meeting in Evansville from 9 a.m. to noon CT Friday at Southwest Indiana Chamber, 318 Main St. The commission is also holding a town hall event for the public from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday at The Ballroom at Sauced, 1113 Parrett St., Evansville.

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