Key to community revitalization lies in the arts
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Key to community revitalization lies in the arts

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SCHERERVILLE — The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law last week, could bring the return of a more well-rounded education, something local art leaders are praising.

"Basically, it's going to close the gap to access to the arts in schools," said Jillian Van Volkenburgh, director of education for South Shore Arts.

She joined John Cain, executive director of South Shore Arts, Friday to speak at the monthly meeting of the Lake County Advancement Committee. They focused on the power of art, including its economic impact and ability to rejuvenate communities.

"We believe at South Shore Arts that art is transformational," Cain said. "It can change communities."

A strong international example is the city of Bilbao, Spain, where the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is the centerpiece of a revitalized waterfront city. Once rife with social problems, the city is now a draw for those who appreciate art, along with local support, Cain said.

In its strategic planning meeting, South Shore Arts has a 20-year goal of transforming the Region through the arts.

"Art is so many things," Cain said. "It's entertainment, it's tourism. It's economic development. It's education. And it's everywhere."

Multiple efforts are underway in communities in Northwest Indiana.

"Arts development is happening in an organized manner," he said.

Cain cited projects in Gary, Valparaiso and Michigan City among others. 

"These communities are all embracing the arts as a tool for transformation of their cities and towns," he said.

Valparaiso is a finalist for America’s Best Communities. If it wins, the award will help the city develop a strategy to accelerate the revival of the local economy and improve quality of life through a downtown arts district.

In Michigan City, pop-up galleries are part of the transformation of the Uptown Arts District, as the city also embraces the concept of artist lofts, where they can work and live.

"Michigan City has already made tremendous strides towards revitalizing its historic downtown through the arts," Cain said.

Gary's Miller neighborhood has attracted boutiques, a brewery and the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts as part of its revitalization. A graffiti panel of the Jackson 5 is one of the visual signs of the rebirth.

The city also will be home to ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, which would host art and culinary training programs. It is being planned by renowned artist Theaster Gates.

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