At the end of October, WBOI held another edition of our popular Issues & Ales series at The Phoenix in Fort Wayne.
At that event, we dedicated a full hour to discussing the arts community in the region.
But we had a problem: we received so many great audience questions, we couldn't possibly get to all of them.
So, now we're taking time to address a few of those questions with help from arts insiders from around the community.
Our Issues & Ales audience asked questions about everything from public installations to arts education. For our first unanswered question we’re tackling something we didn’t get around to talking about too much – music.
The first question reads “What is the place of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in the future of the Northeast Indiana arts community?”
I went to The Phil’s president and CEO J.L. Nave for some input. Although his resignation from The Phil goes into effect next month, he’s been with the organization for 8 years, and says he’s seen a lot of momentum build in that time.
“I think the Phil can play a leadership role in the arts community regionally," says Nave. "We already perform in 15 counties throughout Northeast Indiana, we’re sending musicians out into schools, churches, nursing homes, state parks, all sorts of places all throughout the year.”
One of The Phil’s keystone events is their Patriotic Pops concert. The free event this July 3rd brought more than 6,000 people to Parkview Field, more than double what they expected. The field has already been booked for next year’s show.
“Finding those opportunities to get out into the community like that, that’s what makes the orchestra relevant to people,” says Nave. He says even if people don’t go to any other concerts, The Phil being more accessible can help people understand how the arts increases quality of life.
Of course, the Phil isn’t the only musical group in Fort Wayne. Which brings us to our second question: “I want to know more about Fort Wayne’s music scene. How much has been invested in it?”
For this one I went to Johnny Commorato. He’s the co-owner of The Brass Rail bar and music venue – from punk to bluegrass, the Rail is home to lots of local shows. Commorato says there’s been a lot of momentum in the scene over the past twenty years – more downtown development, colleges spitting out artists, and new venues opening up.
He says there’s a strong case to be made for Fort Wayne as a prime underground music market, especially for out of town bands. “Chicago’s here, Cleveland’s there, we’re here, why wouldn’t they stop on the way, any good manager knows that a day in a secondary market is new eyeballs, new ears on your music and on your merchandise," says Commorato.
But Commorato says that can be a tough case to make to the bank. He says “it’s hard to find conventional funding for any new business. Still, he says these are the best conditions he's ever seen in Fort Wayne for local and out of town talent.
I didn’t have to go far for an answer to our last question, which happens to be a seasonally appropriate one. I asked WBOI’s own arts contributor Julia Meek - “There are lots of summer art events, but what kinds of events can people participate in during the winter months?”
And Julia just had a laundry-list of fun events for everyone.
“IPFW is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary all this season," says Meek, "and they have so many cultural events happening, seems like every weekend, so just seeing what they have to offer is going to keep anybody busy through the winter to be sure.”
She adds that the arts doesn’t have to just be a spectator sport. She says “if you like to dance there’s monthly contra dancing with the Fort Wayne Traditional Music and Dance Society which is a great way to get those pounds off that you put on the holidays, be as social as you wish and they give lessons.”
Lastly, all the great arts standbys remain open throughout the season, but maybe try to get off the beaten path and visit a new museum. Julia especially suggests the African/African American Historical Society and Karpeles Manuscript Museum.
Be sure to regularly check out WBOI’s own community events calendar with lots going on near you.