Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Successful ArtsFest Draws DePauw and Greencastle Communities Together

By Gigi Jennewein Fenlon, DePauw Coordinator of Arts Publicity and Marketing Chair of ArtsFest Planning

How do you make a community thrive? Bring in the artists. So say experts on economically viable communities including Richard Florida, best known for his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, and so attempted DePauw University and members of the Greencastle community for a week in November.

For nine years, DePauw University has been offering ArtsFest, a seven-day gathering of writers, artists, thinkers, and performers. Each year's festival is organized around a theme such as borders, or the environment, or Shakespeare. And each year the intent of the organizers - a group that includes me - has been to make all events inclusive of and open to the entire Greencastle community. In 2010, we made that intent particularly obvious with our theme: Art & the Green Castle.

Our mission this year was to have both communities contributing to creating and enjoying the events of ArtsFest. To achieve this we included community members on the ArtsFest planning committee: a Greencastle art teacher, a staff member from the Putnam County Library and the owner of a gallery in town, among others.

This plan proved fruitful. The graphic design for this year's ArtsFest was created by local artist Jennifer Herrold. DePauw professor and poet Joe Heithaus spoke on the painting of his poem about Greencastle on the side of a West Walnut St. barn. The Putnam County Library teamed up with DePauw's Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics to produce "This I Believe" essays. Award-winning blues artist and local resident Tad Robinson headlined the closing night party. The DePauw-originated Greencastle Service Theatre and the Putnam County Museum collaborated on a project involving Greencastle High School students.

If you pressed me, I'd have to say that I'm most pleased with the Greencastle/DePauw collaboration on the Friday night Arts Walk through the Green Castle. For a two-hour period of time that began around 6:30 p.m., local residents and DePauw students, faculty and staff roamed the square to check out the arts. The Low Road Gallery and the GC Galleria were open and students from DePauw professor Cindy O'Dell's photography class were projecting images of Greencastle past and present onto the buildings.

I saw downtown Greencastle differently that night. I felt a sense of vibrancy and possibility. People were excited to be witnessing new ways of looking at their home.

And that excitement is being capitalized on, which couldn't make me happier. The emerging Greencastle Arts Council plans to formally kick off its existence by instituting regular "First Friday" art walks on the square. The group has chosen Friday, February 4 as its launch date, and hopes to unveil a piece of public art created by 5th year DePauw student Travis Lamothe.

I have listened to many friends and neighbors swoon over visits to towns of our size with lively arts scenes. As Greencastle is blessed with many wonderful creative and performing artists, I hope that the direction inspired by DePauw's Art & the Green Castle and the forthcoming efforts of the Greencastle Arts Council will "out" that creativity and make Greencastle similarly worthy of swooning.

What do you think about the role that arts play in the success of our community? Share your comments below.

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