The Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) of Ball State University, in partnership with the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC), recently released new research on how Indiana municipalities are utilizing local arts and cultures in their economic development strategies and communities.

The research report, “Planning with Arts & Culture,” was produced by ICI staff members Dr. Emily Wornell Seregow, research assistant professor, and Brian Blackford, director of Program Development and Training.

One key finding of the study revealed how a vast majority of respondents agree about the importance of utilizing arts and culture in community and economic planning initiatives.

An example of this approach surfaced shortly following the release of the study. On March 25, the Ball State University Board of Trustees authorized President Geoffrey S. Mearns to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a development firm, Fairmount Properties, to advance a long-term, phased revitalization plan for the Village—the business district adjacent to campus.

The comprehensive plan includes a performing arts center for University events. This performing arts center will be the catalytic anchor for the commercial district, and the University’s investment in the center will leverage approximately $100 million in private investment. Once this ambitious project is completed, the Village will provide a best-in-class, multigenerational district driven by arts and culture, entertainment, and innovation with new options in dining, retail, service, hospitality, living, and gathering.

“Anytime you can build and develop places and amenities, the more you can integrate art and culture, the better it is,” Mr. Blackford said. “This study shows that communities believe they have assets in the arts and culture, and the more they pursue developing those assets the more it improves the sense of place.”

Research findings inform the ICI’s strategic and programmatic planning around supporting communities as they employ arts and culture in their economic and community development planning. The IAC and ICI are working together on next steps to address areas of opportunity identified by the report.

“The Indiana Communities Institute has long advocated for place-based, people-focused investments to ensure stronger and more sustainable communities for current residents,” ICI executive director David Terrell said. “ICI is excited to continue working with the Indiana Arts Commission to further advance the impact that arts and culture have in all areas of the state.”