JEFFERSONVILLE — A recent state grant means that the Jeffersonville Arts and Cultural District is ready to move on to its next big pieces.
The city was one of two entities in the state awarded the Destination Development matching grant from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development at its meeting March 1. Jeffersonville's arts district was awarded $220,000 and the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick was given $250,000.
They were among five groups across the state to present their projects last week — pared down from more than 20 applicants vying for the funding.
“We were incredibly excited,” Dawn Spyker, Jeffersonville public arts administrator, said. “I feel like this grant really solidifies the support from our state of what we're trying to do. Up to this point, we've been promoting it locally and regionally, but this legitimizes everything and proves to our community [that] the state of Indiana is really excited about what we're doing down here as well.”
The funding is a matching grant. It will be supported by using part of the $1 million in funding the city received last year from the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention & Tourism Bureau.
The state grant will be used primarily to get off the ground four main projects — two of which will provide new space for artists. This includes renovating the inside of the former Gray and Wells building and adding studio spaces for artists, completing the smaller artists' retail spaces outside, made from shipping containers and finishing the community art-making space.
“We're trying to plan for different artists in different media in the interior spaces,” she said. “The retail spaces are going to be very intimate and compact so it will just be 'bring the essence of your work.”
The funding also will help create an outdoor amphitheater. The city has been conducting community information sessions to gather input on the district, and Spyker said they've also talked to music professionals to get their input on what would make it a great stage for various performers.
This round of grant funding will also help pay for permanent bathrooms in the district.
Amy Howell, director of communications for the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, said Jeffersonville's project aligns with a statewide driver of arts and culture. The city's plans also showed how the growth of the city and the district will make it an asset that will reach beyond Southern Indiana.
“The biggest criteria is that you need to show how this would improve tourism,” Howell said. "How it would be a destination that would draw not just people within your community but visitors alike.”
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said the funding is a means to a more enriched and growing city.
“With our new arts and cultural district, we’re creating something very special that will be a destination point in our downtown,” Moore said in a news release. “It’s going to be an exciting place to visit. It’s just another reason our downtown is enjoying such a renaissance.”
This, Spyker and her team presented, can be quantified by the growth the city has already seen. Since 2003, the number of hotels has gone from three to six, restaurants have tripled and shops more than quadrupled. And the Big Four Bridge brings over a million people a year from Louisville.
Howell said the plans the city has are what make the district stand out as a jewel in the region.
“It's definitely unique,” she said. “No one is doing it [that way].”
Work on some of the projects the grant will fund will start soon and are expected to be finished by spring 2019, Spyker said. But with other projects in the arts district in the works already, such as the painting of the tank that serves as the district's centerpiece and the triangle lot that will be dedicated this year, Spyker said this summer is when things in the neighborhood will start to take real shape.
“We'll have all of these elements happening simultaneously,” she said. “It will be a huge summer for our community with the arts and cultural district.”