The arts have become an integral part of downtown Franklin’s revitalization.
Colorful murals have been painted on blank walls throughout downtown Franklin. Art-centric gathering places have opened up around the courthouse square. A new arts festival is planned for the summer.
As the community has emphasized art to a greater degree, city leaders hope is to gain recognition as a designated cultural district. A public meeting scheduled for 6 pm Thursday to gain input and insight on what would define Franklin as an Indiana Statewide Cultural District.
Doing so would establish downtown Franklin as a center of the arts in Indiana, and bring greater tourist attention to the area.
“Having this designation from the state allows us to apply for different funding opportunities that we’re not eligible for without this designation,” said Krista Linke, Franklin director of community development. “It’s also a kind of tourism mechanism. We’d be listed on the state’s website, and we’ll be linked to people looking from all over the state.”
The statewide cultural district program was established by the Indiana Arts Commission, which advocates for arts development opportunities across the state, as well as serving as stewards effective use of public and private resources for the arts.
Cultural districts are defined as a well-recognized and identifiable mixed-use area of a community in which cultural assets serve as the anchor.
Indiana currently has 10 designated statewide cultural districts, including downtown Bloomington, the Carmel Arts and Design District and the Nickel Plate District in Fishers. Those areas have established arts events, concerts, public art projects and other features that make it a highly visible epicenter for cultural and creative activities.
Linke first learned about the program in mid-2018. Applications for the year were due in September, and with such a short timeline, organizers opted to wait until the 2019 application window to be better prepared.
In applying for the designation, communities need to have a detailed plan in place to making art a priority, Linke said. Franklin would need to highlight and list the multiple arts assets that currently exist, and a long-term plan for developing, managing and sustaining a cultural district.
Other requirements include maps and photographs of the district, and the establishment of a management committee for the district.
“That wasn’t something that could be done in a month’s time, so we put together a nine-month plan to get this completed,” Linke said.
One of the first steps in putting their plan together is getting community input, and that is where Thursday’s public meeting will be vital. The meeting will include a short introduction to the cultural district program, then break into interactive stations regarding different aspects of the arts.
People will be able to suggest names for the district, help define its borders and give an inventory of all the current art-related aspects of Franklin.
“We really want to get input from the general public about the types of programming and art they want to see in downtown, how people want to be involved, how they want to participate,” Linke said. “We want people to think of areas or things that we haven’t thought of.”
A cultural survey is available on the Franklin city website, and people are encouraged to take time to give their impressions on the local art scene.
The meeting can also serve as a uniting factor among all of the different arts-related facets of Franklin, Linke said.
“One of the biggest things growing out of this. We have a lot of organizations doing their own things, so if there is a way we can get everybody organized to do some partnership type of events, to make everyone’s efforts stronger, that would be a huge win as well,” she said.
If you go
Downtown cultural district public meeting
What: A community gathering to discuss downtown Franklin’s long-range plan as an arts district.
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Second floor of the Johnson County Museum of History, 135 N. Main St., Franklin
Survey: A survey is available to allow people to voice their opinions on the arts in Franklin. It can be found at the city’s website, www.franklin.in.gov, under the “City Updates” section.