What would it mean
for folks to live--as Chesterton residents nominally do--in an “artcentric”
portmanteau which for several years was emblazoned on the promotional
banners hung from streetlights in the Downtown--is the slogan which emerged
for Chesterton following a countywide branding initiative pursued in 2008 by
the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission (PCCRVC).
“artcentric” is apropos. Chesterton boasts art galleries and is home to the
European Market with its crafters as well as the annual Woman’s Club art
show in June, the Art Fair in August, and the Hooked on Art festival in
September. To say nothing of the thriving colony of painters, quilters,
sculptors, musicians, poets, and writers who create every day
Yet as a brand
“artcentric” can’t really be said to have made Chesterton a destination for
out-of-town visitors and shoppers, as was the whole idea in the first place.
As PCCRVC Executive
Director Lorelei Weimer told the Town Council at its meeting Monday night,
artcentric as a brand “never really got off the ground.”
So a revitalized
Chesterton Branding Leadership Team (BLT) is taking another crack at it, and
this time not only has a significant buy-in from the business community but
also an ambitious three-phase plan to implement a brand-new brand:
“Celebrating the Art of Life.”
Those phases, as
outlined by Craig O’Brien, owner of Ashley’s Jewelry by Design: celebrating
the “Art of Life” first in the Downtown, with “public art appearing along
the sidewalks, which are wide enough for both the art fixtures and
pedestrians” and vibrant storefront displays; then attracting visitors with
“thematic pieces of public art” placed at the town’s main gateways, at the
intersections of Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road, East Porter Ave., and
1100N; and finally broadening the brand beyond the Downtown, with “public
art projects and arts-based classes and activities” in parks, schools, and
The BLT has
identified a wide variety of potential initiatives and projects in five
specific areas: art and beautification, infrastructure, marketing, business
expansion and retention, and financing.
* Exhibit artists’
work in businesses.
* Develop “accent
points,” such as garbage cans, the bandstand in Thomas Centennial Park, and
* Encourage pop-up
art, with glass blowers, painters, sculptors, and potters creating live in
* Develop a plant
and flower plan.
* Create paintable
train or chair sculptures.
* Develop an
inventory of public and private property where art may be exhibited.
* Enhance the
town’s three key gateways.
businesses to pursue facade improvements and entry and window decorations as
well as to install blade signage.
* Build public
restrooms in Thomas Park.
* Create wayfinding
signage which includes the brand.
* Implement a
railroad quiet zone.
* Widen Downtown
* Improve the
backside of the South Calumet Road business block adjacent to Coffee Creek
* Clean up the
business area at the intersection of Porter Ave. and South Calumet Road.
* Add decorative
crosswalks and install safe crosswalks across railroad tracks.
* Conduct an
assessment of parking in the Downtown, to identify future needs and
* Convert the
buildings behind The Flower Cart and overlooking Coffee Creek Park into
* Play music in the
Downtown all the time.
* Use social media
and Chesterton and artist hashtags to promote Downtown events and
* Create a website
specifically for visitors.
* Define logo usage
for businesses and organizations which wish to use it.
* Promote the
“Celebrating the Art of Life” theme through Downtown activities and events,
which could include food trucks.
* Create “Thursday
Night on the Town,” with restaurant specials, live music, and late retail
* Copyright the
Chesterton logo and sell merchandise with the logo on it.
* Create a New
Business Welcome Team to integrate new businesses into the brand and to
coordinate marketing and storefronts in the Downtown.
* Recruit and
support family-oriented small businesses, such as a candy store, a hobby
shop, and a pet-oriented business.
* Build “critical
mass” in the Downtown, that is, a minimum of 10 destination retails shops,
10 dining and food-oriented businesses, and 10 shops remaining open after 6
p.m. at least four nights a week, including Saturday and Sunday.
* Develop and
implement a new business recruitment plan.
* Further develop
the town’s low-interest loan program for building improvements.
* Explain to every
business owner’s satisfaction the difference between Chesterton Economic
Development Company funds, Redevelopment Commission funds, and Park
Department funds, what the sources of those funds are, and what they may and
may not be used for.
* Secure corporate
sponsors for large public art.
* Use “round-up” at
checkouts of local stores to fund various specific projects.
The council liked
what it heard. “This branding team just started in June,” noted Member
Emerson DeLaney, R-5th. “Here it is, not quite December, and there’s
momentum again and excitement. And we will support you where we can.”
moving,” added President Jim Ton, R-1st. “Things are popping. Businesses are
coming here. This council supports business.”
In addition to
Weimer and O’Brien, the following also sit on the BLT: Chris Acton, Acton
Creative and Chesterton Art Center; Brandon Bennett, Benho Enterprises LLC;
Steve Beigle, Circles in the Winds; Danielle Bilderback, Dimensions School
of Social Dance; Pat Carlisle, Chesterton Tree Committee; Brian Dortmund,
Artsmith Studio and Frontline Foundations Inc.; Maura Durham, Duneland
Chamber of Commerce; Cliff Fleming, T. Clifford Fleming & Associates;
Jennifer Gadzala and John Schnadenberg, Town of Chesterton; Mark Hopkins,
Hopkins Ace Hardware; Wendy Marciniak, Chesterton Art Center; Julie Paulson,
Harris Welsh & Lukmann; and Richard Riley, Riley’s Railhouse.