Chesterton Tribune

 

 

'Celebrating the Art of Life' brand unveiled at Chesterton Town Council

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By KEVIN NEVERS

What would it mean for folks to live--as Chesterton residents nominally do--in an “artcentric” town?

Artcentric--a 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).

Certainly “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 in--usually--cozy anonymity.

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 neighborhoods.

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.

Art and Beautification

* Exhibit artists’ work in businesses.

* Develop “accent points,” such as garbage cans, the bandstand in Thomas Centennial Park, and murals.

* Encourage pop-up art, with glass blowers, painters, sculptors, and potters creating live in public.

* 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.

Infrastructure

* Enhance the town’s three key gateways.

* Encourage 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 sidewalks.

* Improve the backside of the South Calumet Road business block adjacent to Coffee Creek Park.

* 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 opportunities.

* Convert the buildings behind The Flower Cart and overlooking Coffee Creek Park into restaurants.

* Play music in the Downtown all the time.

Marketing

* Use social media and Chesterton and artist hashtags to promote Downtown events and businesses.

* 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 hours.

* Copyright the Chesterton logo and sell merchandise with the logo on it.

Business Expansion

and Retention

* 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.

Financing

* 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.

Council Response

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.”

“Things are moving,” added President Jim Ton, R-1st. “Things are popping. Businesses are coming here. This council supports business.”

BLT Members

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.

 

 

 

Posted 11/16/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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