For 100 years, art has flourished in Brown County.
In 2007, the Indiana State Legislature officially deemed the area the "Art Colony of the Midwest" in celebration of the tourist destination's centennial anniversary.
Last week, on Wednesday, December 12, another mile-marker in Brown County's artistic history took place in the heart of Nashville on Main Street.
As part of a long-running partnership between the Brown County Economic Development Commission, Arts Business Development Task Force and Ball State University, the Arts Industry Business Incubator of Brown County held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
According to its mission statement, AIBI ("Abby") intends to help arts-oriented businesses start and grow in the area. The organization offers office space and equipment, secretarial support, assistance with business development and business plan development, product development workshops, media promotion and publicity opportunities to qualified applicants.
"The arts as an economic driver is not a new idea," said Doug May in his opening remarks Wednesday morning, describing AIBI as "a home for expanding businesses that thrive on the creative spirit."
State Representative Eric Koch commended AIBI for applying the three concepts that lead to effective economic development in the 21st century: innovating, leveraging and partnering.
He noted that AIBI's innovation lies in being the first of its kind to address economic development in a fashion that is consistent with Brown County's values. It uses leverage by utilizing the area's existing asset of creative talent, and it's done all of this by partnering with Ball State University.
In an interview later, Rep. Koch noted that a fourth concept, diversification, could also be considered among items essential to economic development in the 21st century.
By diversifying the economy, more opportunities are created for local businesses, giving small communities a more competitive economic edge - yet another idea that AIBI has embraced.
BSU president Jo Ann Gora compared this arts development endeavor to the agriculture extension projects of years past, which also focused on helping the communities grow in ways consistent with their natural resources, strengths and values.
In association with AIBI is the Working Artists Program.
WAP is "an initiative...to encourage and assist artists and craftsmen to share their spirit and talents with the many tourists who visit Brown County and the Village of Nashville."
Through establishing individual studios or potential co-ops in existing buildings in the village area, or by partnering artists with the owners of existing businesses who will provide workspace for the artists in their shops to allow them to market artwork to the public in a connective, personal manner, the WAP plans to provide economic opportunities to artists while improving the overall economic climate of the county.
Future plans to utilize and expand the arts in the economic development include The Indiana Cultural Arts Center of Brown County.
The center is expected to focus on arts education and product development by focusing on the artistic environmental aspects of Brown County.
This center could also serve as a home for AIBI participants who outgrow the program and need more freedom and space for operation.
With AIBI and WAP in place, the first steps to expanding economic development through Brown County's rich arts status in Indiana's past and present have been taken, potentially opening the doors for the arts industry to extensively and positively impact the Brown County economy for years come.