What’s missing from Fort Wayne's independent arts scene?

As Fort Wayne's arts community grows, its arts organizations run the gamut.

Some are long established with deep-rooted traditions and reliable funding, while others are more independent and grassroots-driven. This wide range of artists means the needs for performances spaces in Fort Wayne run the gamut, too, in terms of size and affordability.

Alison Gerardot knows this firsthand. As a longtime dancer and co-founder of the professional dance company dAnce.Kontemporary, she’s been on the hunt for a space that fits her organization’s needs and budget.

“Right now we have really great theatres, but when it comes to independent artists, we don’t have adequate theatre space,” she says.

Fort Wayne's dAnce.Kontemporary is a professional dance company that pushes boundaries of what dance means.

She went on to explain that while venues like the Arts United Center are great for large, established companies, the rental fees aren’t usually within reach for midsize, growing groups, and the space is too big for the intimate-sized crowd dAnce.Kontemorary draws. On the other end of the spectrum, the Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab black box theatre is too small.

So, in essence, Gerardot describes a Goldilocks problem---there’s no midsize theatre available for rent in Fort Wayne with 200-500 seats.

She fears that these circumstances might prevent the advancement of the independent arts community locally, and she’s candid about what that could mean for the future.

“If we don’t support the (avant-garde arts scene), it’s going to go away,” Gerardot says.

She cites Detroit as a model for what Fort Wayne could aspire to. Specifically, she says a visit to nonprofit Ponyride there, a creative co-working space, left her inspired about the potential for something similar in the Summit City.

The dance studio at Ponyride is a rentable public event space.

According to its website, “Ponyride currently has 60+ residents renting out the space on a month-to-month lease term. Resident companies have transitioned old office spaces with double drop ceilings into light manufacturing, co-working, or a daily 9-5 office space. The dance studio space is often rented for rehearsals, classes, and private events while 10 performing arts organizations use that space for weekly engagement.”

Ponyride seems to have cracked the code when it comes to making space more accessible for midsize arts organizations.

So what lessons can Fort Wayne learn from the successes in places like Detroit?

“It would behoove someone to invest in a space to grow (independent) artists,” Gerardot says.

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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