GOSHEN — Goshen’s growing arts scene now has a new guiding force following action by the Goshen Redevelopment Commission Tuesday afternoon.
During the meeting, commission members voted unanimously to hire local artist Amy Worsham as the city’s new creative arts coordinator, part of the ongoing push to nurture and promote the city’s expanding community of artists.
A total of eight submissions were received in response to the commission’s January request for proposals for the new creative arts coordinator position.
“A subcommittee of six members was formed consisting of three Arts Council members, a city council member, the mayor and myself,” Goshen Brownfield Coordinator Becky Hershberger explained of the selection process. “Each proposal was ranked based upon the criteria defined in the RFP and the top four scoring proposals were then interviewed.”
Of the four top-scoring proposals, Hershberger indicated that Worsham’s came out as the clear choice when it came to the city’s vision for the new position. Worsham was not present at Tuesday's meeting.
“She had an excellent proposal that truly captured the vision of the Arts Council and, during her interview, showed even more vision and thought about how to bring the ideas to life,” Hershberger said. “We feel confident that she will achieve the goals we’ve set forth.”
Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall, chair of the Mayor’s Arts Council, which will oversee the position, echoed Hershberger’s comments.
“I am really thrilled at all of the response that we’ve had from the community, and also the proposals that came in for this position,” Bland-Kendall said of the selection process. “I am especially thrilled with Amy Worsham. She came in and gave a stellar presentation to our group. We all feel very confident that she’ll be able to deliver that (vision) for us.”
The new position will be funded as part of a three-year, $50,000 per year Live/Work/Play capacity grant awarded to the city by the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau back in 2016. The goal of the grant is to assist the city in increasing the success of its downtown initiatives by building the capacity of stakeholder organizations to implement Live/Work/Play strategies, Hershberger explained.
Year one of the grant is currently pledged to the fundraising campaign for the planned rehabilitation of the historic Goshen Theater, while year’s two and three of the grant — 2017 and 2018 — will go toward funding the new creative arts coordinator position and associated initiatives, Hershberger explained.
According to Hershberger, the idea for the new creative arts coordinator actually originated with the creation of the Mayor’s Arts Council, a group of 11 local artists formed in late 2016 at the urging of Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman with the goal of ensuring the continued growth of Goshen’s arts scene for generations to come. Once formed, the group set about identifying which downtown programs or initiatives would benefit most from the funding available through the Live/Work/Play grant.
As part of that process, the council looked to the “Goshen’s Downtown Plan 2015” completed by the Goshen Chamber of Commerce for inspiration. Within that plan, arts and culture were identified as areas where new efforts were needed to keep momentum building in the downtown area.
From that focus was born the idea of a new creative arts coordinator — someone who could lead the way on key projects as identified by the Mayor’s Arts Council.
After several months of brainstorming by the council, two key projects were identified as the best options for helping to move forward the arts and culture movement in Goshen, Hershberger said.
The first involved development of a Goshen Art Market, a place where local artists and vendors can sell their products in the city in an environment much like a farmers market, but designated specifically for artistic gifts as opposed to groceries.
The second key project identified is what the council described as an arts and culture asset mapping database tool designed to map Goshen’s arts and culture resources with the goal of connecting the city’s various individuals, entities and groups involved in the local arts and culture scene.
With her hiring, Worsham’s primary responsibilities will be seeing these two key projects to fruition, Hershberger explained. Along those lines, Hershberger noted that Worsham’s proposal for how to successfully establish those two goals will be presented to the commission for consideration during its upcoming April 11 meeting.
“This is like any contract that we do, where once we pick the person after the RFP, we start negotiating and really cracking down on what it’s going to look like,” added Mayor Stutsman of Worsham’s proposal. “And that will come back for approval at your next meeting.”