Jennie DiBeneditto, Sarah Young, Tammy Burke, and Lisa Marie Fowler are joined by Adam Miller, Philip Collins, Greg Rush, R. Michael Wimmer as the inaugural group of artists in residence in the NoCo Arts Center in the heart of the NoCo Arts & Cultural District. Staff photo by Jenna Esarey
Jennie DiBeneditto, Sarah Young, Tammy Burke, and Lisa Marie Fowler are joined by Adam Miller, Philip Collins, Greg Rush, R. Michael Wimmer as the inaugural group of artists in residence in the NoCo Arts Center in the heart of the NoCo Arts & Cultural District. Staff photo by Jenna Esarey
JEFFERSONVILLE — The future of Jeffersonville’s arts culture is being shaped by an exciting group of community-minded artists — and many of them are female.

As part of a new artist residency program at the NoCo Arts Center, four women artists have space to pursue their art, and, as soon as conditions allow, to offer classes and other educational opportunities to the community.

“There’s never been an official art center in Jeff before. Women are being seen and heard for the first time in this context, so they’re really blazing a trail for years to come,” said Dawn Spyker, Public Art Administrator for the City of Jeffersonville.

Jennie DiBeneditto, Sarah Young, Tammy Burke, and Lisa Marie Fowler are joined by Adam Miller, Philip Collins, Greg Rush, R. Michael Wimmer as the inaugural group of artists in residence in the NoCo Arts Center in the heart of the NoCo Arts & Cultural District.

A ninth resident, Malliccaaii Green, uses the Green Room teaching space within the facility to teach children’s painting classes.

Seven of the nine artists in the residency program are already working on a collaborative project for Clark Memorial Health and Today's Media called Project Uplift for the workers at the hospital. “The artists are very community-minded,” Spyker said.

The original plan for the resident artists was to have them participating during many of the public art community events that were planned for this year. “They would be able to interact with people, share their knowledge and educate,” Spyker said.

Those plans have been scaled back considerably, but Spyker hopes some events will be rescheduled later this year.

The NoCo Art Center is “exciting,” said Burke. “This will be the new normal for this generation. They will expect art in the community. If it’s not there, they will create it. What’s happening here is going to have effects down the road.”

“The studio spaces with artists residents is new,” Spyker said. “We haven’t really been able to promote the program. They moved in at the very beginning of March and then Covid-19 hit.”

“Half the artists are female. Historically that would not be the case,” said enamel artist and jewelry maker DiBeneditto. “Museums historically have been fundamentally filled with white men. It’s definitely an honor to be one of the first, but also a female.”

“I love it here,” said Burke, a textile artist. “The group is half women. I didn’t even think about it until recently when we did a collaborative project.”

She looks forward to the program welcoming more artists of color as well. “Arts programs can be very white,” she said.

Literary artist Young said she is very impressed with what Spyker has put together in NoCo. “I am honored to be surrounded by a woman-led arts community,” she said. “She doesn’t discriminate at all. If you’re a man, a woman, a child, it doesn’t matter.”

“I think women have come a long way,” said Fowler. “Women empower each other, it’s a great feeling. It’s not about competition, it’s about bringing out each other’s strengths. I feel really good about this place. I’m looking forward to the future here. It’s gonna be outstanding.”

The Jeffersonville Public Art Commission, in collaboration with the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission and countless volunteers, helped the city create an Arts and Cultural District, dubbed NoCo for its location just north of Court Avenue.

The NoCo is a vibrant hub for community-engaged activities, cultural production and family-magnetic entertainment. As a colorful, welcoming gathering place, NoCo inspires emerging and established creatives, generates economic vitality and helps extend the arts throughout the city.

Epitomizing creativity, community, innovation and progress, the whimsical, walkable district has been taking shape over the last six years within 22 acres of formerly blighted downtown blocks.

From the brilliantly reimagined water tank that serves as a focal point to the Clark County Museum and the family-centered pocket part at the Vintage Fire Museum, NoCo is already a vibrant part of the community.

The former Grey & Wells auto body shop at 628 Michigan Avenue was transformed into the NOCo Arts Center several years ago, hosting art classes and events.

“NoCo is great, but there is so much more to come,” said Spyker. Plans call for a pop-up artisan market near the water tank, and preliminary construction on the Depot Entertainment Space, as well as a story trail, is underway.

The completed Depot space will showcase modified shipping containers housing retail space, a permanent stage, and food venues.


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