Summer Intern Life in Nashville, IN

Article written by Anne Ellis McCombe, a second year MAAA student graduating in December 2016.  This summer Anne interned for the Town of Nashville where she worked for the Arts & Entertainment Commission studying arts funding mechanisms and economic impacts. Anne currently works for the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation and can be reached at anneellismccombe@gmail.com. 

Nashville, Indiana is a quiet beautiful little town nestled in the hills of Brown County Indiana.  In the early 1900s it became the Midwest’s first premier art colony. Inspired by the beautiful hills and dense forest, Adolph and Ada Shulz, Theodore Clement Steele, Louis Oscar Griffith, Marie Goth and others came to Southern Indiana to paint their landscapes. Nashville has continued to remain an arts destination through its public arts programs, artist shops and tours, and through the designation of a Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission. The Arts & Entertainment Commission receives funding from the state as well as the Town of Nashville to continue to promote and cultivate the arts and entertainment in Nashville. This summer I had the opportunity to work for the Commission and the Town of Nashville.

Nashville is certainly no New York, Chicago or Washington, D.C. and while many members of my cohort were choosing fantastic internships with prestigious organizations in these large cities, I chose a fantastic internship with the Art Colony of the Midwest. One of the best pieces of advice I received regarding choosing an internship was to determine if you wanted to work with a large organization or a small organization. A large organization, especially one in a big city offers prestige and the opportunity to connect with well-recognized artists and administrators. However, due to the size of the organizations, interning with large organizations can sometimes involve more menial tasks than practical experience.

A small organization, especially those in small cities, offer students a chance to have more in-depth hands-on experiences. Furthermore, as I discovered in Nashville, a small organization in a small city gave me the opportunity to connect with the leaders of organizations both in Nashville and in the surrounding communities. As someone who plans to stay in the Bloomington area after graduation, the opportunity to work with leaders in Nashville and in Bloomington was an invaluable experience.

I spent my time in Nashville reading through all of the old studies others had conducted on Nashville and its cultural district. I was able to bring some previous recommendations back to light and was also able to expound upon the suggestions offered by those before me. In addition, I spent some time researching various funding mechanisms from grants to tax incentives that might continue to provide funding for the Arts & Entertainment Commission.

The most significant portion of my time was spent trying to determine if I could study the impact of the arts on Nashville. Significant analytical research was outside of the scope of my expertise and furthermore was not a task that could be completed during a summer internship. I chose to tackle this question of impact through surveys and interviews. I then coded responses and looked for trends in the responses on how the arts affect Nashville. I spoke with city and county commissioners, local artists, local arts connoisseurs, arts visitors and visitors simply in Brown County for the hiking. It was fascinating to see how differently each group viewed the arts and even what each group considered “arts”. Interestingly, many of the out-of-town visitors thought that everything from paintings and opera to woodworking, culinary arts, and leather crafting was arts. However, many of the Nashville natives only thought of museums, paintings, opera, theater and dance as “art”.

By far the two most significant experiences for me this summer were the participation in the commission and public meetings and the networks I created by attending all of the arts & entertainment events. In a commission or public meeting in Nashville, everyone has the opportunity to speak and give his or her opinion. Decisions are discussed at length and often there is no consensus over the outcome. It was incredible to watch the leaders of the commission hear each opinion, appreciate its value but then bring all thoughts back together with a plan to move forward.

Everyone in Nashville is warm and welcoming and genuinely interested in learning more about you. They have perfected the art of Midwest hospitality. The second most significant experience for me was at each arts event I attended, I was able to speak with the leaders and organizers of each event. As I explained my project and academic and career goals, each person was more than willing to assist with the project and connect me with others who might be able to assist with the project or offer career advice. Truly some of the most helpful and inspiring people live in Nashville, IN.

Lastly, I wanted to share some pictures from one of the coolest events I attended throughout the summer.  For “Arts in the Park” a local pottery maker set up a kiln in Brown County State Park. He made vases and jars prior to the event and gave each guest their own vase to glaze. Glazing stations were set up at picnic tables and then the potter fired your vase or jar right there in the park. Hundreds of people attended the event; many of them were not typically arts consumers.

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