JEFFERSONVILLE — The seeds for initial projects in the Jeffersonville Arts & Cultural District have been planted and are expected to take root over the next few months.

The city was recently approved for $1 million in funding from the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention & Tourism Bureau, out of a capital development tourism fund collected from lodging tax which is designed to improve visitor draw and experience to the area.

The city-designated area for the district, between Michigan and Court Avenues and Spring Street in downtown Jeffersonville, is expected to grow into a local and regional destination — a hub featuring artists spaces and galleries, museums and other cultural amenities, local restaurants, greenspace and performance space and an interactive experience for guests of all ages.

Dawn Spyker, Jeffersonville Public Arts administrator, said the funding is enough to get started on some kick-off projects that will help mark the area as the burgeoning creative spot she and other city leaders envision.

One of the first projects, she said, will likely be commissioning an artist to paint a mural on the unused and unsightly water tank on Michigan Avenue, serving as a large beacon inviting guests into the district.

“We want an immediate impact art piece to really draw people's attention first,” she said. “So people know something is happening here.”

The water tank initiative carries a projected cost of $85,000, according to the Arts & Cultural District Strategic Vision. Spyker said they also plan to use the tourism funding to help with streetscape improvement along Michigan Avenue and Spring Street — providing room for bike lanes, median plantings and improving road safety. She also hopes to have some left over from the funding to get started on an outdoor amphitheater space.

Spyker said she expects the funding to be in hand by summer. Then they'll put out a request for proposals on project bids and get started.

“We're hoping to push forward with those three things right out of the gate,” she said. “We hope that each one will be moving forward this year. I think I can safely say if we can get the water tank started this year, we can definitely get that done by the end of the year.”

Although the commission had originally requested $2 million in startup costs for the district, Spyker said the initial funding is a solid start.

“I see it as an opportunity to push forward with the first initiative,” she said. “And we can also always come back to them and say 'Hey we were successful, can we go ahead and try for the second half?'”

She said they'll also be seeking other funding sources to continue the path to actualizing the district — grants and other public and private partnerships — but she's excited that things can start moving.

Currently, the area is designated as an arts and cultural district by the city, but Spyker has applied to have it accredited as such by the state of Indiana — less than 10 such designations exist in the state right now.

Some core assets to the district are already in place — Maker 13, the Clark County Museum and Vintage Fire Museum and Silica Ceramics Studio and gallery — and the upcoming projects will be the first steps in weaving everything together.

“I think it's a good way to start,” Spyker said. "We're excited about that.”

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