Lt. Governor Becky Skillman launched Indiana Artisan in 2008 as an economic development program to help expand the businesses of Hoosier artisans through initiatives that support and promote their handmade work. It is based on the work of arts-as-economic-development programs in three states: North Carolina’s “Handmade in America,” which focuses on artisan trails; West Virginia’s “Tamarack, The Best of West Virginia,” which focuses on one well-publicized retail/demonstration venue along the Virginia Turnpike; and “Kentucky Crafted,” a more than 30-year-old program with an annual tradeshow as its centerpiece.
Indiana Artisan incorporates those elements and will expand each as the organization grows. The goal is for the nine Artisan Trails to be a starting point on a path to becoming the extensive program Handmade in America offers.
The Indiana Artisan Marketplace, launched in 2011, is modeled after Kentucky Crafted: The Market. Kentucky Crafted was so generous in its support and guidance that a partnership resulted and sees Indiana Artisans participating in the decades-old Kentucky event, and both artists from Kentucky Crafted and foodists from Kentucky Proud participating in the Marketplace.
In 2012 and 2013, the organization pursued online sales of individual Artisan’s work, and gift baskets that offered a compilation from several Artisans. The goal is for those efforts to return now that the Indiana Artisan store has opened inside the French Lick Resort Hotel, and the intent is for additional stand-alone retail stores offering the art and food behind the Indiana Artisan brand. As these retail strategies are pursued, the success of Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia is the guide.
The State funded Indiana Artisan for three years, believing that if it was successful it should be able to become self-sustaining by the end of 2010. The Indiana General Assembly passed a Resolution in 2010, making Indiana Artisan the state’s official organization to review, recognize and promote the work of Indiana’s highest-quality art and food artisans. Now as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Indiana Artisan, Inc. continues the program’s mission of developing a brand that gives meaning and recognition to Indiana-made goods. Today, the organization is guided by a board of directors of men and women having a strong interest in art, food, economic development, and successful outcomes for the State of Indiana.
Following the October, 2016 jury panel sessions for food and art applicants, here are some interesting statistics:
• There are 196 Artisans in 57 counties.
• The “Top 10” counties from which the greatest number of Indiana Artisans hail are:
• 28 Marion County
• 17 Hamilton County
• 15 Monroe County
• 14 Brown County
• 12 Tippecanoe County
• 7 Boone County
• 5 Allen, Delaware, Jefferson, and Madison counties
• 148 Indiana Artisans are artists.
• 46 Indiana Artisans are foodists – of those foodists, 14 are vintners.
• The organization no longer juries candles, soaps or bath/body products because they fall outside its definitions of art and food; however, prior to that decision two bath/body product makers, largely soapmakers, had work jury into the program, and it remains part of the Indiana Artisan brand.
• Every jury panel is comprised of a different group of panelists. Some repeat, in fact a couple repeat often; however no panel ever is made up of the same group.
• Applicants can apply as many times as they like. One Indiana Artisan’s application was successful on the fifth attempt. As artists familiar with the trials and tribulations of jurying know, any jury panel, on any given day, can make a very different assessment of an applicant’s work or application. Until someone discovers a better way, however, Indiana Artisan will continue to review applications via jury panel.
• Jury panelists live all over Indiana, and that is one of many reasons why the application can only be completed online. Panelists review the applications before meeting to discuss them and to review samples of the applicants’ work.
• As part of the application process, samples are required, and once they are evaluated by the jury panel they are returned. In five years, only two samples have broken and, for what it’s worth, both juried in. For food applicants, the reason samples are required is obvious. For art, too much of it is tactile, and for some others, things can remain unseen in images. To create a brand supported by high-quality art and food, the panels must see the work.