Writer & Photography: Jocelyn Vare
Downtown Fishers has seen many changes since it was first given the name “Nickel Plate District” in 2012. The amphitheater was built (and quickly expanded) to host music, movies and performances that draw large crowds. Central Green is the place for lunchtime music concerts and the Pocket Park is where families enjoy ice cream cones and chalk art. Electrical boxes are painted with vibrant colors in the Nickel Plate District. City Hall doubles as an art gallery, featuring new exhibits from local and regional artists. Colorful banners decorate street light poles and parking garages. Visitors of all ages experiment with art materials at the Ignite Studio in the lower level of the Fishers library.
The Nickel Plate District’s special event calendar is always full, too. Downtown merchants, artists and performers present an annual “Arts Crawl” each summer, an evening of artwork and performances hosted by more than 20 local businesses. The two-day Blues Fest music festival brings local and national acts to the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater. Spark!Fishers debuted last summer to become a new patriotic community celebration in the Nickel Plate District.
In just a few years, Fishers’ downtown district has evolved into a special hub of community art and culture, now recognized by the State of Indiana. The Indiana Arts Commission recently confirmed the Nickel Plate District’s importance to Fishers by designating it as a Statewide Cultural District.
This designation has only been granted to nine other communities in Indiana since the program was initiated in 2010. The designation is not easy to achieve, either. It is granted through a vote of the board of the Indiana Arts Commission after an intense application and review process. A Statewide Cultural District must be a well-recognized area of a community in which there is a high concentration of cultural assets that anchor the area. Many Fishers residents would consider the amphitheater as the community’s favorite gathering place and anchor of the Nickel Plate District.
Now, the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) has considered the entire Nickel Plate District as a special community place as well. IAC is a State of Indiana agency and premier arts leader for the state. IAC states that the Statewide Cultural District designation is an opportunity for a community to showcase their quality of life and utilize the arts as an engine for economic and community growth.
“This designation enables a community to enhance the visibility of its creative and economic prosperity,” says IAC Executive Director Lewis C. Ricci.
Most importantly, Fishers’ acceptance as a Statewide Cultural District signifies an ongoing commitment to the development and sustainability of the Nickel Plate District as a community cultural asset.
Fishers is in good company.
The other nine Indiana communities that have received the designation are well-known arts and cultural destinations. They include Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District, Columbus Arts District, Madison Arts and Cultural District, Nashville Arts and Entertainment District, Tippecanoe Arts and Cultural District (Lafayette / West Lafayette), NoCo Arts & Cultural District (Jeffersonville) and Terre Haute Arts & Cultural District. Two designated districts are Fishers’ Hamilton County neighbors, the Carmel Art & Design District and Noblesville Cultural Arts District.
We are thrilled to receive this recognition from the Indiana Arts Commission,” says Leah McGrath, Fishers’ Deputy Mayor. “This is such an exciting moment for our community. This designation signifies not only our commitment to advancing the arts and culture in Fishers but is also recognition of the vibrancy and cultural significance of the Nickel Plate District.”
The Nickel Plate District’s art and cultural experiences continue to grow. Just last month, a new art-focused business opened in the district, near the new mural by Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt on Maple Street. High Frequency Arts is the dream of owner Jill Lehman and a unique gem in the Nickel Plate District. It is a modern, contemporary and refreshingly abstract art gallery, consultant, creative gathering hub and event venue. It is an enterprise driven by art and creativity and is inspiring the Fishers community already.
“The Nickel Plate District is our city center and fills us with a sense of nostalgia and vitality around its future,” Lehman says. “We saw it as the ideal location to build a thriving arts and gallery district and are excited to be a part of it.”
No matter where you roam in the Nickel Plate District, you are sure to discover surprises of art, design and music. High Frequency Arts, The Art Gallery in City Hall, The NPD Amp, The Farmers Market, Gallery 116, Ignite Studio and many more await you. As a new Statewide Cultural District, Fishers is proud to call the Nickel Plate District our home for the arts of all kinds.
To view the City of Fishers’ map of more than 25 different art and culture assets in the Nickel Plate District, visit www.bit.ly/NickelPlateDistrict.