March 30, 2021
Implementing innovation during pandemic leads to a model of growth for the Indianapolis Art Center
by Shari Finnell, editor/writer Not for Profit News
Mark Williams was just six months into his new role as the executive director of the Indianapolis Art Center (IAC), when COVID-19 hit Indiana. As with most arts and culture entities, the 87-year-old art institution had operated primarily through hands-on, in person experiences.
A year into the pandemic? 
“We’re thriving,” said Williams, who had left the for-profit sector as the CCO and founder of ImageNation, a marketing and branding firm to take on the position at IAC. 
“When a crisis happens, people want to get back to replicating or substituting what they’ve done in the past,” Williams said of the natural desire to get back to normal. “Our approach was the opposite. It was an era of innovation for us. We had to look at things in new ways across all of our classes and offerings, asking ourselves, ‘How are we staying relevant?’”
Under Williams’ leadership, the IAC team started finding the answers to that critical question. Innovation followed, including an expanded offering of online art classes, the sale of art kits, which quickly sold out, and the birth of Locally Made fest, a collaboration with the Indy Jazz Fest that will be held at ArtsPark, on the grounds of the art center, from May 15-16. All participants, including jazz musicians, artists and food vendors, are local.
And, unlike its signature Broad Ripple Arts Fair, which was canceled for 2021, the new fest will have a limited number of tickets to ensure social distancing under COVID-19 guidelines, Williams said. About 1,500 tickets will be sold, but jazz performances will be available online to those who want to participate. The Broad Ripple Arts Fair regularly attracted 15,000 to 16,000 visitors.
Williams said IAC’s new programs and offerings aren’t a temporary fix — a solution only to cope with the restrictions caused by the pandemic. “As people come back in person, we know that the digital components are not going away … it’s embedded in the way we work and function,” he said. “So, it’s got to be baked into the process moving forward.”
He said embracing an innovative mindset is critical, not just to survive a pandemic, but to thrive in the future. “If you didn’t take the time to embrace new innovations, you’re going to get left behind; left out of the conversation,” Williams said.

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Office rental space available on Indianapolis’ Southeast side. Up to 1,970 square feet of office space, including five rooms for office/studio and a kitchenette. The rental also includes paid utilities, installed security system, parking and more. Contact Bradley Keen at (317) 634-5079, ext. 101.
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