New leadership is at the helm of the state’s arts agency. Indiana Arts Commission Executive Director Miah Michaelsen was recently appointed to the position. She spoke with WFYI’s Terri Dee about her devotion to the arts, her background, and strategies to blend the arts community with state government.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Let's set a foundation and acquaint listeners with the Indiana Arts Commission. What is the organization's role?
Miah Michaelsen, Executive Director, Indiana Arts Commission: We are an agency of state government, and our role is to be the connective tissue between the arts and state government. Our vision is art everywhere, every day, for everyone in Indiana so we obviously have a really broad mandate there.
Dee: You are the new executive director of the Indiana Arts Commission. What do you believe are your most effective strengths in your new role?
Michaelsen: That's a great question, Terri. I have worked adjacent to the arts commission since I moved to Indiana, which was about 17 years ago. I was also a community-based consultant for several communities on behalf of the arts commission. I was in city government in the city of Bloomington in arts and economic development for about eight years; and then I've been deputy director of the commission here for six years. I come to this new position with depth and understanding of the agency and its work through a variety of angles. So, I bring that knowledge, experience and depth of perception as it relates to how government can most effectively serve and support artists.
Dee: You've identified that this is a government agency. I'm curious, how much input from the community will be considered moving forward and as new leadership takes place?
Michaelsen: We pride ourselves on being a public facing agency. All of our funding decisions are made by our 15 gubernatorial and appointed commissioners and at public meetings. Our grant panel work is done through public interface and public engagement and community engagement, really part of the fabric and fiber of this organization. Of course, in this case, the community, obviously, is a statewide community, right? So, it's got a lot of geographic area, as well as a lot of diversity of folks to consider. So, how we're going to be thinking about that, I think on the short term is really getting out and paying attention to the impacts of COVID on particular performing arts organizations and individual artists and creative entrepreneurs and then sort of taking the longer view there. As we move toward our strategic planning process, we'll be doing a lot of direct engagement, to hear from them on how they would like your commission to serve them going forward. We'll be out and about and asking a lot of questions and giving folks an opportunity to give us some feedback.
Dee: Is it too early to share with the WFYI listeners, the short and long-term goals for the Indiana Arts Commission?
Michaelsen: On the short term, we're focused on recovery of arts organizations and individual artists and what that looks like by short term. I don't know what that's going to be in a year or two years or three years and then long term we're going to be looking at how organizations and individual artists can reengage and rebuild after the impacts of COVID have had on the art sectors. Short term, we're going to be watching, asking, hopefully providing some additional ways to support the sector and long term we're going to be figuring out together with the sector, what's the best way to move forward.
Dee: Miah, thank you for talking with me today and much success to you in your new role.
Michaelsen: Thanks, Terri; really appreciate the opportunity to visit with you.