ArtWalk, neighborhood festival help market downtown Elkhart

The ArtWalk on Wednesday is actually a two-pronged effort to market the downtown and expand the growing arts and entertainment presence in Elkhart.
Posted on July 15, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — From a distance, city leaders hope Wednesday’s ArtWalk looks like one big party stretching over much of the downtown business district.

Entering its second year, ArtWalk has been expanded to include a few more aspects and will be dovetailed with a neighborhood celebration organized by representatives of SoMa, a group working to revitalize much of South Main Street as well as the historic State-Division neighborhood.

But beyond the art and music that will dot much of South Main Street and part of the adjoining neighborhood, the festival is a promotional effort, serving as a window for potential suitors and investors looking for business and residential opportunities.

As the SoMA signs suggest, city officials want to remind festival-goers that the downtown can be a great place to live, work and play.

“It’s not just a marketing slogan,” said Diana Lawson, who is heading up the South Main Street revitalization efforts known as SoMa.

Revitalizing the neighborhood is a key part of the SoMa revitalization plan because of its proximity to the arts and entertainment district along Main Street.

Wednesday’s neighborhood party will culminate the first phase of efforts to spruce up the neighborhood and make it more marketable. City employees and volunteers have worked for weeks to clean up the area while a long-range plan for the entire SoMa district is being developed.

One of the highlights so far is the construction of the SoMa Commons Garden, located a block east of Main on Division Street. A formal ceremony for the garden is planned for 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“Having the SoMa celebration be a part of this just makes sense,” said Mike Huber, president of Downtown Elkhart Inc., which coordinates ArtWalk.

Officials are offering tours of two historic properties on Division Street in hopes of attracting some long-term interest in the properties.

Children’s activities are planned at the gardens as well.

A collection of classic cars will line Division Street and a musical stage will be set up for entertainment.

Those who visit ArtWalk will find musicians and artist spread over six blocks.

Activities will run from 5 to 8 p.m.

Along with 11 artists, the festival will feature activities at Civic Plaza. An entertainment stage will feature a quartet, dancers from China and a dance troupe from Indiana University South Bend. On the other end of the plaza a blank canvas will be set up for the public to try their hand at painting and drawing.

About a dozen musicians will perform along Main Street as people tour the art displays. Live bands are also scheduled to perform at bars and restaurants along the street.

The Midwest Museum of American Art, 429 S. Main St., will be open during the festival and will help distribute maps for the self-guided ArtWalk tour. Those who take the tour will have a chance to vote on their favorite artist.

A classic car cruise is also planned along Main Street, and tours of some of the upscale loft apartments on South Main will be open to the public.

ArtWalk is coordinated by Downtown Elkhart Inc.

Other ArtWalk events are scheduled for Sept. 19 and Nov. 28.

“We want to show that the downtown is alive with activity. There’s a lot to do in the arts and entertainment district,” Huber said.

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