Mayor Bart Peterson (D - Indianapolis, IN)

Local Arts Leadership
2003

Each year, in cooperation with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Americans for the Arts recognizes elected officials and legendary artists who have exhibited outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts at the national, state, and local levels.

“The value a city places on its arts and cultural community often parallels its dedication to creativity, expression, and diversity. Through a cooperative partnership promoting cultural development in Indianapolis and Central Indiana, we are ensuring that the arts continue to enhance and enrich the quality of life for all our residents.”  — Mayor Bart Peterson

Since taking office in January 2000, Mayor Bart Peterson has more than doubled public sector arts funding from the City County Council—from $750,000 to $1,625,000. As an example of his commitment to funding the arts, he proposed only two increases to a tight 2003 budget—additional police officers and an increase in arts funding.

From the beginning of his administration, Mayor Peterson has focused on making Indianapolis an artistic and cultural destination.  Just six months after his inauguration, Mayor Peterson was appointed chair of The United States Conference of Mayors Committee on Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports. He is the only first-year mayor to be named a standing committee chair, and he was reappointed to this position in 2002.

In June 2001, Mayor Peterson announced a $10 million cultural development and tourism initiative funded by a public-private partnership with the Lilly Endowment. This collaborative effort includes the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., and the Mayor’s Office.  Mayor Peterson’s leadership in increasing financial support for the arts is matched by his desire to build the awareness of the value and benefits of the arts and to establish meaningful cultural policy. He regularly communicates the economic and quality of life importance of the arts to the City County Council and the Capital Improvement Board. Moreover, his education policy and efforts to improve the schools in Indianapolis include arts education as a major component.

Mayor Peterson has made a commitment to integrate the arts throughout the city’s public spaces, from walking and jogging trails to his own office and reception area, where he hosts a rotating exhibition featuring the works of local artists. He is hailed by arts organizations both within his own community and nationwide as being a significant arts leader, merging the arts into all aspects of public policy and inspiring other public officials to do the same.