Cultivating the Culture in the City

Cultivating the Culture in the City

January 2018

Writer // Janelle Morrison                                             Photography // Submitted



Like Rome, the culture of Carmel wasn’t created in a day. Over the decades, the city and its leadership have continued to support existing cultural elements and create additional amenities for the community to enjoy.

The development of The Center for the Performing Arts and Center Green have provided the opportunity to host popular markets and special events like a historic event held for the United States Conference of Mayors in June 2016. Mayors representing cities from all over the nation congregated for a fun-filled evening that began at The Center and concluded on Main Street with several Carmel residents in attendance.

This winter, the Center Green, located between the Palladium and The Tarkington/The Studio Theater has become home to the Carmel Christkindlmarkt and Ice at Center Green, both new attractions that debuted this winter.

The Center Green is also home to the Carmel Farmers Market and is a popular Saturday social event during the market months. The Carmel Farmers Market was founded in 1998 and is one of the largest in the state with vendors who sell their Indiana-grown and/or produced edible products. The market, which is managed by an all-volunteer committee, is held each Saturday morning from May through September. Visit for details.

Neighboring the Center Green, The Palladium, The Tarkington and The Studio Theater are more than just architectural marvels. They are destinations for concert-goers and enthusiasts of the arts. The Center hosts a variety of entertainers from around the globe. It is also home to some of the area’s finest performers and hosts a variety of educational and outreach programs for youth from all over the state of Indiana. For example, The Songbook Academy® is a summer music intensive for young singers who have an interest in the American Songbook. Students who love the music of classic Broadway shows, jazz and popular music have the life-changing opportunity to work with music industry professionals, award-winning singers and performers and educators from the top University music and theater programs in the country.

Recently, Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) announced its new program, Theatre Immersion Experience 2018. This program is designed for students who are dedicated, passionate and creative and wanting to grow their theater skills in a unique “hands-on” way.

Cultivating the Culture in the City
Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Janna Hymes

ATI is a professional, not-for-profit theater organization of local and national artists dedicated to excellence in theatre production for a diverse patron base in Carmel and central Indiana. ATI enriches the culture of the community and uses theater as a tool for educational engagement. ATI calls The Studio Theater its home. Construction began on The Tarkington and The Studio Theater, along with the Palladium, in 2007, and they opened in 2011. Other resident companies of the Center include the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Central Indiana Dance Ensemble, Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre and Indiana Wind Symphony.

The development of the Center has made the programs of these institutions possible and is a vital part of the thriving arts culture in Carmel.

The Arts in Carmel Spotlight

Artistic Director Michael Feinstein, the multi-platinum selling, five-time GRAMMY-nominated entertainer dubbed “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” is considered one of the premier interpreters of American Popular Song. More than a mere performer, he is nationally recognized for his commitment to the American Popular Song, both celebrating its art and preserving its legacy for the next generation. In addition to serving as Artistic Director, Feinstein performs frequently at the Center for the Performing Arts and assists with programming. He signed on in 2009.

In a previous interview that we had with Feinstein, he shared his sentiments about the eventual creation of The Great American Songbook Museum in Carmel, a future goal for the Great American Songbook Foundation. The Great American Songbook Foundation joined locations throughout the world as a cultural affiliate of the GRAMMY Museum, based in Los Angeles, in 2017. The affiliation gives the nonprofit access to GRAMMY Museum exhibitions, technical support and research programs and may have inched Feinstein’s dream of a Carmel-based museum a bit closer to reaching fruition.

Cultivating the Culture in the City
The late Natalie Cole with Michael Feinstein

“It’s been a dream come true to see the growth of this organization, which was not possible without the affiliation with the City of Carmel,” Feinstein emphasized. “It never would’ve happened otherwise. It is the lifeblood of the community that gives us the support, in every sense of that word, to grow our mission. Our focus over the next couple of years is to build a museum, which, step-by-step, is becoming more of a reality. We are so excited to see how that is coming to fruition.

“The Great American Songbook Museum will be a destination both physically and virtually for the city. It will change the complexion of the community even more in a positive way. Just as Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Nashville has the Country Music Hall of Fame, I think that it is going to be very significant for the city to have the Songbook Museum located in Carmel. I say that from the response that I have received from people around the country and the world. They are so excited for the eventual creation and opening of the Great American Songbook Museum.”

Along with the board of directors, the Center’s CEO and President Jeff McDermott is in the process of creating a new strategic plan that will likely be implemented by the end of this year’s first quarter. The new plan comes as the original five-year plan has wrapped up. McDermott, who accepted the position after performing the duties as interim CEO in 2017, announced he and the board would begin working on the development of a new strategic plan towards the end of last year. He stressed he felt it was important for the permanent CEO to be part of that development because he or she would’ve needed to put their mark on it. Once the unanimous decision was made to hire McDermott as the permanent CEO, plans to move forward on developing a new strategic plan were officially underway.

Cultivating the Culture in the City
Jeff McDermott

McDermott did not want to prejudge what the new strategic plan is going to look like in fine detail but did emphasize the outreach and educational programs are going to be a significant part of the plan. One area that McDermott mentioned as being improved over the last year is the promotion of the Center’s resident companies.

“Fostering the relationships with our resident companies has been really important and has created a great feel on campus,” McDermott said. “I certainly don’t take credit for that. That’s a credit to the entire staff and to the resident companies. We’ve got such momentum right now, and while we’re a young organization, we’ve matured a lot. We’re hitting the stride right now, and I think that everybody within this organization, the boards, the staff and hopefully within the community believes that the best is absolutely yet to come.”

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