In the mid-1980s, Indianapolis was the largest city in the country without a local arts council. The city was hosting the Tenth Pan American Games and local arts groups were preparing a year-long arts festival in conjunction with the games. Mayor Bill Hudnut asked local community leaders to explore the pros and cons of re-establishing an arts council after a previous council had dissolved in the 1970s.
In 1986, the Mayoral-appointed task force of arts and civic leaders recommended that a new council be formed, but encouraged serious study to its potential mission, role, and activities. A community cultural plan was written, a board of directors organized, and an executive director was hired.
In October 1987, the Arts Council of Indianapolis was formally incorporated as the City’s local arts agency. The City of Indianapolis contracted with the Arts Council to grant $500,000 to local arts and cultural groups. The Council continues to grant City funding through an independent, conflict-free peer panel review process that begins in early spring.
In September 1995, the Arts Council opened the Indianapolis Artsgarden, an iconic glass building suspended over Illinois and Washington Streets in downtown Indianapolis. It is owned and operated by the Arts Council, and provides a space for more than 300 free, live performances annually, and monthly art exhibitions.
In October 2010, recognizing a need for more gallery space in central Indiana, the Arts Council opened Gallery 924, which provides a mix of programming highlighting central Indiana contemporary artists, including solo shows and collaborations with partner organizations.
Since its inception, the Arts Council has provided programs and services to the citizens of central Indiana, and to hundreds of artists and arts organizations. It has also helped promote the cultural life of this community and positively changed the image of our city as a whole.