Maven to Know: Julie Goodman

The president and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis shares how she found herself back in her hometown, her favorite performances, and how her professional focus has shifted since March.

Maven to Know: Julie Goodman

Maven to Know: JULIE GOODMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, ARTS COUNCIL OF INDIANAPOLIS

Julie Goodman, 51, lives in Zionsville with her husband ed and their children—a son who is headed (hopefully!) to IU in the fall and a daughter who is heading into 5th grade. Oh, and their adorable black Lab, Ellie. She grew up here in Indy, though she spent much of her adult life in Cincinnati. 

After moving back to town for her role at the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the family settled in Zionsville which she loves because “it’s warm, walkable, small town-ish, and still close to everything.”

“Although that’s relative,” she tells us. “My Arts Council colleagues think I live in Canada, which is also fair.” 

Maven superpower: Listening. It’s at the core of everything I do and I attribute it 100 percent to my background in music.

How would you describe what you do to someone you just met?

I advocate for the equitable advancement of arts and culture in our region—for Indy artists, arts and cultural organizations, and our audiences, residents, and visitors. My focus every day is to help ensure Indianapolis delivers on the promise of “A Full Creative Life for All.”

Did you always know you wanted to work in the arts? How did your education/career path lead you to where you are?

Yes. I wanted to be a music teacher because I had such transformational experiences thanks to music and arts educators throughout my childhood. I auditioned at regional conservatories (voice and piano) but decided to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, which has a smaller music program with a strong liberal arts emphasis. 

I knew I wanted to pursue music but wasn’t convinced I wanted to spend my college career in a practice room. An English professor encouraged me to consider journalism and I changed my major to a communications degree that combined marketing and journalism and kept music as a minor. 

I worked for a regional public relations firm serving the city and nonprofits in Cincinnati for the first 10 years of my career, then in communications for Cincinnati Opera, and later corporate communications for a multinational vision care company and its foundation. 

After several years of global travel, I decided to stick closer to home and my small children, and I ended up back in the arts at ArtWorks, the nonprofit that runs Cincinnati’s mural/public art program. I was there when the opportunity to join Strada Education Network came up and our family decided to make the leap and move to Indy. I never imagined that an opportunity to join the Arts Council would be part of the story—it was a huge surprise. It’s an absolute privilege to be serving the arts and cultural community that introduced me to the power and magic of the arts as a child. 

How do you think the arts culture and community has evolved in Indianapolis over the years, even dating back to growing up here? 

The arts and cultural community in Indianapolis has always been strong. I have distinct memories of the Zoo, Children’s Museum, Conner Prairie, ISO/Hilbert Circle Theatre, IRT, IMA, Civic Theatre, The Vogue, our monuments and parks/public spaces, and many others. It’s been fun to rediscover these experiences and see how they have evolved and grown. 

I moved to Cincinnati after graduation. I remember being blown away when I would come back and visit—with the opening of the Eiteljorg, State Museum, the Canal and Whitewater State Park, the Cultural Districts, The Cultural Trail, and more. During that period, Indianapolis really invested in its creative economy and infrastructure. We decided to be a sports and arts city. 

What makes our arts community special? And on the flip side what are the challenges in promoting and supporting the arts in a city the size and personality of Indy? 

We have impressive arts and cultural assets and experiences—consistent with what you would see in a large international city. But in Indianapolis they are accessible, affordable (though we know this is not true for all and that’s why our arts education and access programs are so critical), and welcoming. Like so many aspects of Indianapolis civic life, if you want to attend, get involved, volunteer, and engage in arts and culture —it’s all possible here. 

But while we have the arts ecosystem of a large, sophisticated city, we lack the infrastructure and consistent investment to promote and grow engagement, awareness, and access to our amazing resources. More strategic investment in arts and culture in Indianapolis would have a significant return, as evidenced by the $440 million in annual economic impact and 30,000 jobs our sector already contributes to city and central Indiana. We also have a unique opportunity to rethink and remodel the kind of arts and cultural center we want to be on the other side of this pandemic. We need artists and arts and culture  to heal and help us rebuild.

Our Midwestern humble nature and tendency toward a scarcity mindset is also self-limiting. While I have no interest in being any part of empty arrogance and BS boasting (goodness knows we have enough of that in the world right now…), we need to do a better job of sharing the authentic stories of our arts and cultural community and inviting people in. 

I appreciate what Indy Maven is doing to elevate and empower women—and to celebrate diverse stories, personalities, and our city’s character. Doing this for artists and our arts and culture scene is a core part of the Arts Council’s mission. Fortunately, we recently added some rock star storytelling talent to our team to help us with this… I think you know her. 🙂

Ed note: That would be one of our amazing co-founders, Amanda Kingsbury. 

Well, first can I say how much I miss live theater?! I mean, seeing Hamilton in my basement is super cool (and has happened multiple times already), but as much as I love all of the virtual experiences we’ve had during COVID, it has also made me miss live theater that much more.”
What have been some of your favorite performances and productions over the years—in Indy and beyond?

Well, first can I say how much I miss live theater?! I mean, seeing Hamilton in my basement is super cool (and has happened multiple times already), but as much as I love all of the virtual experiences we’ve had during COVID, it has also made me miss live theater that much more. 

Recently, I loved Phoenix Rising Dance Company’s performance of Nina Simone, The High Priestess of Soul and The Agitators, both at The Phoenix Theatre. My daughter and I loved The Watsons Go To Birmingham at IRT, and the Indianapolis Ballet’s Nutcracker and Beyond Ballet at IndyFringe. Then there’s Indianapolis Opera’s season opening production of Elixir of Love, any performance by Dance Kaleidoscope, and any opportunity to go to the Jazz Kitchen, Hi-Fi, The Vogue, and Slippery Noodle. Also, anything at The Cabaret. The last show we saw before the shutdown was a fantastic performance there by Jessica Vosk. We loved the Beethoven 250th birthday series at the ISO… and I could cite about 25 more if we have time/space.  

During my tenure at Cincinnati Opera, I had the privilege of working on Margaret Garner, an American opera that our company commissioned in honor of the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The composer was Richard Danielpour and the libretto was by Toni Morrison, based on her masterpiece, Beloved. Part of my responsibility was working with the Toni Morrison Society and supporting community engagement and national PR efforts involving Ms. Morrison. I have hundreds of “favorite” performances and productions, but that experience is one that I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

What advice would you give to a burgeoning artist or creative (of any age) who wants to get into the arts?

Just do it. There is no more noble or necessary work than being an artist and using your talents to explore and express your truth, open minds and hearts, and help to challenge, connect, fuel, and heal humanity. 

Like pretty much every industry, the creative one has taken a big hit during the pandemic. What has that been like for you and the Arts Council? What pivots have you had to make and what does the outlook appear to be going forward into the second half of the year and into 2021?

Since March, the Arts Council has pivoted 100 percent of our focus to supporting artists and arts organizations with COVID relief and recovery. By September, the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Indianapolis will experience 30,000 cancellations and closures. The majority of independent/freelance artists have experienced significant loss of income and more than half of our arts and culture workers have experienced layoffs or furloughs like so many other sectors. It’s been brutal. 

But, at the same time, the community response has been beautiful. We’ve seen strong support for relief efforts to date—including the Indy Arts and Culture Emergency Relief Fund and the new Indy Arts & Culture Restart & Resilience Fund—and we’ll need that to continue because the challenges are not going away. And the same disproportionate impact that we see COVID have on our communities of color, is also true in the arts. Our youth-serving/arts education organizations and our organizations that primarily serve communities of color and underrepresented populations are both especially vulnerable right now.  

We are now accelerating our efforts to improve equity, diversity, inclusion, and access to and through the arts. While artists and the arts play a major role in helping our community learn and grow together to become a more just and antiracist society, the arts are not immune from the systemic racism. We are fully committed to working with our sector to make sure Indy’s arts and culture rebuild and recovery results in a safer, stronger, more equitable, and innovative future for all in our city. We are inspired and encouraged by the progress that we see — and we know that we must do much more — better and faster.

What can people expect as things start to gradually reopen in town?

People can expect that Indy’s arts and cultural organizations will operate at the highest levels of safety and best practices regarding all public health guidelines, and with the highest levels of commitment to continue to serve our community. Since March, more than 80 arts and culture leaders have participated in phone calls every Friday co-hosted by the Arts Council and the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators. On these calls (and related workshops), we’ve developed a unified approach and guide to COVID recovery focused on four priorities: safety, equity, innovation, and collaboration. Our community will see these four priorities show up in all of our reopening efforts. And we encourage the community to #MaskUpIndy and, when they are ready, to visit the organizations that are reopening. 

Are there areas of support that creatives should be looking to right now? And how can the larger Indianapolis community help if they’d like to/have the means to do so? 

We hope creatives are taking advantage of the resources and workshops being offered by the Arts Council, the Indiana Arts Commission, and others. There are so many efforts to ensure artists, creatives, and our arts/cultural organizations have access to the information and resources they need to navigate COVID and all of the related challenges. We are hoping to launch Phase II of our Indy Arts & Culture Emergency Relief Fund very soon. We raised $475,000 from March to June that provided 950 rapid response grants of $500 to Indy artists, creatives, and arts/culture workers. That need has not gone away — in fact, it has grown — so the community is encouraged to learn more and support as they are able at IndyKeepsCreating.org. 

In addition, please buy local art, support virtual performances, attend arts and live music events if you are comfortable, and donate directly to organizations that you value. While it is very challenging right now, we are confident that Indy’s arts and cultural scene will emerge stronger, and all we are learning together. 

Photo: Tony Valainis/Indianapolis Monthly

Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor and a lover of the arts in all its many forms.

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