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South Shore Arts & Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra draws the Region to the arts

By: Contributor, Lauren Grasham Last Updated: July 28, 2022

South Shore Arts and the Northwest Indiana Symphony have long histories of promoting and championing the Arts in our Region.  South Shore Arts’ history dates back to 1936 when 10 local artists created its legacy in the Hammond District Art Association and sponsored their first Art Exhibition in millinery department of the Edward C. Minas Department Store in downtown Hammond. This first exhibition became the foundation of what will be South Shore Arts’ 79th Annual Salon Show this September.

The Symphony’s history is of similar length with their very first performance occurring after much community discussion on December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor Day some 81 years ago.

The two organizations came together in 2008 as South Shore Arts assumed management responsibilities to ensure the future operations of the Symphony Orchestra.  Together, these combined organizations are an Arts powerhouse engaged in producing and promoting a full spectrum of Arts activities across our Region.  

Supporting Northwest Indiana as a whole, in 1997 South Shore Arts was named Regional Arts Partner for Region One serving the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC).  In this role, South Shore Arts is responsible for promoting and connecting all forms of arts organizations, artists and art activities across the Region. 

“As Regional Arts Partner for the IAC, our role is to support and help promote the Arts and arts organizations throughout the Region – Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties.  The Arts play such a critical role in contributing to the quality of life in our communities,” said Executive Director David Mika.  “As the new Executive Director for South Shore Arts, I want to ensure we connect with other Regional organizations to help recognize the value the Arts can play in promoting the quality of life in the Region, as well as to attract others from outside the area to visit or relocate. The Arts offerings we provide and support across all artists, art forms, and arts organizations – fine arts, visual artists, performing artists, music and theater, etcetera – truly enrich the life experiences of our residents – and I believe make Northwest Indiana an even better place to live.”

As Regional Arts Partner, South Shore Arts annually facilitates the IAC’s Arts Programming & Arts Organization Grant Processes of which over 50 local arts organizations and projects are current beneficiaries. 

South Shore Arts also offers its own classes, programs, and exhibits for the benefit of local residents. These include a variety of classes held at its main location at the Center For Visual & Performing Arts in Munster and a substation in downtown Hammond, which will be relaunching in September after a temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are available for all levels and skill sets, ranging from beginning, intermediate, and advanced, and cover topics such as drawing, painting, ceramics, pottery, sculpting, photography, digital art design, and much more.

The organization also raises money for its Everykid program, a free program that partners with many local schools to bring art enrichment programming to second and third grade students across the Region.  These programs are multi-dimensional such as “Toot & Doodle," “Magic Trash," “Your Name is a Song," and “The Skin You Live In." It delivers similar outreach programs through other community organizations such as the local WMCAs and other Not-for-Profit organizations.

South Shore Arts also produces exhibits in its 5,000 square foot Bachman Gallery that highlights both local as well as regionally and nationally renowned artists. Its current exhibit, “Nature Lovers,” is an art exhibition featuring regional Peggy Macnamara, an artist in Residence at the Field Museum in Chicago, Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick, award winning photo-journalist from the Chicago Tribune Zbigniew Bzdak, as well as artists with local ties William Nichols, Corey Hagelberg, and Em’rynn Artunian. This show is up until August 27 and the gallery is open and available seven days per week.  

Another example of South Shore Arts’ exhibition work referenced earlier is this year’s 79th Annual juried “Salon Show." Indiana and Chicago artists are invited to submit work for selection to this exhibition with a prize pool of over $13,000 for recognition of the best work.  Deadline submission for this year’s Show is August 12 and the exhibit will open to the public with the selected works of art on September 7. Winners will be recognized at the Salon Show Awards presentation on Sunday, October 2, 2022. 

South Shore Arts is also a huge supporter of incorporating the arts into local schools. For almost 50 years, it has hosted the Annual Tri-County Jr/Sr High School Show with over 25 schools in the area participating. Recognition and awards are provided across multiple media with over $9,000 in scholarships and prizes.

Within the South Shore Arts organization also lies the Northwest Indiana Symphony, which consists of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus and our Youth Orchestra program. Maestro Kirk Muspratt, hailing from Crows Nest Pass, Alberta, Canada is the Symphony’s Musical Director and Conductor and has led the Orchestra for 20 seasons.  Kirk is a valued, entertaining and recognizable personality in the Region.

The Symphony is currently performing its 15th annual South Shore Summer Music Festival, performing a wide variety of musical genres including classical, movie scores and other popular and patriot music in seven local communities: Lansing, Schererville, Crown Point, Munster, Griffith, Valparaiso, and Hammond. The orchestra then begins its traditional season in October, this year opening with a gala and a vocal and musical performance of the award winning “West Side Story.”

Community involvement is a huge factor that allows South Shore Arts to stay engaged with those in Northwest Indiana. While the organization can receive grants from a variety of entities including the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment of the Arts as well as a variety of our local Community Foundations, much of its funds come from the supporters within the community. In fact, the largest portion of the funding for South Shore Arts and its programming is provided by its largest and most extravagant fundraiser the Beaux Arts Ball held the first Friday in June each year.  It is that community engagement and support that truly sustains the South Shore Arts organization and the arts as a whole in Northwest Indiana.

“All of our programming from the Regional Arts Partnership, to the art side, to the symphony side of the organization, are all about the community,” Mika said. “It’s about how we use the arts to help transform our communities out there and create a space in our communities for art, an appreciation of art, and even awareness that you have opportunities to participate in art, and for that reason, we are very much community driven.”

Providing an opportunity for others to experience and engage in art is something Mika said is crucial in any community. It’s a great way to enhance the quality of life and offer outlets for self-expression. He’s also thankful he can help extend such opportunities to Northwest Indiana through his role in South Shore Arts.

“It's a chance to enrich your life beyond just the basic foundations and the basic needs that people have,” he said. “It really does increase the quality of life and the satisfaction of residents in an area to live, work, and play in a community that values and promotes and provides the opportunities to participate in the arts.”

For more information on the South Shore Arts & Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, including upcoming events and how to get involved, visit its website here. Be sure to stay updated while following the group on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube