Report highlights creative economy

May 8th, 2017

By Bridgett Hernandez | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Released earlier this year, Indiana’s first statewide assessment of its creative economy can trace its origins to northeast Indiana.

The Indiana Arts Commission’s Indiana’s Creative Economy and Employment Impact breaks down the statewide research to match the 11 commission service regions.

The study stems from a regional study conducted by researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and commissioned by Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne. Arts United is the Indiana Arts Commission’s regional arts partner in northeast Indiana. Additional collaboration on the project was provided by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.

According to the report, nearly 161,000 Hoosiers are employed in Indiana’s creative economy, which is defined as industries and occupations that are focused on the production and distribution of cultural goods or intellectual property.

In Region 3, the 11-county area that makes up northeast Indiana, 18,834 people are employed in the creative economy. Creative jobs account for 4.5 percent of all jobs.

“It seems like a small slice of pie, but when you think about it, that’s the same number of jobs as banking and insurance and construction,” said Susan Mendenhall, president of Arts United.

Arts United commissioned the study during a cultural planning initiative that it undertook. Home to companies like Sweetwater Sound, Vera Bradley, Matilda Jane and high-performing architectural and graphic design firms, northeast Indiana is a destination for creative economy jobs, Mendenhall said. So at that time, the organization was trying to figure out what the community needed from arts and cultural organizations to be effective as a community that can attract and retain talent.

“If we’re going to position northeast Indiana as a destination in part by driving forward our creative economy, we need to know little more about it,” she said.

The report found that Region 3’s top creative business establishments include commercial printing, advertising agencies, wired telecommunications carriers, architectural services and graphic design services.

The average annual wage for creative occupations in the region is $34,382. The highest average occupational wages were among marketing managers, as well as self-employed technical writers. The lowest average occupational wages were among craft and fine artists, driven by self-employed artists.

The report highlights that self-employment in Indiana’s creative economy is rising rapidly. Because this data is collected from the number of people who submit a 1099 miscellaneous income tax form, it’s difficult to determine the factors that play a role in self-employment, Mendenhall said.

That’s because the statistic doesn’t show how many people are working multiple gigs or how many people have a full-time job but work as a photographer on nights and weekends.

Design Week

Another study on the region’s creative economy is a driving force behind an event that highlights the city of Fort Wayne as a creative hub in the Midwest.

The Creative Census, conducted by nonprofit arts organization Wunderkammer Co. in 2015, found that “design was the largest aspect of our creative economy and that nobody supports it,” said Dan Swartz, the organization’s founder.

The census found that more than 30 percent of northeast Indiana’s creative economy is within the design fields, producing more than $100 million per year in economic impact.

Even though design is incredibly lucrative, he said, talent attraction and retention were not being addressed by traditional economic development. While everyone acknowledges that “the arts” are important, he wanted to do more than pay the industry lip service.

Wunderkammer Company launched Design Week Fort Wayne with the goal of attracting and retaining talent; strengthening marketing art and design communities; and establishing connections between designers, institutions and business.

What Swartz originally thought would be 25 people sitting around a table turned into an event that attracted more than 750 people in its first year.

The second annual Fort Wayne Design Week is scheduled to take place May 8-12 with shows and speaking engagements open to both design professionals and the general public. This year, each day will highlight one of five industries of design: advertising/graphic design, R&D/innovation, city design/urbanism, architecture/interior design and fashion/style.

A headline speaker for the event is design world giant Stefan Sagmeister. The Austrian-born designer’s work includes award-winning album art for the Rolling Stones and Talking Heads and exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum. Since this is a sabbatical year for Sagmeister, his talk in Fort Wayne will be one of only two speaking engagements this year, Swartz said.

While last year’s event drew people from cities like Indianapolis, Detroit and Chicago, Swartz said. This year, he said, Design Week is inviting visitors from as far away as Atlanta. While he’s certainly not toting this as a sign that “the flood gates are opening and there are going to be all of these creative jobs,” he hopes that the event might help bolster the city’s status as a creative hub.

“The number of people who aren’t familiar with Fort Wayne is too many,” he said.

Learn more

The full Creative Economy report can be found at To learn more about Design Week Fort Wayne, visit

Categories Quality of Life