Giving back

Elston helps the arts be all they can be

Madelane Elston, photography by Ellie Bogue

A great deal of the vitality of today’s arts scene would not have happened without the skillful work of Madelane Elston, community volunteer.

She has served on the board and on nearly every committee Arts United has, especially the key ones that raise funds for big projects, as well as serving in the same capacities for the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, ARCH, Fort Wayne Philharmonic and now the Allen County Courthouse Trust.

Most recently, she helped raise the money for the Auer Center.

“It’s been my total pleasure to be able to do that,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. And I certainly did not do any of that alone.”

She was also on this year’s gala committee for the art museum.

“My profession is community volunteer. I think the community needs more volunteers.

“It kind of makes you feel like you are paying for your space on earth by giving back.”

Volunteering for the arts was a natural choice for her.

“The arts are my love,” she said. “It never even crossed my mind to volunteer anywhere else because I enjoy them so much. I enjoy being a part of the arts, and I enjoy helping them be all they can be.”

Like Arts United founder Bud Latz, with whom she is paired this month during the organization’s 60th anniversary celebration, she has a big vision of how much the arts really mean to Fort Wayne.

“In Fort Wayne I have always felt we have arts over our head for the size community we are. It’s important to the community, or we wouldn’t have supported them the way we have,” she said.

She recognizes the arts as a tremendous recruiting tool for local employers because people want to be able to participate in the arts at the highest possible level. She is among those who believe the arts are what kept downtown Fort Wayne going in many ways through difficult years, and she sees the arts as key to the city’s future.

“I feel like Fort Wayne is on the verge of taking a gigantic step forward, not that it hasn’t been wonderful all the time, and I think the arts are poised to be a part of that.

“Everything is really starting to come together,” she said.

“The founders of Arts United really took on a lot when they started this. They put in place such wonderful guiding principles. We’ve tweaked them along the way, but mostly we are still being guided by the precepts they put in place. They were very wise because of the funding issues to do it this way.”

She is proud of not only the funding Arts United provides to its member groups but also the business services, program space, insurance and box office services. She’s hopeful that more ways to serve the community’s arts groups will be found in the future.

“The box office is another thing we thought about for years and years, and I am so pleased we were able to implement it,” she said.

Fifth of six celebrations of Arts United’s 60th anniversary

Editor’s note
As it conducts its annual fund drive and celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2015, Arts United has just successfully completed one strategic plan (you can see it in the busy Arts Campus on East Main Street and everywhere else its partner and member arts groups are at work) and is preparing for the next. To celebrate, it is saluting the work of six of its founders. Fort Wayne Magazine is proud to join the celebration by profiling six of today’s Arts United leaders who are continuing the work by Living the Legend, once each month through June. This month, businessman Bud Latz, from the family that owned the downtown department store Wolf & Dessauer, was the inspiration for profiling today’s Arts United board member Madelane Elston, who worked with Latz and his wife Janet on many arts boards and committees.  

Bud and Janet Latz 1920-2008
Bud Latz was the chairman of the appointed committee selected to oversee the development of the building then known as the Performing Arts Center. At that time, the board envisioned a multi-building Arts Campus in downtown Fort Wayne. Latz was one of the original founders of Arts United and diligently worked to see the completion of the Arts United Center nearly 20 years later by architect Louis I. Kahn. Today, the original founders of Arts United would be delighted to see their vision of an Arts Campus in downtown Fort Wayne come to fruition with The History Center (1980), the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (1984), Hall Community Center (1991), Alexander Rankin House (2000), Auer Center for Arts and Culture (2011) and the Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab (2014).  

An invitation from Arts United
With one gift to Arts United, you can support over 60 arts and culture organizations in Northeast Indiana, enhancing the quality of life in our vibrant community. Give today at www.artsunited.org or by mailing your contribution to Arts United, 300 E Main St. Fort Wayne, IN 46802. For more information, please contact Rena Burden, Director of Development, at (260) 424-0646 or rburden@artsunited.org.

First appeared in the May 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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