Witness to change

Carmen Tse takes up arts festival cause

Carmen Tse, photography by Ellie Bogue

Carmen Tse, Arts United board member and co-chair of this year’s Taste of the Arts Festival, laughs when she recounts how she tried to learn more about her Arts United predecessor Margaret Ann Keegan, originator and chairman of the first Fine Arts Festival. She Googled her.

“There’s not much to look for on the Internet, though,” Tse said with a laugh. The last Fine Arts Festival was in the 1970s, long before the Internet was available to the public.

This year’s Seventh Annual Taste of the Arts Festival, Aug. 29 in downtown Fort Wayne, will be an excellent demonstration of how a long-dormant concept can be brought back for similar purposes a new way. The original festival was at Franke Park. Today’s festival is at Arts United’s downtown arts campus, but the emphasis is the same: To showcase arts and cultural groups and artists and make them accessible – for free – to new audiences.

Taste of the Arts adds food, drink and an evening concert, plus opportunities to financially support making the arts accessible to more people year-round. A new Friends of Taste of the Arts group was organized last year with the goal of keeping the festival’s admission free.

“It’s an honor to be able to continue that mission to bring awareness to the community,” Tse said.

She’s justifiably proud that Taste of the Arts has grown in its first years. Attendance is hard to quantify at a free event, but best estimates are that 25,000 people attended last year, she said, and the number of participating arts and nonprofit groups represented at Freimann Square has grown from 25 to 48 groups. She’s been chair of the committee that handles that aspect of the festival for three years.

“We have grown that piece tremendously,” she said. “More groups want to perform because they see that the community comes out, and it brings everyone from the region to come and see what the community has to offer.

“Watching this festival continue to grow makes me happy.”

Last year’s festival received the Arts United Outstanding Collaboration Award. The festival was nominated by Artlink Contemporary Gallery, and the award decision was made by a committee independent from Arts United, she said.

The Auer Center black box stage is a new venue this year, she said. “It’s a great new opportunity for the performing artists.”

Tse, Manager, Financial Analysis, for Lincoln Financial Group, sees the festival as more than an exciting day of arts programming and fun. She knows it’s part of the larger work of Arts United.

The arts benefit the community economically and socially, which are additional reasons why she is happy to be one of the board members serving on Arts United’s strategic planning task force this year.

“We are a really strong partner of the city,” she said. “The city is awake and ready for all the changes that are coming. Fort Wayne is like a little-bit old canvas that needs some refreshment, some color added. There are a lot of people who are willing to be a part of it, who want to make a difference in the community.

“People realize the arts make a difference. Now people look for not just a town that’s good to raise a family in but also a town that offers a lot of diverse arts and cultural programming.”

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, the third-oldest united not-for-profit arts fund in the United States, 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, beginning in January and wrapping up this month. This month, community volunteer Margaret Ann Keegan was the inspiration for profiling today’s Arts United board member Carmen Tse. Keegan and Tse exemplify the theme of arts festivals and making the arts accessible to everyone.

Margaret Ann Keegan 1903-1966
Margaret Ann Keegan was the originator and chairman of the first Fine Arts Festival. Held outdoors at Franke Park, the multi-day festival was free to all who wished to attend and showcased a variety of arts and cultural activity. Festival attendees could see performances by various community arts groups, and it was estimated that as many as 100,000 people would visit the Fine Arts Festival. Other cities larger and smaller wanted to know how it was done. Today, Arts United hosts Taste of the Arts, a free daylong festival to support and promote arts and culture activities year-round.

An invitation from Arts United
With one gift to Arts United, you can personally share in supporting 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 on how to give, please contact Rena Burden, director of development, at (260) 424-0646 or rburden@artsunited.org.

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

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