Lesson learned

Ryan Twiss sees the critical connection

Ryan Twiss, photography by Ellie Bogue

At first glance, Ryan Twiss – young attorney and director of the Big Goal Collaborative for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership – seems an implausible comparison for Arts United founder Esther Collyer, the late arts educator being honored in the organization’s 60th anniversary year for her educational leadership as well as for creating the Fine Arts Festival predecessor to today’s Taste of the Arts Festival.

Then you talk with Twiss about what he has learned is so important about his work.

The story begins soon after his return home to Fort Wayne after law school with his first involvement with Arts United. He joined the board of ARCH, the historic preservation organization, a move he calls “self-serving” because of his admitted fascination with our built environment, its historical significance and the value of it all to people’s appreciation of life here.

In economic development – his line of work – it’s a given that quality of life is an essential component of a successful city, and the built environment is an important part of that. The Big Goal Collaborative is about the importance of education to Northeast Indiana’s economic vitality, and that factor advances his plot considerably.

“As I moved further along in my career, working in and with educators all across the spectrum, it began to click for me how critically related those two things are,” he said.

“So when I was invited to join the Arts United board, I jumped at it. ARCH is a great organization with an opportunity to maintain the landscape that will lead to people feeling a greater sense of pride in their community. Arts United has more of an opportunity to support the partner organizations that create the cultural vibrancy I feel is a critical element to keep talented, educated, passionate people in the area.

“I work with a 10-county economic development organization with a unique insight into what role education plays in being able to attract new business and expand the businesses that are here. The program I oversee, the Big Goal Collaborative, is based around the predictive data that by 2025 over 60 percent of jobs will require at least a post-secondary credential or degree. The Big Goal Collaborative works to align systems of education to make sure students have the opportunity to get that credential or degree to meet the needs of future employers.

“Our partnership does pure economic development work but also does product development work so our economic developers have a product to sell. Education is one of the key strategies to developing the product that is Northeast Indiana.”

As an Arts United board member, he serves on the strategic planning task force, and he believes the organization values another professional skill he brings as a convenor, bringing educators and community members together.

“They understand there is a value they provide their member organizations that is not programs but the connections Arts United provides so the fundraising will go further,” he said.

Second 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, founder Esther Collyer, arts educator credited with creating the Fine Arts Festival predecessor to today’s Taste of the Arts Festival, was the inspiration for profiling Arts United board member Ryan Twiss. The two share a commitment to the importance of education and the arts in people’s lives and to Fort Wayne’s continued vitality as a city.

Esther Collyer 1907-2011
Esther Collyer was a pioneer in art and music education in public schools. As an educator she emphasized the importance of arts education and ultimately became the director of music and art for Allen County Public Schools (1946-1965). Collyer served as chairperson for the 1960 Fine Arts Festival and the dedication of the Arts United Center in 1973. Today, Arts United has proudly named an award after Collyer, which is given annually to an arts educator to honor their shared commitment to arts education.

An invitation from Arts United
With one gift to Arts United you support more than 60 arts and culture organizations, 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 February 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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