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In January 1964, Indiana's first arts commission, titled the Governor's Commission on the Arts, was created by Governor Matthew Welsh through executive order. Dr. Hertha Duemling was appointment by Gov. Welsh to serve as the executive director.
Shortly after the commission was created, Gov. Welsh appointed 16 individuals to serve as commissioners. At the time the commission was created, no state appropriations or available funds existed for program services or administrative activities. Limited funding was made available through a non-profit foundation created and financed by Commission Chairman James R. Fleming.
The Governor's Commission on the Arts ceased operation at the end of Gov. Welsh's term of office. After taking office in January 1965, Governor Roger Branigin extended the activities of the Governor's Commission on the Arts through executive order with Dr. Duemling retained as executive director, and Mr. Fleming retained as Commission Chairman.
In July, 1965, enabling legislation creating the Indiana Arts Commission as a state agency became effective with a $12,500 annual budget appropriation. Seven members of the new Indiana Arts Commission were appointed by Gov. Branigin.
In April 1966, with authorization from Gov. Branigin, the IAC received a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to survey the arts and cultural resources in Indiana. In July of 1966, the IAC and the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society did a survey titled "The Vanishing One-Room Schoolhouse". After completion, the report and a lecture program were published by the IAC and received national attention.
In January 1967, the IAC created and distributed the first issue of a calendar of major cultural activities and arts events in Indiana, titled "The Arts Mirror."
In June 1967, the National Endowment for the Arts approved a grant application from the IAC in the amount of $50,000 on a matching fund basis.
By establishing a fund in a like amount, the IAC potentially had a total of $100,000 available for future programs and services. However, budgetary concerns prompted the legislature to eliminate funding for the IAC. Following this action, the IAC ceased all operations. A group of concerned Hoosiers known as the Arts Underground quietly lobbied legislators to re-establish funding for the Indiana Arts Commission. The grassroots effort proved successful.
During the 1968-1969 legislative session, new enabling legislation was introduced to establish the IAC as a state agency and restore funding for programs and services. Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb signed the new enabling legislation into law, and the IAC was once again set to pursue its mission to enrich the cultural lives of Indiana's residents.
On July 1, 1969 the Indiana Arts Commission began operations with a paid professional staff under the leadership of newly appointed Executive Director Dr. Michael Warlum. Businessman Frank Thomas, founder of Burger Chef, was the new IAC Chairman.
During the IAC's first year of existence, the 15 Commissioners sponsored three regional meetings and a state conference to learn the needs of various arts-related community groups, and make these groups aware of the IAC's existence and mission. The Commissioners also held conferences to better gauge the issues facing symphonic music, parks and recreation programs, and auditorium management.
Supported by a staff of two, the Commission awarded a total of 42 grants in 1969 on an equal-match basis in one of four categories: Touring Programs, Technical Assistance, Special Projects and Organizational Support.