BY BARB BERGGOETZ
To Sean Starowitz, the city’s new assistant director for the arts, advancing the arts means expanding its reach, acting as a liaison to artists, and developing imaginative approaches to weave arts into the fabric of the city.
“I want to make sure arts are brought to the table, not as a decoration, but as a creative approach to solving issues in the context of
economic development,” says Starowitz, 28, who began his position in May 2016.
A Louisville native who graduated from Kansas City Art Institute’s interdisciplinary arts program in 2010, Starowitz says the arts can be a tool to tackle tough challenges facing communities, such as food access, affordable housing, workforce development, and community planning issues. “That’s what is really exciting about this position.”
Starowitz was attracted to the position and to Bloomington because of the city’s strong support of the arts and music. He says placing the position under the Economic and Sustainable Development Department is progressive, because cities usually put it in visitors’ bureaus or public works departments.
From 2010 to 2015, Starowitz was artist-in-residence at Farm to Market Bread Co. in Kansas City, Missouri, which creates pop-up bakeries in abandoned urban spaces. He has lectured at several colleges, including American University in Washington, D.C., and also spent a year at the Rural Policy Research Institute where he studied creative ways to link art to communities.
Starowitz says he’s always been interested in the role the arts plays in public administration and hopes to advance Bloomington’s public art portfolio and incubate new and emerging practices and artists. He’s already helped facilitate an outdoor mural at Rogers and 11th streets—developed by artist Izzy Jarvis and local teenagers from Rhino’s Youth Center—as well as the Vectren Corp. mural by Drew Etienne along the B-Line Trail.
As staff liaison to the Bloomington Arts Commission, Starowitz helps oversee a city public arts program that gives 1 percent of new city capital project costs to fund public arts projects. Another goal is to find better ways of spreading the word about the success of public arts projects. “I think we can amplify our voice a little bit more than we have in the past,” he says.