Art center struggling to stay open


For 25 years, Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour has provided arts-based classes, activities and programs for people of all ages from Jackson and surrounding counties.

But those involved with the nonprofit art center say it’s getting more and more difficult to keep the doors open.

SICA’s board of directors confirmed the center is financially struggling to keep its operations going.

In May, the center’s full-time paid director, Darnell Dukes, resigned to go back to banking, taking a job at Old National Bank. Dukes, however, still is volunteering with programming through the summer.

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There are no plans at this time to hire a new director because of cost, and the center is looking at opportunities to share resources with another community agency.

“While we don’t want to be negative about this, we do want to be honest as to where things stand,” according to a written statement issued by the board.

Fundraising for the center also has proved challenging in recent years, Dukes said.

Although the board conducted a successful new event last year — Mr. Jackson County — bringing in around $17,000, no one was willing to be a contestant in the male pageant this year, according to the board.

A fundraising dinner called SOS: Save our SICA is planned for Nov. 4 at The Pines Evergreen Room.

Another area in which the center has seen a decline over the years is membership. A membership drive that started late last year hasn’t been as successful as organizers had hoped it would be. The goal was to double membership to 500 by the end of 2017.

Currently, there are around 250 members.

Membership levels and perks have been restructured, and small businesses now can sign up for $100 and can use the center for employee events. Individual memberships are $25, and family memberships are $50.

There also are silver, gold and platinum memberships for $500, $1,000 and $2,000.

While the center did gain some higher level members through the drive, it hasn’t been enough.

One of the misconceptions about the art center is that it should have plenty of money because Seymour native and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp funds it. Mellencamp does not provide funding to the center.

The building and grounds are owned by Mellencamp and are leased to SICA for $1 per year. But beyond that, the center must pay for utilities, repairs and upkeep of the property and for all ofits programs and offerings.

With the building being 166 years old, expenses run high, and there is a lot of maintenance needed.

Besides memberships and fundraisers, the center receives money from donations, registration fees, grants and corporate sponsors like JCB. Earlier this month, it was announced the center would receive a $7,356 grant in 2018 from the Indiana Arts Commission.

The center also is looking for artists who would like to rent studio space to provide lessons.

This year alone, the art center has touched more than 2,500 people in the community through its classes, pottery barn and museum of antique printing, free live music, art camps, exhibits and social painting groups and activities.

Local artist Kyle McIntosh, who runs a tattoo shop in Crothersville, said the art center is “the most important thing in Jackson County.”

He recently taught a graffiti and street art class at SICA this summer and has exhibited his work, which includes mural, airbrush and mixed media canvas paintings, at the center.

“I have been blessed to work with them very closely on several projects over the years,” he said. “The passion SICA has to help the community is unmeasurable.”

Seymour resident Bonnye Good’s two sons both participate in art classes, programs and private lessons at the center. She believes the art center is about more than just art.

“SICA has helped so many kids and adults and really served as a community center,” she said. “I hope it continues to be part of our community since it improves quality of life and serves as a tourist attraction.”

She also said the center is a way to attract people to Seymour.

“Families looking to relocate to Seymour for jobs want cultural and kid-friendly assets,” she said.

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To become a member of Southern Indiana Center for the Arts or to find out about upcoming classes and events, visit

You also can sign up at the art center from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Checks and memberships also can be mailed to Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, 2001 N. Ewing St., Seymour IN, 47274.

For information, call the art center at 812-522-2278 or email [email protected].


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