CITY OF HAMMOND, IN
Mayor Duane W. Dedelow

The NIAA Substation No. 9

The NIAA Substation No. 9 Substation No. 9, located in downtown Hammond (Indiana) at a former utility substation of Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO), is designed as an inner city arts center offering art classes to at-risk youth in Hammond and the neighboring cities of Gary and East Chicago.

These working class communities, with a population base of Eastern European, African-American and Latino heritage, lie along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in an industrial landscape comprised of steel mills and oil refineries. Historically, this northern Indiana region has suffered in the aftermath of industrial down sizing and buy out from global corporations. Ten percent of all Hammond families, 21% of all East Chicago families and 37% of all Gary families with children under 18 years are at poverty level. Between 1990 and 1994 there was a county wide 26% increase in the number of juvenile violent crime arrests and a 42% increase in the number of teen deaths by accident, homicide and suicide.

Mindful of its mission to significantly strengthen its service to inner city constituents, the Northern Indiana Arts Association (NIAA) in 1996 began a pilot project by bringing at- risk youth from Hammond, East Chicago and Gary to after school art classes at its art center in the neighboring community of Munster. With the cooperation of the Hammond Public School's Partners in Education, over 300 Hammond students participated in this program. The NIAA also brings guest artists to work with students in the public schools. Two of these artists, Mr. Imagination and David Philpot, come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and are self taught. Both artists, transforming materials that are freely accessible in city streets, alleys and empty lots into distinctive art works, are highly recognized in the national and international art worlds. With the examples of these two artists, children realize they too can express themselves by creating art, even if they lack the capacity to buy expensive paints, brushes and other art related tools.

The success of these programs resulted in the conversion in 1997 of a little used electrical substation in downtown Hammond into a community art center, attracting support from a broad spectrum of public and private sectors. Led by Hammond's Mayor Duane W. Dedelow Jr. and NIPSCO, supporters included Hammond businessmen, tradesmen and contractors who provided in kind services and construction materials for rehabilitation of the building.

The opening of Substation No. 9 has increased the community's ability to fill the gap left by cut backs and elimination of art instruction in local schools. In its first years of operation, the NIAA has offered free art classes for children who qualify for free or reduced fee lunch programs at their schools. Minimal cost classes are also offered for adults and senior citizens.

Substation No. 9 staff has developed partnerships with area public schools and social service organizations to create focused arts projects. Examples that have proven successful are a free 12 week project of art classes for parents and toddlers from Northwest Family Services and Hammond's Lafayette School's Title I "Parents and Children Together" (PACT) program. Another example is the graffiti art group of young boys who were former gang members and now come together in Substation No. 9's very popular air brush art classes. The NIAA expects to develop the capacity of these classes with other mediums such as computer graphics that will attract teens and help them develop job skills at the same time.

Art classes are also held for teens from Hoosier Boys Town and St. Joseph Home For Boys with ongoing weekly workshops on how to turn used furniture into functional art. This program is being extended with the Hammond Park Dept., the Hammond Boys and Girls Club and La Casa of Northwest Indiana into decorating park benches throughout the city. The NIAA's key personnel includes Executive Director John Cain who has led the organization since 1993 and has been instrumental in the NIAA's designation by the Indiana Arts Commission as a Regional Partner. Mr. Cain, a former business man and Executive Director of the Crown Point (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce, received a B.A. in Speech and Theater Communications from Otterbein College (Ohio). Matt Nepsa ,who coordinates all of NIAA's educational outreach programs, graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with BFA in print making. Larry Mickow, Substation No. 9 assistant, was educated in fine arts and arts education at Calumet College of St. Joseph and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

NIAA instructors are Matt Bozyk who received his BA from Valparaiso University and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Marty Garcia who has an associate's degree in painting from the American Academy of Art and has studied printmaking at the University of Illinois in Chicago; Nikki Kutansky, a free lance graphic designer who has studied at Murray State and Brian O'Dell, who has attended the American Academy of Art.

"Substation No. 9 programs provide our students with an opportunity to explore art beyond normal classroom activities. These projects initiate creativity which, in itself, increase the self esteem of these children and also introduces them to various art forms stimulating additional interest in the world around them," Dr. David 0. Dickson, Superintendent of Hammond Schools. A corner stone of Mayor Dedelow's administration is youth services, ranging from health related programs, substance abuse counseling, public safety and after school sports, social and arts projects. He is also very active in a parent training task force. He recognizes the importance of directing the community's children into positive activities that will have long term influences into adulthood.

Substation No. 9 is also an important component of the Mayor's economic development plan to incorporate an arts district in downtown Hammond. Under Mayor Dedelow's leadership and partnership with NIPSCO, many local businesses and industries acknowledge these needs and have come together, not only to rehabilitate the electrical substation building into space for art classes and a small gallery, but to support programs offered at Substation No. 9.

Substation No. 9's budget for the year 2000 is $85,315. Mayor Dedelow supports the facility with an annual appropriation of $40,000 from municipal funds, the Hammond Community Corporation donates $5,000, the Downtown Hammond Council gives $2,500 and Hoosier Boys Town gives $2,160. NIPSCO has donated the use of the building free of charge and commissioned the exterior murals. Supporters of Substation No. 9 work in an ongoing fund raising effort to meet budget deficits with monies donated from the community and the NIAA.


 
 


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