There’s a developing art scene in downtown Fort Wayne, and even though we aren’t on the same scale as Nashville, Tenn., or Portland, Ore., that might not be a bad thing.
Actually, some artistic entrepreneurs say they chose Fort Wayne to forgo the country’s art capitals for a lower cost of starting a business and a bigger opportunity to distinguish themselves in the market. Now their success is proving our city’s center might be a good option for artists looking to build a brand.
Meet Anchor Films, a commercial film start-up at 1501 E. Berry St., in a non-descript brick warehouse-looking building near the banks of the Maumee River.
On the second floor, two young entrepreneurs, Matt Ayers, 30, and Brian Myers, 24, work with Fort Wayne businesses and organizations to tell their stories through artistic short films and commercials.
But these guys didn’t always plan on starting a business in Fort Wayne. As college grads, they dreamed of bigger cities with more artsy environments until they realized Fort Wayne had its benefits.
For one thing, our city is within driving distance of several bigger cities, such as Chicago and Indianapolis, without the price tag attached to starting a business in those cities.
Here we can enter the market at a lower cost, and there’s less competition, so we offer a niche to the market or have a competitive edge to the way we do things, Myers said.
It’s the opportunity to have an artsy edge in the market that’s persuaded other creatives, such as Matt Kelley, to stick around town.
Kelley came to Fort Wayne after college in 1996 to save money and pay off his student loans, but through the years he got into advertising through designing album covers, T-shirts and media materials for local bands.
Now he owns One Lucky Guitar, a design and marketing boutique staffed by 12 young artists, innovators and account managers at 1301 S. Lafayette St.
Kelley said he once considered leaving Fort Wayne for a more music-oriented city such as Nashville or Ann Arbor, Mich., but decided against it because he felt like he would be just another person doing sweet things there.
Here, I felt like this was a community that was craving more exciting things and eager to support people trying to do them, Kelley said.
At One Lucky Guitar, Kelley tries to foster an environment where workers constantly defy the expectations of what can be done in Fort Wayne by thinking in nontraditional ways.
One way creative businesses like One Lucky Guitar and Anchor Films are challenging the trends in Fort Wayne is by designing offices with big-city flair.
Kelley’s office doubles as a venue for local bands, and Myers and Ayers spent months making the office of their dreams, using recycled wood to build an office bar and experimenting with a dart board and ping-pong table to foster a more relaxed company culture.
There was nothing in Fort Wayne that really looked or felt the way we wanted to have a studio, Ayers said. So when we found this property, we thought, Let’s make this what we dreamed a studio should be.’
One thing creative business owners have in common is their excitement about downtown development.
One Lucky Guitar and Anchor Films said they purposely chose locations near downtown for their businesses to feed off the art culture that’s already developing in Fort Wayne and to boost its success.
The idea has worked out well for another company called Punch Films, which relocated downtown at 211 W. Wayne St. in 2006.
Derek Devine, the company’s co-founder, said being in the city’s center makes him feel as though there are tons of opportunities for creative people here. He said downtown is ripe for business growth, and he’s had several inquiries from job-seekers looking for creative work in Fort Wayne.
I think if the business could support it, we’d have as many creatives moving to or staying in Fort Wayne as we could ever want, Devine said.
So if you’re thinking of leaving northeast Indiana in favor of a more artsy town, you might want to stick around. Chances are, you can find (or make) what you’re looking for right here.