During the 10 years Jonathan Barker spent in Wollongong, Australia, an industrial city in New South Wales, he recalls they spent a lot of money developing the beaches. It took a long time, but things happen quicker than you think.
It has been almost exactly a year since Barker left Australia and landed in Fort Wayne, where he became art director at One Lucky Guitar, an advertising and promotional agency that specializes in branding and telling companies’ and organizations’ stories.
He also found himself in the middle of Fort Wayne’s efforts to rebrand itself, revitalize downtown and create an image of a city that is exciting and fun with a broad choice of activities.
Barker acknowledges he didn’t know a lot about Fort Wayne when he first arrived, but he certainly understood what the city was trying to accomplish.
Having traveled a lot and lived in different parts of the world, he says it gave him the opportunity to see the other side of the coin, but it also let him look at Fort Wayne with a fresh eye.
It’s very easy to accept what you’re used to, Barker says.
As a newcomer, Barker was able to look at what the city had to offer, be excited by what he saw and understand what people were hoping to accomplish here.
At One Lucky Guitar, Barker says: We’re involved in the community and care where the city is going. You want the place you live and work to be safe and vibrant.
There is energy downtown, and we want it to improve and be active in making it happen.
Modestly, Barker says, We’re trying to lend a hand.
The arts community is part of that.
Design work is one of the main things we do, he says, and helping promote musicians and other artistic endeavors is a good fit.
It’s natural for us to want the cultural side of the city to be strong.
Barker has worked with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., which has traveled to other cities to see what they are doing.
Hopefully, I can add something to the conversation, he says.
A desire for high quality is a major component, Barker says.
The environment is refreshing for me, he says. We’re constantly trying to improve. How can we do the best work we can?
The same philosophy can be adopted by the community at large. You don’t have to accept things the way they are. If you’re not happy with the way things are, you can change them.
And Fort Wayne is just the type of place where that can happen.
People from the Midwest are like Australians, he says. They like the underdog. They’re scrappy. They have a work ethic. They can make things happen.
And as people strive for excellence, different people’s efforts can feed off each other and raise standards in the community.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc. was one of the first accounts Barker worked on when he arrived in Fort Wayne.
It was nice to have a new art director working on our work, says Marla Schneider, vice president of marketing at Greater Fort Wayne. He brought a new perspective. He’ll notice things that we take for granted.
Barker’s enthusiasm for what he sees is also a needed plus.
We’re our own worst critics, Schneider says. We need to change that. It’s neat to see his reaction to things.