Let me start out the year right by welcoming all of the new students to IU South Bend, and by welcoming the returning students back! I really hope you all had a fantastic summer, got to travel a bit (or even just catch your breath) and that you’re ready for a full semester! I’m ready for all the cliché autumn things (including new notebooks, big sweaters, the leaves changing and the crisp air).
Over the summer, I spent a lot of time in downtown South Bend and the surrounding area to really immerse myself in the community that has been created here. One thing that I heard almost every musician or artist express who had stopped here in the Midwest on tour, was that we (the Midwest, and South Bend especially) are in the middle of an artistic “renaissance.” We are in the middle of a movement. We need to “ride the wave” and keep it going as long as possible.
A movement? The place I grew up and whined about how “boring” it is? I wrote last year optimistically (if not skeptically) about the claim that South Bend was a “hipster” town. But it is, isn’t it?
There are more shows happening in an “all ages” environment than there were just a few years ago (including cafes, house/apartment shows and creative spaces like LangLab). There has always been a music scene, but it feels like it has expanded quite a bit lately. A lot of local established talent is taking off, and more is up-and-coming all the time.
Many open stages were available over the summer to offer the chance for established and new artists to perform. There are established stages in bars and restaurants, but there were some outdoor venues available as well to expose people to open air concerts. This also exposed more people to the South Bend Park system, which is pretty decent for a city of our size.
During Chicago and Indy Pride, South Bend hosted its very first Pride Prom. The bartender of the event? South Bend’s very own Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It was a kind gesture of support from Buttigieg, and it made a statement from the young mayor that this type of event belongs in our now-growing town.
Buttigieg is also supportive of building more luxury living in South Bend, encouraging people to move here to stay. Something a growing community needs to keep its status.
I know some say that we are still in the midst of a recession. I call it “recovery,” personally. Coming of age in a town where jobs were scarce and my peers’ parents were unemployed was daunting, but the town has grown considerably and the arts are a telling sign of that.
Maybe the downtime and hardship has brought more creative thinking to the surface again, and the need to express it in many different ways. When life gives you lemons, you don’t have to make lemonade. You can always go back to the store and exchange them for oranges, or something useful in creating the next step in life.
That’s what I like to think South Bend did.