The Journal Gazette
 
 
Friday, October 16, 2020 1:00 am

Resilient and restorative

Meeting 2020's challenges has reinforced mission for ARCH

Connie Haas Zuber

As we look at the list of changes ARCH has made to function effectively in 2020, we begin to see how the pandemic crisis has accelerated challenges that were coming toward us anyway.

The pandemic has introduced its own unexpected and seriously challenging issues, too. This year is not what we wanted it to be. It has denied ARCH (and all of us) a lot, and the challenges are serious and real.

But the only practical and healthy response for ARCH is to become smarter and stronger — to be resilient and adaptable. So that's what we are doing.

Being resilient and adaptable during a pandemic that has shut down your ability to serve the community with fun and educational programs that also provide earned income feels like falling down Alice's Wonderland rabbit hole some days, but there are good days, too.

ARCH has a valuable purpose in this community: to celebrate, protect and preserve our architecture and community heritage. We know that historic buildings and places connect us to our community's past in ways we cannot replicate.

Cultural landmarks enhance our lives socially, culturally and economically.

Today, businesses and homeowners are rediscovering and reinvesting in historic buildings, neighborhoods and commercial villages because this is where we want to work, live and play. ARCH's advocacy and example are beneficial and necessary to ensure that these architectural and cultural assets accurately reflect our legacy and remain accessible for future generations to appreciate.

We cannot let the pandemic stop us, though it changes so much. So far, for example, ARCH has found new funding for an alternative, virtual video home tour when we could not do our traditional, in-person home tours. Please visit our website, archfw.org, and find the Rankin House video tour in the Projects area.

We participated in Arts United's virtual Taste of the Arts program by debuting our “Built Heritage ABCs” presentation in the virtual NIPSCO STEAM Park. The ABCs, too, are still on our website for you to enjoy.

We've moved to cloud-based software so we could work from home, subscribed to Zoom, updated our website now that it is more-than-ever mission-critical and adopted a smartphone app we are using to communicate with guests on masked and socially distanced walking tours. We have a YouTube channel now.

We have been honored to participate with other arts and cultural groups in information-sharing and strategy-developing conversations led by Arts United since the pandemic was declared in March.

They've been very helpful, and the resilience theme is rooted there.

ARCH is a beneficiary of Arts United's Resilience Fund, and we want to thank Arts United and the donors who provide that important financial support during this challenging year.

Finally, we are forging ahead with what we had carefully planned as our big project for 2020 because it is a key investment in our future. We are following through with finishing the interior of our historic Mary Rockhill-Tyler House on Van Buren Street so that it can be a residence again.

ARCH will continue to own and maintain the house, and we will rent it out under professional management so that it provides a modest, reliable revenue stream for our organization while also serving as a living example of a successful historic preservation and reuse project.

We own a similar property at 1014 Broadway, and its revenue stream has helped stabilize our operations during the pandemic so far. Our long-term plan is to proceed toward financial sustainability with a combination of earned income from programs, support as always from our members, donors and grant funders, and this property-based revenue stream.

We see our future as supported financially by a tripod, two legs of which will be as much as possible under our guidance and control.

We respect the reality that our donors and grant funders face when the world's needs are such that they find it best to turn away from organizations such as ARCH toward other needs, as has happened this year. And we want to be as able as possible to adapt and move on through the inevitable upsets and disruptions the world will send our way in the future.

So ARCH is reaching for resilience in 2020. And beyond. 

Connie Haas Zuber is executive director of ARCH Inc.


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