Indiana University students develop arts-centric business plans

Business students explore sustainable growth strategies for the local arts community


Carl Nelson


Jacob Simpson, Marshall Curry


Black Vulture Project, Paoli, IN
Community Size
19,646 (2019 Census Estimation)
Indiana University
Sustaining Hoosier Communities
Case Type
Project Stories
Business, Public Policy
EPA Region 5, USA
Sustainable Development Goals
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Orange County is a rural southern Indiana county comprising four incorporated towns and a number of unincorporated communities. Residents are intent on celebrating the county’s industrial roots, natural beauty, and historic architecture while embracing and preparing for the future. Local progress is driven in large part by “grassroots cooperative leadership” (Report, Pg. 4), while legal and medical non-profits provide essential communal services. This community-oriented mentality lends itself to innovative partnerships between various actors working towards common goals in areas like infrastructure, culture, tourism, and healthcare. 

Building a support system for the artistic community

The Black Vulture Project is an arts group which works to improve Orange County residents’ access to the arts, “connect with the art community and host creators of all kinds” (About Us). Housed in a former factory which now hosts arts programming, the organization is committed to strengthening local arts culture. After working with students in the School of Art, Architecture, and Design at Indiana University to design an on-site artist residency space, the group wished to help similar local arts organizations develop their own business plans.

A strategic challenge at the intersection of arts and business

The Black Vulture Project again reached out to the Sustaining Hoosier Communities (SHC) program at Indiana University. For this project, community partner Sherry Schmidt partnered with Professor Steven Kreft’s sustainable enterprise course in the Kelley School of Business. Kreft challenged his business students to develop sustainable business strategies tailored to the needs of small arts organizations. Participants considered the logistical realities of each organization in order to chart clear paths forward.

Developing sustainable organizations with staying power

Students participating in this successful project developed sustainable business plans for local arts organizations. Applying their studies to a real-world challenge, they identified relevant short and long term business benchmarks. The strategies they delivered lend themselves to organizational longevity and help lay the foundation for a robust arts economy and community in Orange County.

Advancing local culture requires business savvy. By supporting organizations with similar missions, the Black Vulture Project and Kreft’s students strategically strengthened the Orange County artistic community. 

Sustaining Hoosier Communities Contact Info
Jane Rogan
Sustaining Hoosier Communities Director
(812) 855-0568

Indiana University Faculty Contact Info
Steven Kreft

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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