Joanna Taft’s professional history has revolved around using her entrepreneurial skills to build community in diverse settings—government, corporate, non-profit, and grassroots community-based organizations. She began her career as a management analyst with a presidentially appointed board in Washington, DC. Taft relocated to Indiana where she discovered cultural development and found that it was a good match for her personal interest in historic neighborhoods, urban areas, and her entrepreneurial abilities. She managed a house museum for Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, served on several community boards, and became skilled at community building and consensus planning. Later, she enjoyed historic district real estate development. Most significant accomplishments include: serving as Founding Executive Director of the Harrison Center for the Arts (HCA), a leader in grassroots cultural development; Founder and Board Chair of Herron High School, a leading charter school in Indianapolis; and Founder of the Cultural Entrepreneur Initiative. For these endeavors, she has received the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award, and is a recipient of two Cultural Vision awards. Taft also serves on the boards of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis’ Spirit and Place Festival, Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals (Chair), and the Indiana Association for Community and Economic Development. In addition, she is a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacy Leadership Program, Class XXXII.
Big Idea: “The Cultural Entrepreneur: Taking a Risk and Getting it Right“
In urban Indianapolis, a grassroots art center uses the principles of cultural entrepreneurship to strengthen its community through innovative arts programming and education. First, by creating a public charter school centered around an art history timeline; and then, by challenging the school’s students to actively engage in their city’s culture. The result? An emerging generation of arts patrons and a growing movement of “cultural entrepreneurs”–engaged citizens who are improving their neighborhoods through a newfound connection to culture and place.