The north side of Michigan City holds a treasure, a hidden gem of opportunity, nestled in between the beachfront and city’s growing downtown area - the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, which has been under the direction of Janet Bloch since late 2016.
Originally from north side of Chicago, Bloch says that she also lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood before deciding to make Indiana her home.
“Basically, Chicago is my home town,” said Bloch, who currently lives in Chesterton.
“We moved here in 2004, at my insistence,” said Bloch. “We didn’t really know much about the area, but I knew it was by the lake, and at the time I as a full-time artist, so I was looking for something with more space. We also wanted to lower our overhead costs, and we found that here in Chesterton.”
Bloch says the affordability of the area, along with the closeness to the lakeshore and easy access to Chicago was what really sealed the deal for her.
“I knew other people who had moved out to the suburbs around Chicago, but I just had no interest in moving to those places. I wanted to stay close to the water. Lake Michigan has always been sort of my anchor, and since then, it has exceeded my expectations.”
Bloch, who got her BSA and MSA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, also attended the University of Champaign and the University of Miami for undergrad. She currently serves as executive director at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City.
“I started out there in 2009 as their education director. In 2014, they were looking for a new executive director. I applied for the position, but was not chosen at the time, so I continued as education director. Over time, it didn’t work out with the person chosen to be executive director, so the board gave me the opportunity, initially offering it to me as in interim position. It seemed to be a good fit, and at the end of 2016, they offered to remove the ‘interim’ and make the position permanent, and I happily accepted,” said Bloch, who credits her former boss Carolyn Saxton as her mentor.
Bloch says she enjoys working to help the center better connect with the community.
“I recognized that there seemed to be barriers preventing the community from fully enjoying the center,” said Bloch. “I’ve always been a community person, having worked in education for a number of years, through several partnerships with various schools. I wanted to explore ways to enhance our community engagement, to find ways to weave the center into the fabric of everyone’s lives. The Center is a tremendous resource for the area, and I would like people to feel welcome to come in and use that resource. That’s what I bring to the position and that’s what I enjoy most.”
Bloch says that the Lubeznik Center hosts roughly 2,000 students annually via field trips from their schools, mostly at no cost to either those schools or the students.
“These are not haphazard tours,” said Bloch. “We have orchestrated the learning points. We make sure that the kids get to do projects related to what they see here. We invest ourselves in these tours so that all visitors - adults and kids - get the most out of their visit here.”
She hopes that those visitors will begin to understand how to look at art, to question and be curious about images and ideas, to contemplate and be inspired.
“That’s what art should do, right?” said Bloch. “It’s important to have this here in our community. This adds to overall quality of life.”
More than just a museum, Bloch says that the Lubeznik Center can also provide scholarships for students interested in art classes.
“We have resources. We have sponsors who can help make that happen.”
Bloch is optimistic for growth in arts in the Region.
“We want (the idea of) being an artist to be economically viable, and we believe that placing value on what we can offer has grown, and will continue to grow. We are working toward being more accessible, which will help people to see the importance of art. We are already seeing some success at that with our First Friday events, which are free to the public.”
For Bloch, a typical day consists of lots of phone calls, emails, meetings with staff and donors as well as planning for future events and programming.
“Currently, we’re getting ready for our Art and Artisan Festival, which will be held August 19 - 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
Bloch says she is grateful for all the support that the Center receives from donors.
“I write and sign every thank you letter to those who support us. I want people to know that we are truly grateful for their contribution - whether it’s a $36 membership or a $5,000 grant. We’re very grateful for everyone’s support.”
When she’s not working at the Lubeznik Center, Bloch says she enjoys her quiet time.
“I’m pretty low-key,” she laughs.
She enjoys working in her studio, doing personal art projects, and also likes to simply spend time at home with her husband of 25 years, Bobby Talamine, and their cat, Luna.
“Bobby is a photographer,” said Bloch. “He’s photographed bands for over 30 years, and has a show coming up soon, called ‘Not Fade Away - Music Photography by Bobby Talamine’ at the Marshall J. Garner Center for the Arts in Miller.”
Bloch admits to being exhausted when she gets home, but says it’s a “good type of exhausted.”
“It’s just fantastic. We have such a great team of people working at the Center. Our board is… unbelievable. Without their help, we could never accomplish the things we do. We are able to have such an impact on this community, we have this ability to affect people and that’s just amazing.”
For more information about the Lubeznik Center, visit them on the web at http://www.lubeznikcenter.org/index.html