Nickel Plate Arts new executive director Aili McGill looks to expand organization, public participation
Aili McGill’s love for the arts began at a young age. As a middle school student, she recalled how her quirky fun family had a “Von Trapp” vibe.
“My mom would regularly write plays. We toured around doing plays at garden clubs throughout the state,” said the 30 year old.
Besides providing a foundation for her performing arts career, the garden club circuit is the root for her career in developing plays and programs.
“I was always a successful student but informal learning is always when I was the most passionate and had the most fun,” she said.
Two week ago, McGill began her new job as executive director of Nickel Plates Arts, which is headquartered in Noblesville’s Judge Stone House but has locations in Fishers, Cicero, Arcadia and Atlanta.
“I hope my enthusiasm and professional experience give the organization a stable foundation to grow and blossom,” she said. “I hope in the next three to five years, Nickel Plates Arts is hooking people up with amazing art experiences that are inspiring. . . The slogan is ‘Unplug & Create’ and we want to get as many people as possible to do that.”
McGill has lived in Noblesville for the past six years, but she knows the area well because her father has worked in the city for the past 15 years.
“It’s incredibly exciting. We are finally embracing the fact that we are a cool place,” she said. “I was OK with the cultural opportunities here beforehand, but the fun stuff I did was in Marion County not Hamilton County. I’m so excited to be able to foster neat, quality fun things to do and stay in Hamilton County.”
McGill, who does improv at ComedySportz Indianapolis, says she dabbles in art. Being a little modest, McGill has created two graphic novels – one for pleasure and one while working at Conner Prairie.
“It’s very fair to call me a performing artist,” she jokingly stated. “I love being around artistic people. They inspire me to keep developing my skills. I dabble in arts and want to support them.”
Prior to coming to Nickel Plate Arts, McGill was the director of operations at Conner Prairie.
“I love Conner Prairie dearly; I’ll always be a big supporter,” she said.
McGill worked for Conner Prairie for 12 years and started as the carpenter’s daughter.
“It was a summer job in college, but they kept promoting me,” she joked, adding that part of the reason for the change was to strengthen her administrative skills. “The potential here is limitless. I can walk to work and recognized I would be as creative in this job as I could be. I can develop and shepherd any crazy idea to its conclusion.”
Drawing from her time at Conner Prairie, McGill said guest satisfaction and enjoyment are important to the organization’s schedule for programming and classes.
“We can’t just do art for the artists’ sake or projects that make us happy,” she said.
2012 served as a pilot season for Nickel Plate Arts. As construction and renovation was taking place for the new headquarters, programming was concentrating on classes – which ones had interest and what price the public was comfortable in paying.
“In 2013 we’re taking a broader approach,” said McGill. “We’re still figuring out what we are and look like.”
That approach includes having a larger presence within the Nickel Plate Arts Trail communities by providing opportunities for all age groups to be successful in all arts. Other potential programming could include cooking classes, progressive dinners, murder mysteries, improve comedy and artists doing work in front of the public.
“It’s my goal to see a poetry slam happen in Hamilton County,” said McGill. “We are planning an art lab where people can wonder through and experiment with different art mediums.”
The Nickel Plate Arts Campus in downtown Noblesville comprises the Judge Stone and Stephenson houses. Renovated space within the two buildings will provide classrooms, areas for exhibitions and seven artist studios.
“We had far more interest in studios than space to give them,” said McGill, adding the organization’s long-term goal is to provide affordable studio space for artists.
Campus space will be used flexibly to emphasize all arts – fine, sculpting, craft and performing arts
“It’s a wonderful thing,” added artist John Reynolds. “I could tell you how important it (art) is. With the city and county to reopen it and be behind it like they are is just great.”
Reynolds, a Noblesville resident who lives a few minutes away and has one of the seven studio spaces, spent the past 20 years driving to Indianapolis to work on his art.
“The drive got worse every year,” he said. “All the (natural) light and old atmosphere is kind of fun.”
Meet Aili McGill
Hometown: Fortville, Ind.
Education: Mt. Vernon High School, B.A. in museum studies at Earlham College, M.A. in museum studies from IUPUI.
Hobbies: Performs in ComedySportz Indianapolis. “Improv’s great because you don’t have to rehearse.” McGill also enjoys gardening, landscaping and her historic Noblesville home is an ongoing project.
Awards: Conner Prairie Employee of the Year, 2006
Personal quote: “It’s not worth doing if it doesn’t have disastrous potential.” McGill explained that she’s not into crazy risk taking or change for change’s sake, but she looks for the greatest potential of every situation or project. “Taking risks and changing things up have never intimidated me.”
Upcoming events at the Nickle Plate Arts Campus in Noblesville include
Nov. 2 – Stories & Sweets. After enjoying soup from Noblesville’s finest restaurants during the First Friday event, come
Nov. 25 – Holiday crafts. Bring the whole family to the campus from noon to 4 p.m. to make a holiday craft before or after the 31st annual Noblesville Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. and will run through downtown.
Dec. 7 – Home for the Holidays. The exhibition room at the Judge Stone House will be filled with winter art and homemade holiday gifts from 5 to 9 p.m. Enjoy holiday music, light refreshments and buy local art for family and friends.
For more information, visit www.nickelplatearts.org or call 848-3181.