Nickel Plate Arts perseveres through pandemic


By Rick Morwick

As evidenced by global lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a dark cloud on virtually all public, private and nonprofit entities. But if there can be such a thing as a silver lining amidst quarantine gloom, the creative collaborators at Nickel Plate Arts in Noblesville have found it.

Social distancing and in-person obstacles notwithstanding, the creative forces at Nickel Plate Arts have turned barriers into outlets.

“One of the great things about working in our creative community is that art goes on even through crisis,” said Nickel Plate Arts Executive Director Aili McGill, who has served in her role since 2012. “In fact, many of our artists, performers and teachers have been busier during this lockdown than they were before because they are creating art and designing opportunities in reaction to the pandemic to help them and their followers process all of the strange things they are experiencing.”

A nonprofit that serves much of eastern Hamilton County, from Fishers to Atlanta, Nickel Plate Arts cultivates cultural growth by developing and integrating visual and performing arts in downtowns and parks and by supporting more than 200 professional local artists. It also raises awareness for the arts by supporting venues where people can enjoy the arts.

Because of the pandemic, access to non-essential venues has been shut down since mid-March. But Nickel Plate Arts has opened several creative avenues to keep access to art flowing. Examples include offering online classes, establishing online exhibits and creating portals for artists to reach audiences and potential buyers.

“We have opened up our Facebook feed to our artist network and have had artists post videos at 1 and 6 p.m. on most days,” McGill said. “This is a great opportunity for our artists to check in, to share what they’re doing, to reconnect with friends virtually, to sell items and to learn new skills. We’re always looking for new people to add to our feed.”

Online classes, exhibits and other virtual content have been well-received — so much so that a some components might become permanent when social distance guidelines are lifted.

“We have also converted our monthly First Friday events to an online format,” McGill said. “We go through our exhibits, which we’ve converted to an all-digital format, and share stories from artists, musicians and community members. It’s a fun time, and we will likely continue to offer digital First Fridays for at least a few months and may keep some digital elements in our in-person events once those resume.”

Besides social media and online content, Nickel Plates Arts is assembling and distributing Emergency Art Kits for adults, teens and children who cannot afford art supplies. The initiative, which has already provided more than 200 kits, is supported by the Hamilton County Foundation, the Richard M. Shulze Family Foundation and 100 Women Who Care Hamilton County. To request art supplies for someone in need, contact McGill at [email protected]. For more on the program, visit

“The response to our efforts has been overwhelming in a great way,” McGill said. “We have been delighted to see so many people tuning into our live posts, joining us for Virtual First Fridays and sharing their content with us on other social media platforms. Some of our events and classes have had greater attendance online than they would have had they taken place in-person, and we’ve received participation and support from people all over the globe.”

For more on Nickel Plate Arts, visit