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Patron in the City: Kim Franklin Nyberg

Patron in the City: Kim Franklin Nyberg

At Patronicity, we believe that passionate individuals can spur change in their communities. We recently spoke with Kim Franklin Nyberg to learn more about her passion for community and how she serves as a Patron in the City.

At Patronicity, we believe that passionate individuals can spur change in their communities. We refer to those individuals as Patrons in the City, dedicating their time, sweat, and tears to building vibrant communities. We recently spoke with Kim Franklin Nyberg to learn more about her passion for community and how she serves as a Patron in the City.

Bridget Anderson, Vice President at Patronicity, served as the Project Coach for the Kindness Mural and The SPOT project and she was eager for me to speak with Kim as a Patron in the City.

It was an absolute pleasure and joy to speak with Kim. We had a wonderful, brief phone call in Fall 2021 around the time the mural was wrapping up and she was in awe of how her community had come together to support the project, especially during the height of the pandemic. Kim is a long time resident of Madison, Indiana. Although not originally from Madison, it is her home, and her passion for her community shines through in all of her words and her work over the years.

Maddie: Tell us a little about yourself! What is your role in the community? Who are you?

Kim: My name is Kim Franklin Nyberg. I’m going to talk a little bit about how I got to Madison. I think it’s really important to do that.

I came to Madison first in 1985 as a historic preservation student. I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee, so when I first came here in 1985 I was awestruck with the abundance of architecture here. Madison is, of course, an incredible community that is visually stunning. The natural environment and the built environment all together is a beautiful package.

It just took me. It was one of those places and one of those days that change your life. I realized that I didn’t know if I wanted to live here — I didn’t know much about Madison. But I knew it would somehow be in my life forever, and it has. So, I finished college. I moved around a bit, did an internship out in San Francisco, spent time in New York City, and so forth, and graduated college. I started working with the Tennessee Main Street program as the statewide design consultant, but I kept coming back to Madison, it was always on my mind.

By 1990, we had moved to Madison to be here without jobs and without anything. We just said this is where we want to live. We were in our 20’s, quit jobs in the City, and moved here by choice. We chose a place first, started renovating historic houses, and became part of the community. Over the years, I worked for the Chamber of Commerce, started the Madison Main Street Program, and worked for Historic Madison, Inc. So, I’ve worked with a lot of nonprofits in Madison, but mostly in roles within historic preservation, downtown design, development, and community development. That’s what I’ve done for all these years.

In 2006, I was offered back to Tennessee to direct the Tennessee Main Street program and rebuild the program. We were gone for about seven years from Madison and in 2012 we decided Madison was where we really wanted to be and moved our family back.

When we moved back in 2012, I stumbled on a meeting of artists, of all art forms, trying to form what is now the Madison Area Arts Alliance. They were very grassroots and they sort of embraced me. I fell in love with each and every one of those folks. I loved and admired what they were trying to do for our community.

I am a positive person. I always believe there is a solution. I believe in working with others. I am a leader, but I like to have a strong group with me. I don’t want to be hanging out on a limb by myself. I don’t mind it, but I like to have wonderful people around me to make things happen.

The Madison, Indiana project team for the public arts project.

Maddie: I love hearing you talk about community, because of how your passion comes through. It’s incredible!

Kim: Every community has a hook. Every community, no matter where you are, has those wonderful things that make it unique. For me personally, Madison fits me. It certainly fits me as a human, as a person. It’s important for people to find that place that really sings to their soul. And Madison really does that for me.

Maddie: Why do you love where you live? It’s so obvious that you do, but are there specific things about your community?

Kim: What I love most….a lot of things. If I could really boil it down to a very simplistic way of thinking about it –I love Madison’s spirit. I love the spirit of our community. It’s a rough and rowdy river town. It’s an old town founded in the early 19th century as a river town. If the streets could talk, could you imagine what it would say? There is a cool kind of sophistication. The architecture is plentiful and amazing. It was built in a way that it is in harmony with its surroundings. It’s very beautiful. The spirit of the people reflects that. It’s real. The people are sometimes a little rough. Sometimes they are a little sophisticated. We all live together, the old and the new, the rough and the sophisticated. A lot of acceptance and spirit with it. That’s really what I love. Because of this, it attracts people that are very eclectic. You never know who you’re talking to around here. Maybe they’re famous, or they’ve written fabulous books, or they have a great garden, or — you just never know who you are talking to. That spirit is why I love Madison. It’s always a great surprise.

The opening ceremony for the mural project.
The opening ceremony for the mural project.

Maddie: How has your project impacted the community?

Kim: First off, who in their right mind would start a campaign at the peak of the pandemic. Honestly. We started this thing August 16, 2020. When you think about the lockdown and the quarantine. Our community was so good about behaving. We scheduled [the campaign], it was supposed to start a little bit earlier than that, but we thought, ‘We’ll get through this, through the quarantine, and the lockdown, and then we’ll start.’ It kept going on! In August we decided, let’s do it, everyone is at home, everyone is on social media, everybody is going to maybe listen. We started August 16th and ran through October 16th, 2020. People responded to this. There are many reasons, but I think that they responded because it was a happy thing. It was something that we could have hope for, we could put our efforts towards something other than staying at home and watching TV. It was different. We met our goal very steadily.

We had a captured audience. It was good! It allowed us to be more thoughtful, to write more private notes, and pick up the phone to just check on people. It gave us the opportunity as an organization to make it personal. And people weren’t as busy.

The result. IT is a community and public arts project. A tangible thing that people can touch and see on a daily basis. That was really important. Because people know if you are doing it right, they know if you mess up, they know if you don’t have your logistics worked out. It’s very public. It put a lot of pressure on the project, but we saw encouragement from the neighborhood.

The mural project is in a big parking lot in a pretty disinvested area. People started watching. The neighbors started taking care of the parking lot. There was less trash in the parking lot. Since the project has happened we’ve seen private investment take place across the street. Several buildings have found new owners.

An overhead view of the mural site with the parking lot.

We started seeing that kind of thing happen as a result of the project. I’m not going to say it’s because of the project, but people saw changes and felt encouraged, and investment happened. One of the coolest things is that the City of Madison is now investing in a redesign of that parking lot. They are putting in a lot of investment in re-treeing, re-landscaping, paving, and building areas for selfie stations. Beautiful private investment and public investment. The people love it, the neighbors love it. So many anecdotal stories of people watching the mural since it started in early May. It’s still in the works, but pretty close. We have people that come by every day to check on it. It’s just something else. Part of the success of this was that we were on site everyday. People not only got to see things happen, but they got to meet the artists and see them work everyday.

One of the mural artists waves with a paint brush in hand from the lift during installation.

Maddie: What advice would you give someone interested in building a vibrant community where they live?

Kim: Volunteer! Find something that you feel comfortable talking about or experiencing or something new that you might not be familiar with. Volunteering is the best way. When I first met the Blue Sky team putting together the Madison Area Arts Alliance, I was blown away by what gifts and dreams the artists were bringing to the table.

Never give up. Keep working at something. Have an idea and find others who will encourage you, because ideas are just ideas without action. Volunteer and dream. And find others that can share your dream and make it happen. That has certainly been my experience in this community. Your dreams can come true.

The colorful mural with a patchwork river, as if a quilt.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

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