As Bloomington arts director for eight years, Miah Michaelsen worked with artists, entertainers, public works people, neighborhoods and public safety officials.
“It was critical that you understood how the city operated,” Michaelsen said.
Now Michaelsen, 57, is running for Bloomington City Council’s District 4 seat. If elected, Michaelsen said she would focus on affordable housing, prioritizing the well-being of neighborhoods and small businesses, improving infrastructure and bolstering the Bloomington’s arts community.
Michaelsen said as a former city worker, she understands how policies and legislation passed in city council affect city employees. She said she would carefully approach adding responsibilities to city worker’s plates because she has experienced the heavy workload they already have.
Michaelsen has worked in the arts her whole life, starting out in acting and then spending much of her professional career in arts management. She and her family have lived in Bloomington for 14 years, and she is currently deputy director for the Indiana Arts Commission.
She said she supports the city’s focus on forming a tech industry in Bloomington but wants the arts community to be allowed to work alongside the tech industry. Michaelsen wants artists to have a collaborative space, like the newly opened Dimension Mill that houses tech startups.
“I’d like to see a little more cross-pollination between both,” Michaelsen said.
Danise Alano-Martin, former city director of economic and sustainable development, said Michaelsen is not only passionate about the arts but also has a sophisticated view on economic development.
“She understands how that cultural identity can really help with the economic prosperity of the city,” Alano-Martin said.
Effects of future development, such as the IU Health Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center being built along the 45/46 bypass, is another main focus of Michaelsen’s. Although the new hospital will not be in District 4, which includes much of the southeast side of Bloomington, traffic from the new hospital will affect everyone, she said.
“It will definitely change how the city feels and how infrastructure works,” Michaelsen said.
Michaelsen said bettering communication between entities such as the city, county, IU and the state through joint committees will be key to reducing negative effects of new developments for Bloomington residents.
With regard to climate change, Michaelsen said she believes there are some easy things Bloomington can do be more environmentally friendly, including replacing all street lights with LED lights.
Public transit, on the other hand, may need some more extensive planning, she said.
“We’re going to have to get creative about getting people excited about using certain modes of transit,” Michaelsen said.
Lisa Abbott, former city director of housing and neighborhood development, said Michaelsen is an original thinker and responsive to people’s needs.
“I think our world is changing and we need to think outside the box,” Abbott said.
To Michaelsen, creative approaches are key to solving Bloomington’s issues because of the limitations the city faces with a conservative state legislature.
“We don’t have the tools that a lot of other progressive cities have,” Michaelsen said. “Our hands are in a lot of ways tied because of the state government.”
Michaelsen, whose son is a freshman at IU, is learning more about the issues students face through his experience.
“I get an earful from him, and that’s really helpful,” Michaelsen said.