Passion Project

Giving a voice and place for all artists

Since opening in 2019, Howard Park has become a destination in downtown South Bend with a bustling playground and water feature in the summer and a one-of-a-kind ice trail and pond in the winter. The Howard Park Event Center is no different, seeing an uptick in corporate speaking events, birthdays and reunions, and fitness classes.  

Within the hub of all things events, you’ll find Howard Park Event Center Manager, Danica Kulemeka busy tending to the next event, big or small. What already has become a beacon of innovation in downtown is quickly becoming the place for highlighting diversity and inclusion in the art world, thanks to Kulemeka and her passion. The infusion of art is only just the beginning. 

Q: You recently held the first art showcase at Howard Park. How did the “Entwined: Storytelling Through Fiber Art” show come to fruition?  

A: I saw an art show at the Art Institute of Chicago featuring Bisa Butler and her fiber arts. It was interesting to see the range of what form Fiber Arts can come in, from macramé to portraits through quilting and clothing. It inspired me to think – is there anyone that does this locally? I knew I wanted it to also showcase under-represented people, focusing on women. There were five artists that were willing to be a part of it, and it took off from there. 

Q: Do you feel there is a disparity for artists, specifically women or minorities? 

A: Yes. A recent study I read highlights that major art museums in the US have collections that are by 87% male, who are 85% white. It’s fairly staggering nationally, so I want to do what I can locally to help give a voice and a place for all artists. 

Q: What has sparked infusing art into this space and hosting these new type of showcase events? 

A: I have a background in art, so it’s my primary passion. When taking on this position, my focus and goals for the space were to highlight various forms of art within it, but also to infuse an educational aspect. As of now, we’ve hosted Latin Dance nights, Yoga Sessions with drums…I want Howard Park to be a park of arts whether that’s visual, performing, musical, etc.  

Q: Why is it important for you to bridge the gap between art and the community?  

A: Not only does it bring value to the community, it brings beauty to spaces around the city and sparks those important conversations. Art can inform us of what’s happening in our world, and more importantly, can open up a dialogue about social movements in a way that maintains sensitivity and provides a level playing field. 

Q: What’s the next big idea for art showcases at HP that we can look forward to? 

A: I want to make sure we can create sustainable programming and in turn, offer it within all our spaces. I’d love to see us work together to have special art pieces within the MLK Center and the Charles Black Center. As for the next show at Howard, I’m working towards the idea of showcasing street art, and also finding more LGBTQ+ artists who are within South Bend.  For me, it’s all about inclusivity. I’m willing to put in the work to give a platform for those who may never get the opportunity.  

Lightning Round with Danica:

Favorite place to get inspiration? “Rum Village trails. Especially in the fall just before the leaves have fallen. You can get lost in their beauty.”

Favorite art show recently seen? “Bisa Butler at the Art Institute in Chicago. She inspired me to host the first show at Howard Park called ‘Entwined.’ Her work is memorable and incredibly moving.”

Favorite beverage to sip on during a show? “Depending on the show, I enjoy a gin and tonic. It’s refreshing and light, but subtle enough to not interrupt the senses.”