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New Initiative Strives to Encourage Creativity in Fort Wayne

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Photo credit: Josh Vongunten

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Written by: Mikaela ConleySeptember 21, 2017

Josh VonGunten is trying to make Fort Wayne a better place.

VonGunten, a Fort Wayne native, said he used to think he would never want to live in Fort Wayne. He got his bachelor’s degree in visual communication from Ball State and moved to the Washington D.C. area, then, started traveling to Portland Ore., for a master’s program. This made him want to not be in the Midwest even more. However, he said, he quickly realized how proud people in Portland were of where they live and that creativity happens in a city by choice.

And so, last October, VonGunten made that choice and launched the Fort Wayne Rising website.

“The foundation of why we started this Fort Wayne Rising project was that we wanted a platform or voice to very simply say, ‘We think this city is great and can be amazing, and we are going to start to make things that express that and we want to celebrate other people who a

re doing creative work,’” he said.

The majority of social media posts on the Fort Wayne Rising Instagram and Facebook are celebrating what other locals are doing, he said.

VonGunten designs and sells t-shirts, glasses, and stickers at fwrising.com. He hopes to start doing pop-up shops; sponsoring events, and just having more of a positive physical presence in the community next year.

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“I also keep T-shirts and hats and stickers with me and so when I see an artist or a local creative doing something or making something a lot of times I will give them a shirt and say, ‘Hey this is what we are here to celebrate, you’re making Fort Wayne a better place, we want to give you this so you feel even better about your city and excited about what we are becoming,” he said.

VonGunten said he sees the process of rising as a never-ending, continuous motion or movement, hence the name Fort Wayne Rising.

“There isn’t an arrival that we are going to have, there’s always going to be a need to grow or improve,” he said. “Rising captures building, it captures growth, and it captures maturity, and even beauty, like something becoming what it was made to be,” he said.

VonGunten doesnt’t spend all of his time selling Fort Wayne merch, though. His master’s degree program was in leadership and seminary, and he is a pastor at Northeast Church. But, he said he sees the message of both locations to be very similar.

“In both settings what we are communicating is a message that’s really affirming of creativity and making Fort Wayne a better place,” he said.

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VonGunten  wants to continue to spread this message and is optimistic about the future of Fort Wayne.

“With all of the downtown development, riverfront development and local food taking off, there’s definitely a sense in the air that something is happening here, and it’s for the better,” he said.