Ronni Kloth might have ended up anywhere. With a Harvard degree and a liberal arts mindset about the world as an interconnected place, she moved cross country to Silicon Valley. As an inaugural participant of Intuit’s leadership development program, her job changed every six months. While she learned invaluable lessons about management and innovation, she found her heart wasn’t fully in it. The nonprofit sector was calling.
On a whim, Kloth applied for a position as Chief of Staff for Teach for America, and to her surprise, landed the job. Soon, she was packing her bags and heading back to the east coast to New York City for a seven year stint with the organization. It was an important move on many fronts–the opportunities to lead were many, it solidified her career in the nonprofit sector, and she met her future husband.
It was her husband’s career that moved the Kloth’s to Indianapolis for what both presumed would be a pit stop on their journey. Instead, they fell in love with the city and realized this was the perfect place to raise a family, build their careers, and make a difference. Once they decided to put roots down, Kloth transitioned from remote work with Teach for America to her current role as Program Director in the Community Development division at Lilly Endowment.
Her nomination for ELEVATE’s Innovator of the Year award center around her recent work on the Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts And Cultural Innovation initiative, a $25 million competition for the next big ideas in arts. Kloth said: “Our charge is to enhance the quality of life for all residents in Indianapolis. We believe arts and culture have a unique role to play—a cue we take from our founders, who wrote beautifully about the importance of arts. This initiative was our way of asking the community to dream big.”
Due to the quality of the ideas submitted for the competition, the Endowment’s board nearly doubled its initial commitment of $25 million to nearly $49 million. The resulting projects offer plenty of fun and creative art installations and experiences, but also address important issues of equity, access, and neighborhood development. In the coming years, this means new arts districts in multiple areas of the city, including the Fort Ben campus in Lawrence, 10th East Street, and Cruft Street Commons. Two city parks get major upgrades, including opening up a whole new section of Eagle Creek Park with its first ever ADA accessible trails and the revival of the Taggert Memorial with new outdoor theater at Riverside. The outcomes will have a ripple effect on our city for generations to come.
Kloth’s nominator said: “Ronni is a powerful force, often behind the scenes. She provided thoughtful leadership and creative approaches as she was designing this initiative with her colleagues at the Endowment. She would never seek out or ask for recognition, but rather quietly works her magic.”
Considering her journey from coast to coast, and back again, we’re glad this innovator chose to work her magic in Indianapolis. Congratulations on your nomination, Ronni!