Public Practice Projects

getting creative to engage people & help communities

As an artist-operated grassroots nonprofit arts organization and collective, Big Car Collaborative sparks artistic ideas and initiatives that help strengthen communities. As a group of artists and creative thinkers working together, we explore – through public and social practice art – the notions of people and place that connect us all. We enjoy collaborating with artists and all people from our local communities in Indiana and from around the world.

The photo above is from Learning About the World at the Grocery Store, a collaboration with Harrell Fletcher in 2011.

What is social practice art?

Big Car’s focus is on an innovative and relevant kind of community-based art, called social practice or socially engaged art, that brings people together to make small and big things happen. These projects focus on social experiences, on people and process and not as much on products. This work invites people to participate no matter what kind of skill level they have as artists. This is an art of activity and ideas. So, ultimately, the art in social practice is really found in cooking up experiences that are collaborative and interactive and may have a positive impact for people.

Social practice almost always directly involves people who may not identify themselves as artists. This can help break down the wall between artist and audience and can help encourage more people to be creative. Socially engaged art is often about empathy and connection with other people. And projects often start with identifying topics, issues, concerns or problems. And then artists connect with the public on creative approaches to helping address these things. Social practice shares much in common with sociology, anthropology, marketing, design, journalism, theater, and other performing arts. In visual arts, past influences include Dada, surrealism, Fluxus, happenings, relational art. This 2013 article in the New York Times helps explain and set context. See examples of Big Car led social practice projects below.

Far Eastside Projects (46235)


The photo above is of our 2014 project and space, Galería Magnífica, in a grocery store in a struggling area of the city.

On Jan. 20, 2014 we launched our latest project blending art and community on the Far Eastside, opening Galería Magnífica inside Superior Market and Taquería at 3702 N. Mitthoefer Rd. The gallery is open during all of the supermarket’s regular hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) The work in the first exhibit features collaborative art created last summer and fall by young people who participated in Fun Fleet, Big Car’s partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library. Fun Fleet brought both the library’s Bookmobile and Big Car teaching artists who worked with kids at apartment complexes each week in the Far Eastside area. The space always offers the free opportunity for people to participate in making art. Its focus will be on art connected to the culture, community, and creativity of the people on the Far Eastside.

Check out coverage in the Indianapolis Star and Sky Blue Window, and a video of the transformation of the space. Galería Magnífica is one component of a Big Car’s ongoing effort to boost the Far Eastside (zip code 46235) with creativity and placemaking efforts. Supporters of the 46235 Project include The Glick Fund, Steve & Livia Russell, Ursula David, Green BEAN Delivery, Georgetown Market, Hamilton Exhibits, Howard L. Schrott, Diana Mutz, & Charles Stanton.

Service Center for Contemporary Culture and Community

About Big Car and Service Center (2 min) from Big Car on Vimeo.

Open since May of 2011, Service Center is dedicated to improving the Lafayette Square neighborhood of Indianapolis and reaching people all around the city. In its first year, more than 10,000 visitors enjoyed helping Service Center become a grassroots hub for art, culture, education, health, and inclusion in the heart of Indianapolis. Service Center — run by Big Car — is a shared space, housing performances and programs by various other arts and community groups. Follow Service Center on Facebook here.

Check out this excellent national coverage in The Atlantic Cities here and Idiom here. See detailed coverage of Big Car and Service Center in the Indianapolis Business Journal here. Also read an excellent story from the Central Indiana Community Foundation about Service Center and Big Car here and another by Indiana Humanities here. Read the original Service Center press release here.

You can support the future of Service Center by clicking on the donate button on this website or by mailing a tax-deductible donation via check payable to Big Car at 615 N. Alabama St. #119 Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Big Car Service Center Garden from Craftedspoon on Vimeo.

Made for Each Other and Public Projects (mostly 2008-2010)

Big Car public projects from Big Car on Vimeo.

In this social-practice public-art initiative, Big Car engages neighbors in the planning, creating and celebration community-building projects — bridging gaps between art, artists, art institutions and other large institutions and residents of Indianapolis as a way to creatively improve the quality of life for all. The artwork is inclusive, interactive, thought provoking and dynamic.

NUVO’s David Hoppe had these great things to say in his Best of 2010 article about Big Car’s Made for Each Other program. To summarize, he wrote: “(In 2010) Made For Each Other instigated performances, shows, arts actions and other events at a variety of locations not always associated with the arts. In every case, the point was to show how art and artists could connect with people who tend to say that art is for somebody else, engaging these folks in the actual creation of works dealing with where they live. For once Indianapolis appears to be ahead of an arts-related curve. (MFEO’s) emphasis on making a variety of neighborhoods partners and participants in creating works of art shows the way to what could be the Next Big Thing in the arts here: A socially engaged approach that takes the emphasis off of support for artists in favor of putting artists to work in the revitalization of neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Read extended coverage of MFEO in NUVO here.

With Made for Each Other, we’re taking art to community locations in neighborhoods — even establishing spaces we’re calling Community Creativity Labs in these neighborhoods. Our first has opened in the Moon Block building at 10th and Rural. Here, the target audience is neighbors from the immediate area first and then lovers of art and community building at large.

The social nature of these projects directly connects members of the community with the final product. The work located in each community is about these communities in authentic ways and is based on ideas and input from neighbors engaged in the communities. And the community is part of the creation and celebration of the projects. So they really care about and feel ownership in what’s going on in their spaces.

Download and read the Made for Each Other project press release here.
Download and read the full Made for Each Other project proposal here.

Community-based mural projects

In October of 2013, Big Car led several projects as part of Indy Do Day. This video shows highlights. Most were located on the south side of Downtown with one in the Near Eastside neighborhood.

Indy Do Day 2013 Creative Projects: Serving Indy Together. from Big Car on Vimeo.

Dec. 1, 2012: Garfield Park neighborhood gateway designed by Big Car with input and volunteer support of residents. Funded by a grant by Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful.

Welcome to Garfield Park from Big Car on Vimeo.

Oct. 12, 2012: Lilly Day of Service Murals created by Lilly employees and facilitated by Big Car staff. Work is based on paintings by cancer patients or their families as part of the Lilly Oncology on Canvas Program.

Lilly Day of Service + Big Car = Mural Awesomeness from Big Car on Vimeo.


Outside/In takes Big Car Collective artists to different cities and small towns to do shows created in those locations about those locations and the people and stories there.

Download and read more about the project here.

Video and images from Outside/In in Iowa City, Iowa – May, 2009:

Images from Outside/In Bloomington, Ind. – October, 2008