Pictured after deinstall of Carlos Rolón/Dzine:50 GRAND, left to right: Jim Bayse, Anna Hopkins and Brose Partington.
Driving home from my first interview at The Tube Factory last fall I remember that the sky was spectacular. It had been pouring all day but for some reason the storm decided to take a break just at sunset. Fading rays of light brilliantly outlined the inky black storm clouds in bright orange and both the slick highway and glassy windows of downtown reflected the golden hues from above, washing everything in an amber haze. I spent countless nights in high school watching storms roll by from my porch and I’d stare into them for hours, wondering what on earth I was going to do with my life. I knew that I had passions- for art and creativity, for helping those around me, for building better communities. But I had no idea how to translate that into a career path. Most nights my muddled thoughts would fade into the darkness of the passing storm and I’d convince myself that surely someday I would end up somewhere that I loved, where my passions could be put into practice, where I could envision a future of opportunity and growth. Looking into the clouds from my car that evening, it suddenly struck me that maybe this internship was going to be one of those somewheres.
Over the course of my (nearly) 3 ½ month experience, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work on multiple projects. Some of these included helping with kids art classes, photographing events, editing some video footage, documenting books that were to be sent oversees as part of an exhibition, planning my own fiber event at the Tube Factory, working on getting the tool library project started again, painting tabletops for a new playground at Emma Donnan Middle School, assisting with the de-install of a gallery show, running the Wagon of Wonders at the Indiana State Fair, and even lending my hand in the garden out back or the shop downstairs to paint bocce ball courts for a day. Each of these experiences taught me not only practical knowledge, such as the basics of video editing software or how to advertise an event, but also strengthened my interpersonal skills as I learned to work and communicate with my fellow interns, the Big Car staff, members of the community, and children who came for classes.
Out of all those things the two which I did most consistently were photograph events at the Tube Factory or elsewhere and assist with art classes for students from the Boys and Girls Club. Since I am minoring in Studio Art at Indiana University (my major is Nonprofit Management) I really loved getting to do hands on art projects. One of the classes I even had the chance to lead independently, a class on making nonrepresentational self-portraits (all credit for the lesson plan goes to Jordan, however!). As the kids worked I walked around to help them with their projects or listen as they explained to me why they chose the images they did to represent themselves. On other days I got to make up examples of the project we would be doing that week like crayon melting on canvas or drawing zentangles and mandalas. I also spent a lot of time with my camera. Some of the events I got to take pictures of were First Fridays, a podcast listening party, the 50 GRAND exhibition, the building of a rain garden at City Market, and a painting class with Innocente, a visiting artist. Afterwards I would edit my images and put them on the Big Car Flickr page for the public to see. Most events were also photographed by Big Car’s wonderful professional photographer which gave me the opportunity to experiment with my shooting and try new things without having to worry about getting the perfect shot.
I think one of the most valuable aspects of being involved with Big Car that I noticed this summer was being able to witness firsthand how a nonprofit functions. Everyone on the staff very much had their own role, their little niche within the organization. The weekly staff meetings brought everyone together so that information from the past seven days could be shared and analyzed, while upcoming events could be planned for and tasks could be delegated. Despite the fact that I rarely had anything to contribute, sitting in on these meetings was a fascinating experience, as I learned communication, hard work, and passion were really the propelling forces at the heart of Big Car- and probably most other nonprofits for that matter. It never ceased to amaze me how much a single group of people could get done week after week or how big of an impact this little arts nonprofit could have on the community. Now granted maybe my perspective as an intern was unique because I wasn’t subject to the same stresses that many of the “real” staff members were, but I always felt very honored and inspired to be working with such motivated and creative individuals every day.
If you are someone who happened upon this post because you are thinking of getting involved at the Tube Factory or with Big Car in general, I would whole heartedly encourage you to do so. In times like today when technology seems to be diminishing our need for genuine human connectedness, community building organizations like this one are invaluable. I saw this many times over this summer- in the brilliant eyes of kids as they sprinkled sparkles over their Wednesday art class masterpieces, in the smile of a wizened, gentle grandmother who helped her granddaughters address postcards at the Wagon of Wonders, on the rapt faces of a captivated audience watching a First Friday boxing match. I could go on, but I don’t want you to take my word for it- go see for yourself. Interning with Big Car has opened my eyes to so many opportunities and has offered me so much clarity in what I want to do with my future endeavors. Though I’m sure this will only be the first of many internships in my college career, it is one that I will not soon forget.