Funded by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, eight Indianapolis artists created site-specific sound pieces in the Garfield Park neighborhood as part of a public exhibition. Led by Big Car’s sound artist in residence, Oreo Jones, these artists also created a version of the project called LISTEN — highlighting found sounds on Instagram.
On April 7, 2017 more than 500 visitors enjoyed a sonic journey to nine locations along Shelby Street in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Visitors listened to and engaged with these projects highlighting sounds of the city. The commissioned projects came together in partnership with local business owners, some staying open late for the First Friday evening tour and offering space for an extended period of time. In this way, this art project was also supporting neighborhood businesses and driving traffic to their shops — while developing relationships between neighborhood business owners and Indianapolis- and neightoborhood-based artists.
Listen to the sound works here on Listen Hear’s SoundCloud.
The project is mentioned in an article and video in the Washington Post about National Endowment for the Arts funding and organizations in Indiana, like Big Car. It is also discussed in this National Endowment for the Arts podcast.
The tour started at Listen Hear’s sonic travel center — which featured photo and audio documentation of the entire project. There, visitors received a map of sound installations by the following artists:
Jeremy Tubbs — “Payday” at Line Em Up Saloon (bar)
Hanna Benn — “Echoic” at Books Unlimited (used bookstore)
Jessica Kartawich — “Read to Me” at Pen & Pink (book and art store)
Jordan Munson — “Beneath Your Feet, I Will” at Garfield Park Conservatory (indoor garden)
Brian James Priest — “Take a Spin” at Joe’s Cycles (bike shop)
Oreo Jones — “Cash for Gold Reinterpretation” at Cash for Gold (closed check cashing shop, now a gallery)
Sharlene Birdsong — “The Perceptual Exciter” at Car Beauty Center (closed car body shop, to be a small-business culinary incubator)
Mark Tester — “Just Passing Through (Repeaters)” at Indianapolis Public Library, Garfield Park branch
David Moose Adamson — “Moo Moo’s Pepperoni Beat Wheel” at Porky’s Pizza (restaurant)
Led by Oreo Jones, then working as our sound artists in residence (he is now an ongoing staff artist with Big Car), this project was part of our ongoing LISTEN work that highlights found sounds in our city. At the end of 2016, Jones worked with nine artists to create sound art pieces as part of an audio tour of the neighborhood. These pieces, commissioned and curated in 2016, remained in place for various times, depending on their locations (some were in local businesses, others in public spaces) and the individual design. Big Car CEO and lead artist and staff artist Kurt Nettleton also contributed to this project.
We also worked with the eight Indianapolis sound artists on the LISTEN project, placing cards in public places with the word LISTEN stamped on them and recording the sound — leaving the cards behind for others to discover in person or experience on Instagram.
Our work in 2016 and 2017 furthered Big Car’s mission to bring art to people and people to art as it highlighted sound as material for art in a wide range of enjoyable and accessible ways. The work highlighted active listening as an important aspect of the sensory experience in a world often overloaded with noise — sometimes drowning out the beauty of naturally occurring or man-made sounds in our city. We were also able to use sound and music as tools for connecting people with each other socially in our community. And we advanced our work in Garfield Park by providing a unique addition to the revitalization effort with our museum in a commercial building on Shelby Street — launching it as a mainstay along a blossoming First Friday art walk in the neighborhood that is widely embraced by neighbors and drawing visitors from elsewhere (now averaging 500-plus people each month on the walk).
We’re excited that this project continued to elevate sound art, especially in its improvisational and collaborative form, as an important practice in our community. We’re happy to have seen it work so well as a tool for helping people connect with each other socially. The audiences who attended and participated in this work were able to feel enlightened and excited by it. And we were certainly inspired by working with them.
For us, as an organization, we know that keeping things flexible and being able to respond to opportunities is vital when we are working with both the creative community and the community of neighbors and visitors to Shelby Street, where Listen Hear is located. It happens to be right next to Compassion Center, a free soup kitchen for people struggling to make ends meet. In the mix of everything else in 2016, Jones began making recordings and working with the patrons of the Compassion Center.
We see projects like this and our work connecting with young people and neighbors on the radio station as growing out of our experiences this year made possible, in part, by the support of our NEA Art Works grant for this project.