About Garfield Park Creative Community
Art, culture, and creativity are powerful drivers for inclusive and equitable artist-led community development. As part of Big Car’s ongoing work in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of Downtown, our team works closely with the South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan, Garfield Park Neighbors Association, and residents of all backgrounds to help revitalize this area along the Shelby Street corridor between bustling Fountain Square and the University of Indianapolis.
History of Garfield Park
The Garfield Park area includes a combination of the city’s oldest park and a mixture of stable blocks of mixed-income homes and other blocks – divided from the park by busy Shelby Street – that struggle with crime, vacancy, blight, and issues related to poverty. With most of Big Car’s staff artists living and working in the southeast area, we’re dedicated as neighbors to helping improve the quality of life for all people in this often-overlooked part of the city that also suffered from I-65 slicing through it in the early 1970s.
With our Garfield Park Creative Community Project, which continues as the top priority of our ongoing work, our major objective is to collaborate with neighbors and other partners to accomplish these goals:
- The neighborhood enjoys a higher quality of life, is safer, few buildings sit vacant, people of all backgrounds feel better connected to this place and their neighbors (both physically and socially), and children and adults enjoy more opportunities to succeed.
- The neighborhood is a walkable village (also easily accessible by mass transit) where small businesses thrive, employ and serve neighbors, and draw customers from all over the city.
- People outside of the Garfield Park neighborhood have more positive attitudes about this area and neighbors on all blocks (both east and west of Shelby Street) enjoy an elevated level of pride and involvement.
- Art and creativity are integral to the culture of the Garfield Park community and artists view the neighborhood as their long-term home. Plus, residents feel positive about artists in the community.
To do this, we’re taking a four-prong approach: Opening a large community art space in a neighborhood, a sound art space with a community radio station on the Shelby Street commercial corridor, affordable artist housing, and advocacy for a safer and more walkable village.
So far, we have purchased and renovated a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing building called Tube Factory artspace as the anchor for our work. This previously vacant facility built for use by a dairy in 1908 is a workshop and hub for our citywide placemaking work, a socially engaged art lab, and a space for contemporary exhibitions from local and national artists focused on place, and a large room for community meetings and cultural events. It opened in May of 2016.
Additionally, we have fixed up a storefront building on nearby Shelby Street to house Listen Hear, a sound art space with a community radio station (WQRT 99.1), gallery, and listening room. This space, previously located on the west side, moved to Garfield Park and opened in April of 2016.
Big Car and Riley Area Development Corporation – inspired, in part, by Project ROW Houses in Houston – are also transforming empty houses surrounding The Tube, which will turn into affordable living-working homes for artists. Boarded up homes will soon become an asset to the neighborhood with involved artists supporting the community and helping make a difference. We are working hard in partnership with the City of Indianapolis and neighborhood groups to work in hands-on ways and advocate for a safer, more walkable, and connected neighborhood for all.
Check out additional excellent coverage of the project in The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Business Journal, NUVO Newsweekly, on WRTV6, in the Southside Times, in No Mean City and in The Urban Times.
In order to make this project transformational for the neighborhood and help the city as a whole, we continue to raise funds to support these projects and our placemaking work in other neighborhoods and areas of the city. People interested in donating can do so here.