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Lilly Endowment grants $3 million for Cruft Street Commons

Lilly Endowment grants $3 million for Cruft Street Commons

On Dec. 5, Lilly Endowment shared news of $48 million in grants for 17 projects as part of its Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative. Designed to “encourage community building and celebrate creativity,” this one-time competitive grant program supports a broad swath of projects and initiatives across the city — including $3 million toward Big Car Collaborative’s ongoing efforts to support its home block just south of Garfield Park on the near southside.

Big Car CEO and lead artist Jim Walker explains the project this way: “Cruft Street Commons is a collaborative effort to develop a socially cohesive, culturally focused city block where artists and other leaders work together to support stronger communities across Indianapolis. We’ll bring people together to build social cohesion and address civic and community challenges in our city.”

The $3 million will make it possible for Big Car to work in partnership with Central Indiana Community Foundation and several others to:

  • Renovate four vacant houses as affordable rentals for artists (three on Nelson Ave. and one on Cruft Street)
  • Repurpose a vacant 40,000 square-foot former factory behind Tube Factory artspace for studios, exhibition space, performances, and other public programming
  • Complete a public gathering area in the greenspace between Big Car artist housing on Cruft Street, Tube Factory, and the large building to be renovated
  • Work with partners including South Indianapolis Quality of Life and The Learning Tree to support social cohesion in neighborhoods through social art strategies
  • Team up with Indiana University Public Policy Institute (IU PPI) on data tracking, evaluation, real-time feedback, and short and long-term strategy
  • Document the project and community impact with, video, photos, and stories that will be shared online and Big Car’s communityradio station, WQRT, along the way.

Other partners on the project include: Garfield Park Neighbors Association, Bean Creek Neighborhood Association, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, Riley Area Development, University of Indianapolis, Solful Gardens, the City of Indianapolis, Rundell Ernstberger, Deylen Realty, Blackline Studio, and Pattern.

More about Cruft Street Commons

As the project develops this group of artists and leaders working and living in this micro community will focus on supporting this currently challenged block located in the Garfield Park neighborhood, the near southside, and neighborhoods around Indianapolis. This ongoing and consistent work will focus on inclusive, informal arts practices that share the joy of creative expression in engaging ways, bring citizens together, and boost quality of life for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Cruft Street Commons builds on $2 million-plus in public and private investment already on the block at Tube Factory (home of a community gathering and exhibition space and workshop), sound art gallery Listen Hear (home of Big Car’s FCC-licensed FM radio station), and the fully funded affordable homeownership program on Cruft Street in partnership with Riley and INHP.

With this next phase, Big Car teams up with experienced and dedicated partners to create a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable micro-community that supports equitable, collaborative, and positive macro-level change throughout the city. This plan is what Australian scientist Bill Mollison would call “social permaculture” and what sociologist Eric Klinenberg calls “social infrastructure.” Big Car, an artist-led organization founded in 2004, is saving and repurposing visible structures — buildings and outdoor gathering spaces — to develop equitable and inclusive social infrastructure.

Cruft Street Commons is located less than a block away from Garfield Park, a new Red Line station and an existing BlueIndy electric car share hub. Its location offers a bike-friendly route to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail in Fountain Square via Pleasant Run trail 1.5 miles to the north and a quick trip to the University of Indianapolis 1.5 miles to the south. Cruft Street Commons is located within overlapping neighborhood boundaries. One is the well-organized Garfield Park neighborhood adjacent to the city park full of amenities. And the other is Bean Creek — a community making great strides despite challenges as a low-income neighborhood.

On this uniquely mixed-use block between Shelby Street and I-65 and bordered by Cruft Street and Nelson Avenue, Big Car enjoys a rare opportunity to repurpose and build an equitable, inclusive pocket community that will serve as a sustainable and affordable catalystfor quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods, the southside, and around the city — while avoiding displacement.

“We’ll secure long-term affordability for artists while supporting neighbors in staying to enjoy a socially cohesive block,” said Walker.

This happens, in part, by establishing bonds between new and existing neighbors. “What drives us from places is the lack of connection to others. It is in connection that we build safe, functional, cities,” psychologist Mindy Thompson Fullilove wrote in her 2013 book, Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities.

This idea directly addresses primary goals in the South Indianapolis (So Indy) Quality of Life Plan created by residents in eight southside neighborhoods, including Bean Creek and Garfield Park. Certified by the City in 2017, the plan is now in its implementation stage with full-time staff and neighbors leading the way. Related So Indy goals include increasing mixed-use and quality rental housing, boosting job opportunities with an emphasis on trades, focusing on healthy food and gardens, increasing small businesses, and fostering social connectivity with affordable public programs.

“We’ve been closely involved in this from the start and serve as So Indy’s convener and umbrella organization. We’re very dedicated to supporting its work in the southside community,” Walker said. “And, together with So Indy, we’re dedicated to equitable and inclusive community development with thoughtful approaches to keeping existing neighbors involved and informed. And we’re working hard to avoid displacement while building an even more diverse and resilient community on the south side.”

Another key component of the Cruft Street Commons project is providing Indianapolis artists and owners of creative businesses a long-term home neighborhood they can afford — one directly owned by a nonprofit committed to keeping rent prices low for residential and studio space. After Fountain Square’s Wheeler Arts Community went market rate in 2017, Indianapolis no longer offered any affordable housing specifically for artists. And, due to market forces, artists and creative small businesses like galleries have moved from neighborhoods they once sparked with energy.

This cultural migration and disbursement not only makes things difficult for the artists; it also alters the authenticity, quirkiness, and cultural vibrancy of neighborhoods like Mass Ave and Fountain Square — the very kind of quality places that help Indianapolis retain young talent, a key issue according to studies by the IU Public Policy Institute. Data from its 2015 Thriving Communities Thriving State report shows that Indianapolis has been losing residents for 15 years, with 10,000 people leaving Marion County in 2015 alone.

Continuous displacement of those in the creative industry has the potential to increase the net out-migration. That’s why IU PPI emphasizes the importance of finding sustainable solutions to retaining talent. Several of the report’s suggested steps resonate with our strategies here. The report’s overarching recommendation for quality of place in Indianapolis: “Ensure adequate resources to preserve our heritage, develop amenities, and create unique places in a way that promotes a high quality of life.”

Building a place for artists and community

This multifaceted project is an expansion of Big Car’s existing work — also on the same block — that includes five affordable artist-owned homes developed as the Artist and Public Life Residency (APLR) in partnership with Riley Area Development and supported by INHP. The APLR project — which will begin taking a second round of applications soon — is fully funded and artists will occupy homes in 2019.

Cruft Street Commons is linked directly with APLR as well as our program with two existing artist residency houses Big Car owns and manages separately on Cruft Street. These houses, currently occupied by short- and long-term artists in residence — border the green space thatincludes our community gardenand chicken coops.

The greenspace is also home tothe Indianapolis Bee Sanctuary, a public art and ecology project created by St. Louis artist Juan William Chávez and the Big Car team. Big Car has hosted several artists in its short-term residency program and four in our one-year residency program in these houses since 2016. And the two houses have both been utilized for exhibitions and other cultural programming — both inside the houses and in the greenspace. Artists who purchase affordable houses in the partnership with Riley or live in or visit Big Car’s affordable rental or residency houses on the block will be engaged in neighborhood cultural work through the same program as the Cruft Street Commons studio and home renters.

As part of building common spaces for artists, neighbors, and visitors, Big Car is also renovating additional flexible programmatic and community space. This includes 20-25 flexible art studios at the 44,000-square-foot second former Tube Processing factory building along Nelson Avenue. This building is located directly behind our short-term residency houses and just southeast of Big Car’s existing community and cultural space, Tube Factory. In addition to these long-term affordable artist studios (something our city is lacking due to changes in neighborhoods like Fountain Square), Big Car plans to add exhibition space, a flex black-box performance and event area, office space for creative/cultural nonprofits, shared shop and repair area, and additional community workshop space.

Cruft Street Commons residents will receive access to shared resources and performance space. Artists and nonprofits in the discounted studios and office space will also be involved as part of the team working in support of the community.

Polina Osherov, executive director and editor in chief of Pattern — a cultural and economic development nonprofit that works to retain talent and support creatives in Indianapolis and a partner as a potential tenant in the studio space — has been seeking a long-term home for 10 years. Pattern also conducted citywide research and determined a strong need for space for artists and entrepreneurs when it was launching a maker space. “There’s huge pent-up demand for creative space in Indianapolis for artists,” Osherov said. “I have first-hand experience through surveys and talking with many many members of the community about the need for space. One of the challenges we face is financial. We don’t see more artists forming clusters of communities because they can’t afford it.”

Osherov sees ownership of Cruft Street Commons by a nonprofit as vital to long-term security for artists and organizations often pushed out of space. “The interests that developers have and the interests that a nonprofit organization like Big Car have are quite divergent. Big Car wants to support artists and keep them in place and allow them opportunities to grow and for the community to grow. Developers want to make money. So when the opportunity arises to make more, the artists fall by the wayside.”

Brian Payne, president and CEO of CICF, agrees that creating a sustainable home for artists is vital for Indianapolis and a crucial element of what draws CICF to Cruft Street Commons. “We’ve always been very aware that artist major catalysts for neighborhoods. And when neighborhoods make progress, artists get rushed out, get displaced. This project is a way for artists to stay in place and be part of a neighborhood for the long term and even build equity and personal financial stability.”

Drew Klacik, senior policy analyst with IU PPI — the evaluation partner on Cruft Street Commons — sees strength in keeping artists in place while also supporting existing residents. “Another really important element of this project is that intersection between art, artists, community and creating great neighborhood cohesion and sustainability,” he said. “One thing that makes this effort so interesting is how can we — with a combination of art, artists, and community — help everyone raise their level without actually driving folks out of the community. So the focus is on enabling a capacity building within the neighborhood — strengthening the neighborhood and its original residents.”

Artists in support of public life 

As part of the program, Big Car will ask artist and community leader residents — all of whom receive discounted, below market-value housing, studios, and access to shared resources and spaces — to get involved as part of a bigger civilian service corps teaming up with community members to work as problem solvers and community connectors/builders for stronger social cohesion. This structure for artists supporting the community, already part of our artist homeownership program, will also be linked to a shared-equity rent program. This will allow artist renters to take some money with them — possibly for down payment on a home or other uses — when they move out of the program.

The civilian service corps exchange is something residents selected for the program will formally agree to do (with shared equity dollars linked to participation).

“We’re confident the artist residents will want to do this and will consider it a key component to their practices. We’ll help ensure this by utilizing a selection process like the one for the first round of the homeownership program on Cruft Street. With this, we sought residents who consider community collaboration vital to their work. We know there’s interest in this idea as we had 66 artists reach out, 45 apply, and 14 complete the full process,” Walker said. “When we interviewed artists during the process, they told us that they didn’t view the requirement of giving back 16 hours to the community each month as a potential burden. In fact, they said that being part of this effort was a big part of what attracted them to the program.”

Building community through art   

With the South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan’s goals and broader societal and civic challenges in mind, Big Car is building Cruft Street Commons as a sort of micro cohousing community with arts-based social connectivity as its core mission. Cohousing communities are places found around the world where neighbors know each other, enjoy common spaces, and work together on shared goals.

“Functioning much like traditional villages, Cruft Street Commons will build on innovations from cohousing projects in the United States and Europe that we’ve studied,” Walker said. “We see cohousing — with its shared common spaces and regular opportunities for social interaction — as a powerful way to address how modern city design and changing lifestyles have led to isolation and a resulting decline in quality of life.”

As sociologist Robert Putnam shared in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone, almost half of Americans say they have no one, or just one person in whom they can confide. “Social isolation just may be the greatest environmental hazard of city living,” Charles Montgomery wrote in his 2013 book Happy City,an examination of the impact of social cohesion on happiness. “The more connected we are with family and community the less likely we are to experience colds, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and depression.” He also shared that, if 10 percent of Americans had someone to count on in life, this would have a greater effect on national life satisfaction than giving everyone a 50 percent raise.

It is well worth noting that Indianapolis ranks 133rd of 186 cities in the 2017 Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the leading study of American happiness and health. “In response to the challenges caused by unhappiness and social disconnect in our home city, we’re building this pocket neighborhood to promote social cohesion for those who will live and work there, all neighbors, the broader community, and visitors from anywhere,” Walker said.

Cruft Street Commons will foster sense of place, prioritize people over cars, and share resources like lawn mowers, appliances, and tools among artists in the program and other neighbors as well. Like other cohousing communities Big Car has studied, this will be a place where people care about each other and shared physical spaces — and support neighbors.

Regular community meals, shared workshop and gathering space, and community collaborations will help incubate ideas and form ongoing bonds and collaborations between artists living and working here. Cruft Street Commons will feature outdoor and indoor spaces where neighbors connect with each other spontaneously or at planned activities like shared meals at Tube Factory — already a central civic commons for the southside and broader community.

“Connecting neighbors through meals and other approaches to community engagement is crucial to quality of life and individual happiness. And we’ll start on our block and bring this kind of approach, with leadership from the community of artists, to neighborhoods across the south side and the entire city,” Walker said.

“People who say they feel that they ‘belong’ in their community are happier than those who do not,” Montgomery wrote in Happy City. “And people who trust their neighbors feel a greater sense of that belonging. And that sense of belonging is influenced by social contact. And casual encounters are just as important to belonging and trust as contact with family and close friends.”

Dan Buettner, author of the 2017 book The Blue Zones of Happiness, is an expert on places where people live long and happy lives. In the early 2000s, he began studying “Blue Zones,” areas of the world where a high percentage of people live to be more than 100 years old. His book, published in 2009, shares that a cornerstone of a long and healthy life is living in a happy, socially connected way. And he writes that communities can be retrofitted to encourage happiness and social cohesion. Combined with other factors, such as encouraging healthy eating and activities like walking and biking, Buettner believes creating mini “Blue Zones” is a realistic approach to boosting quality of life (and longevity) for people.

Buettner also shares that individual happiness is affected by how close members of social networks live to each other. When a friend who lives within a mile becomes happy, you are 25 percent more likely to become happy yourself as a result. But the happiness of a friend who lives further away has no impact — more support the strength of a micro-community like this one where neighbors bond over shared interest and purpose.

Orienting outward and bridging divides  

Most cohousing and micro community projects are built with an internal focus on the people who live within the property boundaries. Cruft Street Commons will function as a more inclusive kind of community that is porous and invites all neighbors in — including those outside of the program — to develop deeper relationships and better know and support each other. This approach is something our research indicates is not happening in many other cohousing projects. “It’s an act of outward-looking leadership, a leadership that is concerned not only with the well-being of the institution itself, but also with the well-being of the greater community it seeks to serve and represent,” Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation, said of this kind of cultural development in a 2016 speech.

Strong connection between neighbors and artists at Tube Factory is already happening as Big Car staff artists are in constant communication and collaboration with nearby residents. Attendance at Tube Factory events is often more than 50 percent neighbors. And residents on the Cruft Street block participated in the selection of artists chosen for the home ownership partnership with Riley.

“We’ll build on these relationships as we continue to bring new residents into this block that was half vacant for many years. Our programmatic focus for resident artists, in the foreseeable future, will be to work with neighbors and utilize cultural strategies to bring people together and form strong social bonds,” Walker said, noting that Big Car will accomplish this by facilitating and supporting public participation in what is called “informal arts” created together with the community. “That’s the kind of work we do all of the time.”

And Big Car will team up with community leaders, when invited into neighborhoods beyond our own, to support and program “third places” — like community centers, coffee shops, placemaking plazas in parks, etc. — where people can connect with others beyond home or work. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote in his 1999 book The Great Good Place: “To comprehend the importance of the informal public life of our society is to become concerned for its future. The course of urban growth and development in the United States has been hostile to an informal public life; we are failing to provide either suitable or sufficient gathering places necessary for it. The grass roots of our democracy are correspondingly weaker than in the past, and our individual lives are not as rich.” One of the jobs of creating great third places is offering places for people and places for interaction, conversation, and learning between generations. “Third places provide a means for retired people to remain in contact with those still working and, in the best instances, for the oldest generation to associate with the youngest,” Oldenburg wrote.

People of all ages and backgrounds are hungry for opportunities to socialize with others. According to the National Endowment for the Arts 2015 study When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance, 73 percent of people view socializing as their top motivation for attending arts programming. In our data from Spark Monument Circle in 2015, we found that — far and away — the top attractor for people was being around other people. We also found that 85 percent of Spark visitors talked with someone they didn’t know — something 30 percent of them said they don’t usually do. The Chicago Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College studied community theater groups, choirs, painters, quilters, musicians, writers, and others practicing art in informal settings and in collaborative ways in 22 Chicago communities to create its 2002 report: Informal Arts: Finding Cohesion, Capacity, and Other Cultural Benefits in Unexpected Places. These activities — the kind of work artists in this program will do — had these results: “over 80 percent of respondents to the survey indicated that making new friends was one of the significant benefits of interacting with diverse people in the course of art making. Close to 70 percent stated that they gained a greater understanding of different people.”

Bridging divides is central to the resilience of our society. Carol Colletta, a senior fellow with Kresge Foundation, is a co-founder of the Reimagining the Civic Commons five-year, $40 million initiative in Akron, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia. This program is reversing division by creating places for people to connect — could be formerly vacant lots or buildings, libraries, neglected parks. The approach, much like our own, is built around creating new centers for democratic activity, talking, and gathering. Colletta wrote in The Hill: “We strongly believe in the power of civic assets to break down barriers between citizens and to knit together communities. We need to gather together — differences and all — and start the conversations that will usher in a more unified future.”

And Big Car will turn talk into action with artists and neighbors in the lead addressing challenges. A 10-year study by the University of Michigan of-Flint, Michigan shows that neighbors making their streets “busy,” cleaning and beautifying abandoned properties, and turning some into programmed pocket parks led to drastic drops in crime — assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent, and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018. This is the kind of work our crew of artists will help make possible — together with neighborhood leaders — on the southside of Indianapolis and around our city.

The power of partnerships 

This is certainly a large and multi-faceted and challenging effort. But Big Car has taken steps toward owning and managing property and working with larger groups of artists. And it is teaming up with some of the city’s best experts in all aspects of this work. For instance, this is not an excessively large project for key partners including CICF, Deylen, Rundell Ernstberger, Blackline Architecture, and Indiana University Public Policy Institute. Leaders from each of those entities express full confidence in the project and in the team assembled to get it done.

“With CICF, we worked on the design of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail — clearly a transformational project. And we think this project — with the top-notch group of community partners Big Car has assembled — has the possibility of creating that kind of impact,” said Kevin Osburn, president and managing partner of REA, a multidisciplinary firm that will design the greenspace and streetscape. “What’s interesting is this combination of vision that comes from the creative side of the team as well as the experience and the seasoned experts at not only getting these types of projects off the ground but the detailed work of design and implementation and construction — and beyond that — management and sustaining of these types of projects.”

IU Public Policy Institute will lead the development and implementation of strong research design, complete necessary data analyses, and write and disseminate research findings over three years with the project and its programs. “We’ll be doing real-time evaluation of both process and outcomes and effort. So we will be able to intervene both when things are going well so we can maximize those opportunities and when things are going less well and we can intervene and help improve the process,” said Klacik of IU PPI. “We’ve done research for a long time that suggests that the status quo is actually a bad outcome. So supporting innovative ideas like this one becomes really essential in helping Indianapolis and all of the neighborhoods within it compete within the Midwest, across the nation and globally for talent and to increase opportunities to develop the latent talent within our community.”

The Learning Tree — an ongoing partner in multiple ways, including an INHP-funded home repair project and exhibit of neighborhood art on discarded doors — will facilitate connecting artists with inclusive community-driven work elsewhere around the city. The Learning Tree is a grassroots association of neighbors specializing in asset-based community development and education. “Knowing people and having connections starts with our biggest currency, which is trust,” said DeAmon Harges, founder of The Learning Tree.

The South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan organization — which includes a paid full-time director, volunteer board, and representatives from eight neighborhoods and seven action teams (community building, connectivity, education and workforce, health and wellness, housing, Madison Avenue, and Shelby Street corridor) — will connect artists and leaders in Cruft Street Commons with projects and initiatives.

The University of Indianapolis is a key partner with So Indy QoL as its original convener — before handing this off to Big Car in 2017. And UIndy will team up with us on Cruft Street Commons and expand partnerships like we have with the Social Practice and Placemaking graduate program, now in its second year and a full partnership with Big Car utilizing Tube Factory as a base of operations for classes, community interaction, and exhibitions.

Why Big Car, why now?

As a nonprofit arts organization and collective of artists and community leaders, Big Car Collaborative has worked for 15 years strengthening and supporting Indianapolis, its neighborhoods and its people through equity-focused, arts-based approaches.

“Our work is built on community engagement, co-creation, and collaboration with many citizens, artists, organizations, and entities. This focus of being part of solving problems as artists has been at the core of our mission all along,” Walker said.

Big Car began as neighbors and artists bringing creative energy to the mostly vacant Fountain Square commercial district in the early 2000s. In 2009 at the height of the recession, the organization received a Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative (GINI) Imagine Big grant that connected its artists to eight neighborhoods. Here, Big Car followed its mission of bringing art to people and people to art by collaborating with neighbors in West Indy, the Near Eastside, Near Westside, Southeast, Martindale Brightwood and more.

From that time forward, working with people in communities on participatory art was at the heart of Big Car’s practice as artists. “It’s not an outreach program. It’s our art. And our mission then, as it is now, was to support people of all ages and backgrounds as a way to strengthen Indianapolis. This work was, is, and will always be what Big Car does,” Walker said. “Our mission statement says: we bring art to people and people to art, sparking creativity in lives to support communities. Our work emphasizes working as artists to reach people who lack access to creative experiences in their lives, people who are outside of connections to social capital, people who feel that art and community development efforts are for someone else. We work for everyone because we believe too few people experience the joy of creativity; cultural events should be for everybody, everywhere; and all people should get to imagine, make, and play. These central beliefs and our focus on reaching all people make Big Car unique in Indianapolis and around the world.”

While working on the Imagine Big project in Lafayette Square in 2010, Walker spotted an abandoned tire shop that seemed perfect for a cultural community center. With no up-front funding but with lots of volunteer support, Big Car’s artists and volunteers transformed this eyesore into a 12,000 square-foot hub for culture and community with a massive raised-bed community garden that doubled as a park where people could gather in front of Lafayette Square Mall.

In 2015, Big Car worked with the City of Indianapolis — with $400,000 in funding from the NEA, the City, and CICF — to spark Monument Circle with daily, human-scale activity and comfort while testing plans for the Circle’s redesign. And, now, we’re in the midst of reinvigorating a forgotten and neglected block in the Garfield Park neighborhood where we first began work with a collaborative gateway mural as a gift to the community in 2012.

Big Car’s idea for Cruft Street Commons grew out of much experience, from years of talking with neighbors, attending community meetings, creating neighborhood logos with fourth graders, digging sweet potatoes out of the dirt next door to Don’s Guns, painting creative crosswalks, taking boards off windows of buildings vacant for 15 years, and helping give voice to people across the city who’ve been left out for too long.

“This idea comes from years of research, reading dozens of books and articles and bringing artists and leaders to Indianapolis to share their work with the community. We’ve also travelled to visit sites and speak with colleagues about their work — asking many questions and learning much — from Project Row Houses in Houston to Heidelberg Project in Detroit to Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago to the Mattress Factory museum in Pittsburgh,” Walker said. “Our idea for strengthening Indianapolis through arts and cultural innovation grew thoughtfully and carefully from giving much of our lives and all of our hearts to this challenging, messy, beautiful, rewarding, and vital work.”


Reading list:

  • Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People. National Geographic, Washington D.C. 2017.
  • Fullilove, Mindy Thompson. Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities. New Village Press. 2014.
  • Helliwell, John. “Trust and Well-Being.” International Journal of Wellbeing, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 42-78. 2010.
  • Indiana University Public Policy Institute. Thriving Communities Thriving State. Indiana University Press. 2015.
  • Klineberg, Eric. Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. Crown, New York. 2018.
  • Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia. 1988.
  • Montgomery, Charles. Happy City: Transforming our Lives through Urban Design. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 2013.
  • National Endowment for the Arts. When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance. NEA Research Report #59, January 2015.
  • Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place. Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA. 1991.
  • Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2000.
  • Wali, Alaka. Informal Arts: Finding Cohesion, Capacity and Other Cultural Benefits
in Unexpected Places. Chicago Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College, June 2002.

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2018 CNU Place Summit Cincinnati Debrief

Over the first weekend of November, two of our staff members Adam Rakestraw (researcher and placemaker) and Elizabeth Nash (community outreach and development) had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Congress for New Urbanism Midwests (CNU) Place Summit. This is a recap of their presentation, reflections, and key take-aways from the conference.

About the midwest CNU chapter and their goals:

CNU Midwest is the regional chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) serving the states and cities that border the Ohio River and beyond—the nation’s first corridor of westward expansion. Once the home of the industrial revolution, Midwestern towns and cities are well positioned to grow in our current urban renaissance. As a leading voice in this renaissance, CNU Midwest is a diverse group of professionals dedicated to promoting the value that results from great placemaking through traditional and new approaches to:

  1. Reclaiming public space for people,
  2. Reactivating and reconnecting neighborhoods as the vibrant building block of towns and cities, and
  3. Championing urban development that is enduring, adaptable, and human scaled.

The event invited regional urbanist thinkers, designers, planners, and placemakers to discuss topics facing the midwest. Each speaker was given 7-10 minutes to discuss new urbanist trends, ideas, and inspirations on how to address the current issues. After sequence of three presentations, breakout sessions were held in which small groups formed to further discuss topics and investigate points of intersection between the present ideas and new ones. Some of the small breakout group topics include: City Soundscapes, Legacy Cities, engaging with Climate Change deniers, CNU networking, trees as infrastructure, addressing homelessness, and designing for art, placemaking. The small group discussions presented a format that was more intimate and tired to push ideas into the realm of exploration, and for us, inspiration.

Adam and Elizabeth co-produced and presented on Repairing Social Infrastructure: Programming and Research. The presentation  unpacked Big Car’s organization, projects, programming, and research to make a case for placemaking initiatives in our region.

Their thesis is that the decline in social infrastructure (sociability) leads to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and should be treated as a public health concern. Their lecture augured placemaking and the Arts can act as a catalyst to spark conversation around the decline of social bonds and social infrastructure. Which is placed under the urban redevelopment debate; What if All Community Development Started with Local Arts and Culture?. Broadly speaking, their presentation was to open discussions around the intersection of urbanism, the Arts and placemaking, and social issues. As well as, to bring an outside Arts-focused perspective in framing issues within urbanism and problem-solving.

Fundamentally, they and Big Car argue if we what stronger communities; there needs to be a bridge to the Arts.

Some key take-aways from the discussions;

  • Key Indianapolis issues are massive job and population loss, service job growth in suburbs and downtown but significant decline in most neighborhoods, need for more public transportation, and automobile-dominated transportation system
  • The lexicon in New Urbanism needs a be reaching a boarder, simpler rhetoric in the public and local sphere.
  • Key topic to address for New Urbanism is how to address the decline of manufacturing to 21st-century production in emerging economies in automation, the service economy, and the gig economy.
  • Climate change will bring about mass migration, especially from the south to safe haven cities in the Midwest within the next 100 years.
  • The Midwest has the physical Infrastructures to support larger communities. Mostly in the form of abandon and vacant post-industrial building from the start white flight (1960’s) to the decline in manufacturing (1980s – 2000s), and the recent economic recession (2008).
  • Legacy Cities Initiative is a central focal point in spurring equitable revitalization in former industrial cities
  • Can CNU strengthen its existing networks by not reinventing organizations across the midwest, but rather operate under already existing organizations that are indirectly involved in New Urbanism.
  • Arts, design, and New Urbanism go hand-in-hand with the arts and culture focused on the social space of communities networks and bonds; and design focused on the physical space — hard infrastructure, amenities, planning. More metropolitan departments and urban planners should be hiring socially-engaged artist and placemakers into their practice.   

Adam and Elizabeth were very pleased to present on Big Car’s work. In their own words, “[we] thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and the company with CNU.  More so, we very much enjoyed the conversations and the depth of them, as those dialogues Big Car always wanted to participate in and recognizes the importance of such”. Big Car Collaborative is very humble to have been invited to CNU Midwest 2018 Place Summit. We look forward to future involvements with CNU Midwest and keeping to New Urbanist ideas!

If you would like to know more about CNU:

Midwest Chapter: www.cnumidwest.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cnumidwest/

National Organization: https://www.cnu.org

Would you like Big Car to visit and share with your organization?

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Live in the Garfield Park Neighborhood?

Live in the Garfield Park Neighborhood?

Hello Neighbor! Are you a current resident of the Garfield Park neighborhood?
If so would you mind participating in a short, 10 minute survey?
Big Car Collaborative is currently collecting data over the experiences of residents in the Garfield Park Neighborhood. The more residents we have participate, the better!
We are collecting this information to have an understanding on how neighborhood social bonds are formed, how well the neighborhood is connected to each other, to public amenities, green spaces, and to the Arts.
All responses will be kept anonymous. All data collection will take place in the months of October – December. With results made public sometime in early spring. If you have any questions email Big Car at email hidden; JavaScript is required, our researcher Adam at email hidden; JavaScript is required, or stop by the Tube Factory headquarters at 1125 Cruft Street.
Thank you for your participation!
Survey Link:
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Share A Story or Share Your Story-new community projects with Adam Rakestraw

Share A Story or Share Your Story-new community projects with Adam Rakestraw

Hello Community! 

Big Car Collaborative’s resident researcher and placemaker, Adam Rakestraw, is working on two community projects that needs your attention and support! 

The first arts project, The Lockerbie Story Project, is a continuous fictional story made from the imagination of individuals and a typewriter in public space. The project seeks to reanimate the art of storytelling by asking participants to imagine, world-build, and write! The project is an intimate way to reconnect to the long tradition of storytelling and myth by writing on a Royal Epoch typewriter in the middle of Lockerbie Square in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rather it is only a line or a paragraph, each participant sets the next scenario, describes the situations, or just rambles on by reading the previous lines of a total stranger. Yet the fundamental of storytelling are ever present. It’s a form of social engagement and interaction typically with no conclusion, as it’s the journey that matters. 

The Lockerbie Story project takes place every Thursday 11-1:00pm in Lockerbie Square next to Needlers Fresh Market,320 N New Jersey St. It runs from late August to November. You can also take part at Tube Factory artspace on Mondays. Once the story reaches an end-point, it will be translated to become a graphic zine emailed to all participants. Come be apart of the project! 

The second community project is the Garfield Park Porch Project,  which highlights stories and memories about neighborhood change from the perspective of Garfield Park residents, -especially long term residents. And all from the comfort of their front porch!

To continue on the dialogue emerging from the film, The Florida Project, the porch project attempts to play on various underlying themes present from the film, -disenfranchisement, wonder, utopianism, joy, underrepresentation, marginalization, and facade. Like in The Florida Project, The Porch Project ultimately seeks to be a continuous challenge to the modern, “American Dream” national narrative present in the U.S. As The Porch Project is set to capture an ethos of the neighborhood from the perspective of residents currently facing a demographic shift in the area.

The Porch Project discussions will run from August until November, with a exhibition date for February. Any willing resident of the Garfield Park neighborhood is encouraged to reach out!  

If you’d like to be apart of either project, you can contact Adam at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Bio: 

Adam obtained his Master of Arts degree in the Netherlands from Universiteit Utrecht in Art and Society. He is also holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Fine Art, Anthropology, and Art History from University of Southern Indiana. Located in his hometown, Evansville, Indiana. 

The research topics Adam focuses on include creative cities, creative economies, and arts activism. Six years experience as a creative producer and researcher in the Arts & Culture and Urban Development sectors. He researches on European Arts policies with think-tank EUrArt, alongside being an artist, writer, academic, and creative cities developer. As of Spring 2018 he was accepted into Winchester School of Art, U.K. for his Ph.D research into creative city development and will join the school in Fall 2019. 

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Sunny Side Up: Building Community Through Food and Friendly Fowls

Sunny Side Up: Building Community Through Food and Friendly Fowls

Here at Big Car Collaborative we’re preparing to expand our Garfield Park base of operations with a new crowdfunding campaign. Sunny Side Up: Building Community Through Food and Friendly Fowls is our second undertaking with with Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program (IHCDA). And we need your help!

“We know that one of the best ways to bring people together is with food,” says Big Car CEO and Lead Artist Jim Walker. “Our Garfield Park neighborhood currently offers little in the way of spaces with food and drink where people of all ages can gather. Still, our neighbors – including several of our staff artists – strongly support the weekly farmer’s market, and food trucks and art vendors at our monthly First Friday night market. So we’re very excited to expand the idea of an arts-based cafe culture that brings more people together informally.”

Our vision includes an artist-built “Chicken Chapel of Love” that will serve as a wedding and meditation space, and as a hangout for our growing flock of chickens. Inside the Tube, we’re making plans for a social kitchen and a serving space. Sunny Side Up will further enhance our calendar with free programs about food, nutrition, and urban agriculture.

“We’ll work with artists who working with food as part of their social practice, visiting chefs and other restaurant partners to prepare community meals together,” says Walker. “Plus we’ll build an iconic home for our chickens that doubles as a one-of-a-kind piece of functional public art.”

Our goal is to raise $50,000 via the crowdfunding platform Patronicity by October 19, 2018. Once we reach our goal, IHCDA will provide a matching grant bringing the total amount of funding for Sunny Side Up to $100,000. “This means that, if you donate $100, we receive $200,” says Walker. “And, in the end, we’ll have collected a transformational $100,000 to further build community through food and drink.”

Rewards – including original chicken art from Big Car staff artists, and invitations to special events and happenings – are available at every level of support. But if we don’t collect $50,000 by October 19, then we receive nothing. “With everyone’s help,” says Walker, “we know we can do this!”

To learn more and become a supporter of Sunny Side Up, visit patronicity.com/sunnysideup. We’re also accepting cash donations at Tube Factory or Listen Hear.  To make donations by check, make payable to Big Car Collaborative, include “Sunny Side Up Campaign” in the memo line, and mail to:

Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St.
Indianapolis, IN 46203

For more information, contact email hidden; JavaScript is required or stop by the Tube Factory.

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Calls for Artists!!

Calls for Artists!!

Call for Artist-in-Residence and Artist-led projects at Indianapolis City Market

DEADLINE :  

Spark City Market, a partnership between Indianapolis City Market and Big Car Collaborative’s Spark Placemaking program — with funding from a Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant — seeks an artist-in-residence to develop, facilitate, and engage in place-based programming. This will happen over five months in the remainder of 2018 at City Market with a start in August. The artist in-residence will work to bring engaging, interactive art experiences to people at this public place and further the partnership’s focus on social cohesion and community resiliency. Some of this work will happen in connection with social services partners such as Horizon House, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), and the YMCA at City Market.

Project Description
Spark City Market – Heart of the Community is a placemaking effort for public spaces in downtown Indianapolis, supported by Southwest Airlines and Project for Public Spaces in partnership with Indianapolis City Market. In 2016, Spark Placemaking partnered with City Market to plan and test ways to revitalize the market’s East Plaza into active public space. In 2017, they began implementing a plan that includes free games, various community and artist-led art activities, and multiple successful public events. This year, Big Car and City Market are continuing efforts to make Indianapolis City Market an even more active and inclusive space. The artist-in-residence will join in making this happen.

Project Goals & Criteria
The City Market Artist-in-residence will be expected to spend 10-15 hours per week (mostly on-site) for 20 weeks developing and facilitating ongoing programs or one-time events related to Indianapolis City Market. This work may focus on things like food, international cultural experiences, and community meals that bring diverse people together. Successful projects and programs should achieve some (if not all) of the following:

  • Connect people of all backgrounds and involve them in art and creativity
  • Add aspects of art and culture to existing events such as the weekly Farmer’s Market
  • Establish deeper social connections with and between the wide variety of citizens who
    utilize City Market and form its community
  • Strengthen relationships/develop programming with immigrants and refugees,
    underserved low-income residents, and the homeless population
  • Build and foster relationships with Downtown neighbors in the area

Location
Indianapolis City Market (222 E Market St) interior and exterior spaces.

  • Artist Eligibility
  • An Indianapolis-based artist is preferred, but it is not required.
  • Open to artists of all mediums and practices.
  • Open to artist teams and solo artists.
  • Open to professional artists and students.
  • Artists who have experience interacting with diverse communities are encouraged to apply.
  • Artists with an interest in socially engaged approaches and social practice art are encouraged to apply.

Compensation
$5,000 + materials/supplies budget and staff assistance/support

Proposal Requirements
Please submit (1) a statement of interest, (2) resume or short biography, (3) any audio or visual representations of your art practice, and (4) a description of a proposed project/activity to Elizabeth Nash at email hidden; JavaScript is required ​by 5 pm on Friday, Aug. 3​.

Project Timeline
Application Deadline: August 3 at 5 pm
Artist Selection/Notification: August 10, 2018
Project Start Date: August 2018
Project End Date: January 2018
Hours per Week: 10-15

Spark Placemaking 2018 Call for Artists

DEADLINE :  

COMPENSATION:  $100-$200 for a 1-2 hour engagement.  Materials and supplies plus staff support are also provided.

DEADLINE:  Applications will be taken on a rolling basis from July through November 2018 with engagements scheduled for a date shortly after application.

Project Description
The Spark team collaborates with communities who invite Spark in to work with them to test and implement approaches for people-focused public places and streets. Led by artists, planners, and active citizens, Spark works to foster connectivity, community, culture, and creativity through engagement-based arts activities. This year, Spark continues its efforts to make Indianapolis public places more active and inclusive.

Activity Goals & Criteria
A successful arts-based activity/performance — which can be one-time or a series — does not need to include all of these goals, but should include some.

  • Connect people of all backgrounds and involve them in art and creativity
  • Add aspects of art and culture to existing events
  • Involve learning and story/knowledge sharing and gathering
  • Be family friendly/all ages, but not watered down or for kids only
  • Establish deeper social connections with and between the wide variety of citizens who utilize these public spaces
  • Strengthen relationships/develop programming with immigrants and refugees, underserved orlow-income residents, and the homeless population
  • Build and foster relationships with Downtown neighbors in the area
  • Be inexpensive to produce

Location
These artist-led activities are focused on, but not limited to, Indianapolis City Market (222 E Market St), Garfield Park (2432 Conservatory Dr), and/or Lockerbie Marketplace (333 N Alabama St).

Artist Eligibility

  • Artists can be from all genres including performance, craft, etc.
  • Indianapolis-based artists are preferred, but it is not required.
  • Open to professional artists and students.
  • Open to artist teams, bands, solo performers, and solo artists. (teams will be paid at the higher rate for the team)
  • Artists who have experience interacting with community are encouraged to apply.
  • Open to all art mediums and practices.
  • 18 years or older, or with permission of a parent or guardian.

Proposal Requirements
Please submit (1) a statement of interest, (2) resume or short biography, (3) any audio or visual representations of your art practice, (4) a description of your proposed project/activity, and (5) a simple project budget to Elizabeth Nash at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Proposals will be considered on a rolling basis (July through November of 2018). Spark staff will work with you to identify a specific time and space for your project, if accepted. Expect to receive a reply from Spark staff within five days. Communication will be via email.

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How To Get To Us During Construction

How To Get To Us During Construction



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Let’s celebrate transit

Let’s celebrate transit

IndyGo’s Red Line will run from UIndy north through downtown to Broad Ripple, connecting several neighborhoods, major employers and cultural institutions with frequent, comfortable rapid transit service. Throughout most of the day, buses will arrive every 10 minutes, and the Red Line will operate for 20 hours each day, seven days a week. Construction of stations and other improvements to streets, crosswalks, and sidewalks near the stations begins this summer. Check out the plans here.

As artists working with Transit Drives Indy and the Arts Council of Indianapolis — recipients of a Cultural Corridor Consortium grant through Transportation for America — our goals are to gather input, share information, test creative ideas, and bring people together at future Red Line stops in our southside neighborhoods.

We’re also hosting pop-up events at stops in our South Indianapolis neighborhoods. One happened on First Friday on May 4 at Southern and Shelby in partnership with the University of Indianapolis Social Practice Art graduate program. Details here. The second is an outdoor movie screening in partnership with Public House Cinema at Safeway at the Raymond stop area. We’ll be showing the transit-related animation “My Neighbor Totoro” after a short film of Evel Knievel jumping buses on his motorcycle. Two more pop-up events will follow at La Luz Del Mundo at Carson and Shelby just north of Troy on May 19 from 12-2 p.m. and June 23 at the University of Indianapolis near the Hanna stop.

Would you like to help us gather input? Please email email hidden; JavaScript is required your answers to these three questions below.

1. What do you know or believe about The Red Line?

2. What do you want to know, or what information should be shared more with people (maybe out in a public place) about The Red Line project — maybe even during construction?

3. What places should be highlighted within walking distance of station locations for neighbors and visitors? (In South Indianapolis, stations will be located along Shelby Street at Pleasant Run, Raymond, Southern, Troy and Hanna.

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From the Middle West to the Middle East

From the Middle West to the Middle East

It’s 11 p.m. and I’m walking on a palm-tree lined, landscaped path along the water. The air smells of jasmine and the ocean, one sometimes overpowering the other. Numerous boats made of wood and lined with lights, each one different playing club music, over ten skyscrapers lit with various colors, brighten and dim, seemingly moving with the music and waves of the sea.

People are picnicking and exercising. Children are playing at state of the art playground, bushes are pruned into green castle like shapes throughout the park. Workers are setting up temporary structures for an upcoming food festival. Couples, friends, families sit at cafes. And I overhear laughter, conversations full of words I don’t understand. I hold up my iPhone and snap a selfie, not sure if it should focus on the beauty of the city or the sea. And I am also struck by the fact that I’m standing by myself, a woman, alone in Doha, Qatar on the Persian Gulf walking the 4.29 mile long Corniche.

I was in 7th grade when the Persian Gulf War started. I didn’t understand it. I had two uncles going to serve. When they came back, they met my questions with silence and a long stare making it clear, there are some things you don’t ask or speak about.

And being a woman, watching and reading all the various news sources over the years, I was sure I’d be uncomfortable and feel judged by the public being a western woman. I thought of the entire region as a dangerous. I came to Doha with certain ideas, certain expectations. None were true. Except for the one that led me to go in the first place. This is, that despite our differences, people are — overall — innately good and we all want the same things.

Over the next several days I worked with Isabelle St. Louis and her team on the Mari Evans: Carl Pope exhibition. I met and talked with Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar students, alumni, faculty, artists, expats, my driver who took me every morning from the hotel to the university, and an Egyptian vendor at the Souq Waqif.

I didn’t do much sightseeing in other places because I wanted to know the city as much as I could. There are over 2.69 million versions of Doha, all known by the people living there. Over the next few days, I’ll write bits about the people I met.

Shauta Marsh

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Tube exports exhibit to Qatar

Tube exports exhibit to Qatar

Big Car-commissioned collaboration Carl Pope: Mari Evans opens this week in Qatar

Indianapolis — Big Car Collaborative is sharing the work of Indianapolis artists on the world stage as an exhibit commissioned and co-curated by the nonprofit arts organization travels to Qatar this week. The exhibit — inspired by and co-created with Indianapolis poet Mari Evans — will be on display at the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Doha starting March 16.

Carl Pope: Mari Evans, which opened at Tube Factory artspace in 2016, honors the life and legacy of Evans — an Indianapolis-based poet, writer, and artist. She died just over a year ago at age 97. Shauta Marsh, director of programs and exhibitions at Tube Factory, worked with Indianapolis-based artist Carl Pope and Evans herself to curate the multifaceted exhibit.

Virginia Commonwealth University brought Marsh to Qatar to attend the opening, share with students and others about the work and tour Doha, a city known for its focus on art. “I’m excited that Mari’s legacy continues,” says Tube Factory artspace Director of Programming and exhibitons. “I am especially thankful to Carl Pope whose work and application of Mari’s ideas in his work, and that of Carl’s twin sister, Karen Pope‘s writing, translates so well to an international audience. Few artists can do that.”

Big Car Collaborative designer Andy Fry collaborated with Pope on the wall-sized text pieces related to Evans’s book of essays, Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective. The exhibit also features photographs highlighting the history of black culture in Indianapolis, portraits of Evans, and video from The Black Experience television program produced by Evans in the 1970s. 

Evans, one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement and longtime Indianapolis resident, published her first work “Where Is All the Music” in 1968 followed by “I Am a Black Woman” in 1970. During this time, Evans also worked as a producer, writer, and director of “The Black Experience” (1968-1973) — a history documentary that aired on prime time in Indianapolis.