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COVID-19: Staying informed, staying connected, and supporting each other

COVID-19: Staying informed, staying connected, and supporting each other

At Big Car, our first response to a crisis in the community would normally be to open our doors wide — as we did every day — to neighbors and artists to draw strength from each other by being together in a safe and comfortable place. We bring art to people and people to art, first and foremost, to connect citizens of all backgrounds and support communities. We do this to address the challenges of social isolation. And, now, the isolation is imposed on us as a way to stay alive. So the question, today, is what do we do to support people as we make it through this together?

NEW: Check out our call for artists and arts and community partners.

We’re ready to answer this challenge because we are, by design, a flexible and adaptable organization that rapidly responds to changes in our own situation and to changes in life. We grew into a viable nonprofit organization during the financial crisis in the mid-2000s. We’re now a hybrid nonprofit, working both in the arts and community development. This is why our headquarters at Tube Factory is an art museum and community center. And it’s why the South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan organization (SoIndy), the ALPR affordable housing program for artists, and our art and community radio station, WQRT-FM, all live within Big Car. 

As a nonprofit that started at the same time as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, we’ve always utilized social media to share our work and connect with audiences. So, moving communication to these platforms is natural for us. And our social media is linked in strong ways with our radio station, a very democratic form of communication that covers most of Indianapolis and doesn’t require internet access. Also, we’ve long utilized grassroots communication strategies that blend excellent graphic design and copywriting as well as distribution of posters and flyers around our neighborhood and city.

Our approach has come from considering both history and futurism, from studying the intentional communities of today and utopias of yesteryear. We’ve always considered what our responses would be to a temporary dystopia like the one this pandemic is creating. Our team offers viable and immediate action steps to support the community — neighbors and artists alike — through cultural strategies. Some of this focuses specifically on the southside, an often overlooked and underserved area where we’re based and where three of our lead full-time staff members and the director of SoIndy all live. 

Broadcasting and streaming on WQRT radio: Our citywide FM broadcast radio station, 99.1 WQRT, reaches a strong, diverse cross-section of the community. The station — which also streams online for free — provides an equitable and accessible way for people who may not have internet access or may not be able to leave home to learn about things going on in the community and to enjoy a variety of music (much of it local in partnership with organizations like Musical Family Tree) and programming made in Indianapolis by a wide variety of artists and community leaders. 

Now, we’ve now added public service announcements that include available social service resources all over Indianapolis. We’re airing haiku poems sourced from the community in response to the pandemic and how they are coping. We’ve shared a call for artists, musicians, and community builders – generally, the creative community – to send MP3s for us to edit and air. We have plans for producing and airing community programs, conversations, classes, and meditations that bring together guests on the air from the safety of their homes. These will also be shared through a variety of online platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to further help alleviate social isolation.

Additionally, we’ll offer the opportunity to small businesses affected by the shut down to record one-minute stories about their business, share encouraging messages with one another, and participate in a Listening Booth-style program where people can call in and talk to one of our staff artists. We also plan to offer educational programming where students can learn with their families.

With a potential reach of more than 500,000+ people, we know the free and accessible tool of radio — paired with streaming and podcasting via our website, wqrt.org — will offer listeners of all backgrounds vital information and unique music and other programming to help them feel less alone and stuck. We also know that this platform can allow artists a way to share their work, possibly for pay, at a time when all public venues are closed. 

We’re seeking funds to support the radio station, which is currently operating at a loss. We’re certain to lose our main underwriters — mainly local restaurants, entertainment venues, and retail businesses. Not only do we seek emergency operating support for WQRT, we need funds for expanded staff resources (we employ one part-time staff member currently). And we’d like to have a budget for paying artists to make shows, perform live on air, and contribute in other ways.

Commissioning and regranting to creatives: Many artists and creatives live hand-to-mouth, making ends meet with various gigs throughout the month or by selling their work. Big Car has a long history of successfully regranting to the arts community through Spark Monument Circle where we supported over 200 artists, Art In Odd Places, our work with the City on Lugar Plaza, and through commissioned exhibits and programming at Tube Factory and in partnership with other groups like the LQBTQ+ youth organization, Low Pone

We believe the arts and artists are the heart of communities, provide new perspectives, offer the public a window to the soul. They put their passion and ideals above financial stability. This is why we commission artists for our public creative placemaking programming. And it’s also why we need to protect them in this difficult time. 

We’ve received multiple requests from artists and performers seeking our help, including our own Artist and Public Life Residency program artists living in four houses on the same block as Tube Factory (with five more houses to be filled soon). APLR artists currently renting from us are unable to pay their rent, losing $2,000 in just one weekend due to cancellations. We’ll not be evicting them, or charging late fees. 

We’re seeking additional support to pay artists to use our social media platforms and radio station to help them financially survive during the complete social shutdown of our city. We’d like to share a call for proposals via a simple survey. And we will be and are currently partnering with convening organizations like the Arts Council of Indianapolis (with its #IndyKeepsCreating campaign as a start), Indiana Arts Commission, Indiana Humanities, INHP, and LISC Indianapolis. We’ll also partner with other organizations like The Learning Tree, PATTERN Magazine, Low Pone, and many more arts and neighborhood-focused nonprofits to offer resources.

Door-to-door info and telephone approaches: With about 31% of people on the southside living below the poverty line, we know that many are unlikely to have access to wifi now that the library and Tube Factory have shut down. This means many of our homebound neighbors are now lacking access information and resources and low-income neighbors are lacking information about how to stay safe during the pandemic. This is especially an issue for elderly neighbors who may be living alone.

We’ll partner with SoIndy, Bean Creek Neighborhood Association, Garfield Park Neighborhood Association and other southside neighborhood leadership to create printed door hangers with a list of resources for the homebound. This will also highlight resources we’re offering online and on WQRT. Then, we’ll suit up with protective gear to deliver the information door to door. 

We’re also working with other neighborhoods to gather information on technology that will allow neighbors to connect via phone. This includes both call-in numbers and methods for texting or calling neighbors directly with vital information.

As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, “Through plague eyes I realize there’s an important distinction between social connection and social solidarity. Social connection means feeling empathetic toward others and being kind to them. That’s fine in normal times. Social solidarity is more tenacious. It’s an active commitment to the common good — the kind of thing needed in times like now.”

And working for the common good — with an eye to a stronger, more socially connected future — is just what we at Big Car are all committed to doing as we make it through this together.

Please let us now how we can support you. And be well.

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99.1 WQRT is hiring!

99.1 WQRT is hiring!

Title: WQRT Partnership, Promotion & Underwriting Coordinator

Reports to: Station Manager & Big Car Leadership Team 

Status: Contract, hourly

Term: 12-month

Position summary 

Supported by the Indy Arts and Culture Restart & Resilience Fund: An Arts Council of Indianapolis program made possible by Lilly Endowment Inc., this contract-based project manager will coordinate, facilitate, and co-lead WQRT’s efforts to sustain and expand operations of the nonprofit, community-arts focused FM radio station. 99.1 FM WQRT-LP is a non-commercial, experimental on-air home for contemporary art, music, and community. Licensed by the FCC with a reach of most of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana (500,000+ people), WQRT is owned and managed by Big Car Collaborative — a nonprofit arts organization and cross-discipline collective of artists. With the help of volunteers, we broadcast from Listen Hear — our sound-art space and audio studio in the Garfield Park neighborhood. 

This new staff member will be hired as a contract-based, part-time consultant for 12 months (with the potential for ongoing employment and expanded hours with available funding). 

Primary Responsibilities: 

  • Underwriting sales and program expansion 
  • Sponsorships (bringing in corporate and philanthropic sponsors)
  • Partnerships with other arts organizations for on-air content and other opportunities
  • Digital platforms and distribution to help expand reach and monetize shows
  • Marketing and social media to further awareness of the station and its content
  • Project task management, tracking progression, and follow up

Required Skills and Abilities:

  • Excellent skills in digital file organization, communication, detail-oriented work
  • Interest and general knowledge and background in music, art, culture, and society
  • Basic skills/experience with Microsoft Office, email, Google Drive, etc. 
  • Appreciation of Big Car and WQRT’s mission and work environment
  • Knowledge of social media and marketing (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Great communication (writing and speaking) skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills including networking and community engagement
  • Willingness to help others and ask for help when needed 
  • Ability to be flexible and adapt to a variety of tasks and changes each day 
  • Must be amenable to a non-traditional workplace in a co-working environment

Send resume and cover letter to email hidden; JavaScript is required with subject line “WQRT Coordinator” by Nov. 2. 

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“Localized” Artist Call Out

“Localized” Artist Call Out

Localized: Garfield Park Artists Celebrate Indy’s Bicentennial Exhibition Dates: December 4-26, 2020
Garfield Park Arts Center & Big Car’s Tube Factory artspace

Calling all Garfield Park and Bean Creek Artists!

Submit your artwork for Localized, an annual exhibition co- curated and hosted by the Garfield Park Arts Center and Big Car. This year’s past and present theme feature’s Indy’s Bicentennial celebration and any work that reflects on 2020 (pandemic, protests, etc.). Read below for exhibit info and submission guidelines and requirements. All submissions are due by end-of-day on November 1st.

COVID-19: Please note that this exhibition is currently being planned for as an in-person show, but will move to a virtual platform if we deem it is too unsafe to host in-person. All artists will be notified of changes.

Exhibit Description:

Curated by a committee of neighborhood artists in collaboration with the Garfield Park Arts Center and Big Car, this exhibition will feature artwork in a variety of mediums by local artists that reside in Garfield Park. The pieces aim to celebrate Indianapolis’ Bicentennial through the lens of these artists by exploring history, culture, and the environment of Indianapolis and Garfield Park, Indianapolis’ oldest park. Furthermore, artists will reflect on 2020 current affairs including the pandemic and protests. Artwork will be displayed in two galleries across the neighborhood: Garfield Park Arts Center and Big Car’s Tube Factory artspace.

Requirements and Guidelines to Submit:

  • Unless otherwise specified, acceptable media include, but are not limited to: painting, drawing, fiber arts, digital art, video, performances, music, photography, sculpture, ceramics, mixed-media, collage, assemblage, mosaics, metalsmithing and woodworking.
  • All 2D artwork must have a wire for hanging. No attaching to the floor. Proposals for installations are welcome.
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Gallery Addresses:

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Tube Factory artspace – 1125 Cruft Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203

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Garfield Park Arts Center – 2432 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46203

  • Artists can submit multiple pieces of artwork. All artwork must be original. There is no fee to submit.
  • GPAC/Big Car will promote works for sale, but any art sales will be coordinated and communicateddirectly through the artist and patron. GPAC/Big Car will not take a 10% commission on any works soldthrough this exhibit in order to support our artists.
  • Please indicate your desire to participate in the show by emailing us at email hidden; JavaScript is required by or beforethe November 1st deadline and include the following:

o Contact Info: artist name, address, phone number, email
o Social media handles and website (if applicable). These will be published with each artist’s info to help promote the artists in this online exhibit.
o High quality images of your work in jpg or png format. Include your last name and the artwork title for the image filename. No glares, shadows, blurred, or pixelated images, please. Please ensure that your images are at least 600-800 pixels on the short edge. GPAC/Big Car reserve the right to slightly crop and adjust images to fit our online platform, should this exhibit move to virtual.
o For each piece submitted, please also include the title, medium(s), dimensions, and price (or NFS, if not for sale)
o A brief artist statement or bio (can also include a headshot).

• By submitting your artwork, you are agreeing to participate in either an in-person or online exhibition co-hosted by GPAC/Big Car. Images of artwork will be used for the exhibition and promotion only.

Questions? Email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required

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Our statement on racial justice

Our statement on racial justice

We stand with the Black community. We stand with protestors and stand against police brutality. We stand for freedom and stand against injustice. We reject responses that limit freedom. We reject responses that don’t acknowledge the damage caused by racism ingrained in our criminal justice system — and in American society. We support efforts that bridge justified rage and dialogue into systemic change. We will listen, learn, reflect, take action, and be accountable. We acknowledge that we work within and have benefited from systemic racism. We will improve. We will support community. We will create spaces that help us see one another and ourselves and imagine a future that rebuilds and heals. We are grateful for each of you. Black lives matter.

Resources and where to donate for racial justice here.

Image: REST IN PARADISE (GEORGE FLOYD) by Carlos Rolon

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Note To Self Episode 1 links

Note To Self Episode 1 links

Note To Self is a program where we explore identity and its connection to the ideas of utopia and dystopia. Part of our Social Alchemy project, this program on 99.1 WQRT-LP Indianapolis — is made possible with the support of Indiana Humanities and the Efroymson Family Fund.

Shauta Marsh, co-founder and director of programming at Big Car, explores the balance of preservation of culture vs. forced assimilation from the lens of her own experience being mixed race and through the work of contemporary Native American artists.

This episode feature the work of one of the first Native American bands to go mainstream, Redbone; Lakota activist and Hip Hop artist Frank Waln with Susan Shown Harjo and Faith Spotted Eagle, Cherokee/Mvskoke artist and composer Elisa Harkins. The radio version includes poet Ofelia Zepeda whose work is available through Kore Press.

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Call to artists, arts and community organizations — and you!

Call to artists, arts and community organizations — and you!

During this challenging time, Big Car Collaborative is supporting the community in general and artists and arts audiences by utilizing the very democratic platform of FM broadcast radio with our community- and art-focused station, 99.1 FM. This FCC-licensed broadcast station covers most of the city and beyond and streams worldwide from wqrt.org. We’re opening up unlimited free air time to community and arts partners, to neighbors, and to local artists of all kinds — especially musicians — to share important messages and provide enjoyable programming that draws people of all backgrounds together at a time when we’re facing a health crisis and a crisis of social isolation.

We’re also utilizing our social media platforms with a combined audience of more than 50,000 to share public service announcements and other important information — including what we and other arts organizations and artists are doing in response to the pandemic and social distancing. We’re also working on citywide projects like #FirstFridayFromHome where we encourage people to share art from their own homes on social media and talk about why it means so much to them.

More details here:

Call for 99.1 WQRT FM contributions: We’re seeking audio content to broadcast and share online from Indianapolis artists, musicians, and community builders – generally, the creative community. This content can be as short as a few seconds or as long as an hour. It could be as simple as a radio-friendly song, poem, quote, short story, or even tips or words of encouragement. Or you could propose and then create shows that might include things like panel discussions, community conversations, interviews, curated playlists (we can play all clean licensed music), arts education opportunities, community updates, self-guided walking tours or narrated walks, and health and wellness aspects such as meditations. 

Start by sharing your idea to email hidden; JavaScript is required. We will also share with you tips for recording at home on WQRT.org. Once you have an MP3, you’ll send it also to email hidden; JavaScript is required with the subject headline Community Content. If you are sharing a lengthy segment, start the conversation off by introducing yourself to the listeners as well as a reminder of where they are tuning into. “You’re listening to 99.1 WQRT-LP Indianapolis” should be at the intro of your segment.  

We’re seeking content that people can make from the safety of their homes or within safe physical distance of others. We have suggestions for online tools to use for interviews and conversations. This content will also be shared through a variety of online platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to further help alleviate social isolation.

Call for Social Media Visual Art Shows and Performances: Have an idea for a virtual art show or performance? We’re open to supporting your ideas — visual, audio, or video. Please email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Call for Classes through Zoom: Have an idea for a class but need an audience? You can e-mail email hidden; JavaScript is required and you can use our upgraded Zoom account to host your class. Currently, we offer West African Dance and Zumba classes.

Open to anyone: First Friday From Home Art Share: We normally show new art at our spaces each First Friday. Now we’re asking you to show us yours! Whether you made it or bought it, use your phone to share photos and videos with us and others by posting pictures or video on social media and using the hashtag #FirstFridayFromHome and tag Tube Factory artspace. Maybe even consider going live through Instagram, Facebook, or another platform. We will select different people who share their collections to win Normal Coffee gift cards, a ceramic piece from Soyong Kang Partington, and T-shirts from Big Car.

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Check out media coverage of our artist housing project

We’ve received really excellent media coverage of our new Artist and Public Life Residency program shared as a concept in 2017 and launching in 2019.  Read and watch more here.

national articles

USA Today

Curbed

Washington Post 
Next City
Fast Company
Vice Creators
Modern Cities
Curbed 
The Guardian

local coverage

WRTV6

Indianapolis Business Journal
WISHTV
FOX 59

NUVO

WFYI Live
Indianapolis Star

blogs
Urban Land Institute
IndyHub

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Walk/Bike/Places conference releases call for proposals

Walk/Bike/Places conference releases call for proposals

The premier conference in North America for walking, bicycling, and placemaking professionals from the public and private sectors.

Held every two years, Walk/Bike/Places is a unique conference experience that combines experiential learning from walking and biking the streets of the host city, and learning from its most vibrant places, with nearly 100 expert-led breakout sessions and locally-led workshops. The conference is produced by Project for Public Spaces. 2020’s event will take place in Downtown Indianapolis at the Indiana Convention Center and Big Car is a partner!

The 2020 convening of the Walk/Bike/Places conference will focus on implementation. We seek — with your help — to build a program that will move government from the local to the federal level to build a transportation system which preserves the health and safety of all users, promotes social connections, and reduces the environmental impact of our travel. We invite proposals from the public, private, non-profit/NGO, and academic sectors. We invite ideas large and small. We invite new voices. And once we have our program chosen we will invite 1,500 planners, designers, advocates, and public health professionals to Walk/Bike/Places 2020 to entertain, to inspire, and to challenge ourselves to simply do better. Our time is now.

Please complete your proposal by January 3, 2020 @ 5pm EST.

START YOUR PROPOSAL HERE

FORMATS

We are offering three formats from which to choose from this year: Breakout Presenter, Peer Coach, and Poster Presenter. However a huge change this year is that we are only soliciting proposals for single presenters. Each format is unique so please review the characteristics and expectations of each and then choose the one that’s best for your content.

Breakout Presenter

The breakout is a conference staple and it constitutes the majority of Walk/Bike/Places programming. We expect it will be the most competitive format thus this format requires more of its applicants. Applicants must answer evaluative questions and define learning outcomes for the audience.

In a departure from past conferences the breakout program, tracks, and individual sessions will be assembled by Project for Public Spaces and a series of teams who will oversee each track. As a Breakout Presenter you may become part of a facilitated discussion, you may serve on a panel, you may be asked to deliver a presentation, or depending on your expertise, you may even be asked to lead a field exercise.

Note: Once again, we are only soliciting proposals for single presenters; no teams or pre-formed panels will be accepted.

Peer Coach

Each of us has something to offer our peers. Your knowledge could help our attendees navigate a politicized project, find a design solution for a tricky intersection, access funding for a project, or provide some needed perspective. What we offer depends on who applies, so what’s your Expertise?

Peer Coaches will lead a small group discussion about their topic. There will be no need to prepare a presentation, just come ready with your knowledge, some scratch paper, and business cards. We will provide the eager learners. You can expect to devote about an hour of your time at the conference to being a Peer Coach.‍

Poster Presenter

Some topics are best presented on paper and explained in person. For those reasons this format is a favorite for presenters of technical information, those who desire a more intimate connection with their audience, despisers of PowerPoint, and/or students seeking feedback on research projects.

Successful applicants will be assigned an 8’ x 4’ freestanding display area, a table of same/similar dimension, and be provided a minimum of an hour of display time. Additional details will be conveyed in the presenter welcome kit.

CONFERENCE TRACKS

Our focus on implementation is reflected in the conference tracks: they are simple and practical. A list of keywords, phrases and topics follows each track name to suggest appropriate Content.

  1. Infrastructure – The streets, sidewalks, multi-use trails, and information that moves us. Woonerfs, Shared Spaces, Traffic Calming, Bike Parking, Multi Use Trails, Sidewalks, Streets, Cycle Tracks, Bike Lanes, Advisory Bike Lanes, Rapid Implementation.
  2. Planning – Setting the vision, goals, objectives and process for moving us towards a more just and sustainable society. Zoning, Land Use, Form-Based Code, Data, Modeling, Outreach, Public Engagement, Project Evaluation, Economic Development.
  3. Advocacy – Simply put: getting what we want. Funding, Referendums, Legislation, Public Policy.
  4. Excellence – Building the organizations and building the skills of those who will fiercely defend the public interest. Running for Office, Registering a Non-Profit, Ethics, Professional Responsibility, Strategic Planning, Campaigns, Budgeting, Fundraising.
  5. Health – Creating environments where people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can lead healthy, happy and productive lives. Active Living, Injury Prevention, Environmental Justice, Education, Mental Well-Being, Social Capital, Friendships, Physical Health, Violence Prevention, Nutrition.
  6. Transit – The management and operation of vehicles and infrastructure for the most efficient movement of people. Micro mobility, Ride Hailing Apps, Bike Share, Transit Oriented Development, Multimodal Hubs, Congestion Pricing, Demand Management, BRT, First/Last Mile.
  7. Place – The streets, corners, buildings, neighborhoods and locations that are special to us, that anchor a community. Placemaking, Tactical Urbanism, Parklets, Public Markets, Downtowns.

We recognize that not every topic is easily fit into a track; for example, Vision Zero, Safe Routes to School, Social Media, Autonomous Vehicles, and Equity straddle multiple tracks. If your topic is not easily categorized, then choose the track that is the closest fit.

RULES FOR APPLICATION

For us to assemble a program which advances the cause of Walking, Biking and Placemaking, we ask that you follow these rules when submitting your application to present:

  1. You may submit up to three proposals — regardless of format.
  2. You may not submit nor will we accept proposals that are obviously commercial or self-promotional. If you wish to advertise then we suggest purchasing exhibit space or sponsoring the event.
  3. You propose, you present. We will not accept proxies or substitutions.
  4. Your content must be available to attendees. Studies, reports, and articles that are behind paywalls must be made available to Walk/Bike/Places attendees.
  5. We want to be a welcoming community where discussion is spirited, humorous, fun, and respectful of differences. We have a responsibility to our community to support diversity and we will make program choices to support that objective.

All presenters are expected to register. We have priced registration to meet nearly every budget, and rates will be announced towards the end of the year. Submission of a proposal is not an obligation to attend Walk/Bike/Places 2020 (but we really hope you come!).

REVIEW PROCESS

Proposals received will be scored by our Program Review Committee. The Committee is composed of your peers in planning, advocacy, health, engineering and placemaking, and drawn from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Each proposal will be evaluated and scored by the criteria indicated above. Presenters will be chosen and tracks assembled to create a program that “gets it built!”.‍

If you have any questions about your proposal, or the application and review process, please reach out to us at: email hidden; JavaScript is required

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Social Alchemy: Utopia in Indiana

Social Alchemy: Utopia in Indiana

With this multifaceted, multiyear project, Indianapolis-based arts organization Big Car Collaborative — with our partners, the University of Southern Indiana, Indiana State Museum, Historic New Harmony, and others –– is exploring, learning, and sharing how utopia has informed places and pursuits over time. Social Alchemy explores historical and contemporary examples of utopian experiments, fictional utopias and dystopias, and social design projects. Through a variety of public programs — made possible with support from Indiana Humanities and Efroymson Family Fund — it offers a deeper understanding of the relationship between the built environment and social good.

What we’re doing: 

Oct. 10-Nov. 20, 2020 

  • Mythologies of Memory, an interdisciplinary exhibition looking at utopia from various perspectives at the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art. Great and lasting artworks should be ambiguous, should tap into the stories and myths humans have for centuries used to explain the world and themselves. Our mythologies are a mirror. Mythologies of Memory with Indiana-based artists Jennifer Ollikainen, Neil Cain, Kipp Normand looks back and ahead while providing a window into the real and imagined through familiar mediums and genres filled with icons, symbols, and colors. More here

in 2021 …

  • The Social Alchemy symposium in New Harmony will include philosophers, writers, historians, designers, architects, placemakers, urban and rural city planners, and community organizers. We will also feature workshops led by local artists and leaders from New Harmony, community meals, and local tours.

Dates and details coming soon: 

  • A radio program on WQRT FM and available online looking at utopias and the people behind these attempts at a better world (for some, at least).
  • An exhibition at the Tube Factory about the history and art of New Harmony (designed to travel), with emphasis on Marguerite Young’s Angel in the Forest and visual interpretations of this lyrical text. 
  • A series of art shows featuring New Harmony-based artists at Tube Factory. 
  • Stories in Pattern Magazine about New Harmony and its people.

Ongoing 

  • Partnering to participate in, support, and promote other events happening in New Harmony.

About New Harmony: This southern Indiana town was the site of two utopian experiments in the early 1800s. The first was a separatist, religious community known for its hard work, communal living and property ownership and celibacy. The second, was a rationalist social experiment in giving people of many backgrounds an opportunity at a better life and work environment.  Then, in the 1940s until the 1980s, town leader Jane Blaffer Owen envisioned New Harmony’s built environment as a mix of historic Hoosier and cutting-edge contemporary. Today, New Harmony brims with art, history, architecture, and a strong sense of place.

A quick history of New Harmony Pop. 763 (as of 2017)

THE WOODLAND INDIANS: From 400 AD, the Woodland Indians maintained a complex, productive community, including earthen mounds built for ceremonial and cosmological purposes.

THE HARMONISTS: German farmer George Rapp and 400 followers arrived in New Harmony in 1815, creating a community based on productivity, worker-owned industries, and shared resources.

THE OWENITES: The Rappites sold the land in 1825 to Robert Owen, a Welsh socialist. At its height, 1,000 Owenites were part of a “Village of Unity and Mutual Cooperation” prioritizing worker rights, scientific research, and artistic expression.

JANE BLAFFER OWEN: For nearly seven decades, Jane Blaffer Owen was the driving force behind the restoration and revitalization of the town of New Harmony, Indiana. Owen had a vision for the town, bringing in and commissioning renowned architects, visual artists, musicians, and writers. Her time there is often referred to as the town’s “third utopia.”

About Big Car Collaborative and why we’re part of this: As a nonprofit organization working in art-based community development, we’re very interested in intentional and inclusive communities designed for all to thrive. That’s our goal for our 15-building, one-block Cruft Street Commons project in Garfield Park––to make an arts-focused, socially cohesive neighborhood. And this work is inspired by our research into historic utopias in New Harmony and elsewhere. 

Why is this called Social AlchemyIn our research about New Harmony, we discovered that Father George Rapp — founder of the Harmonists, the first utopian experiment in New Harmony — studied alchemy and was trying to make gold and other precious commodities to fund his vision of utopia. Today, with New Harmony already a successful town with much to offer (including events and public programs), this project and symposium combines all the assets of New Harmony: the people who live there, the architecture, art, and food to celebrate and expand the town’s magic to Indianapolis and hopefully even further. We’re calling this mixture of everything Social Alchemy.

Project Partners: University of Southern Indiana, Historic New Harmony, New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, Working Men’s Institute, Indiana State Museum, Indiana Humanities, Pattern Magazine, University of Indianapolis, The New Harmony Project

Our Focus on Marguerite Young: A book that has shaped our thinking for this project is Indiana-born Marguerite Young’s Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias (1945). It’s a non-fiction work with a surrealist style: a lyrical, magical take on the New Harmony true-life fable. We’ll highlight Young’s work in a related exhibition in 2020 to follow up on a mural of her commissioned for Tube Factory in 2019. Born in Indianapolis, Young (1908-1995) studied at Butler University and taught Kurt Vonnegut at Shortridge High School before joining New York’s Greenwich Village literary scene in the mid-1940s. Some believed her work was every bit as groundbreaking and masterful as James Joyce’s. Young once said: “I believe all my work explores the human desire or obsession for utopia, and the structure of all my works is the search for utopias lost and rediscovered. But the beauty of it is that you nevertheless go on, walking towards utopia, which may not exist, on a bridge which might end before you reach the other side.”

Themes for the Social Alchemy symposium 

STORYTELLING

  • Connecting the past and the future 
  • Ideas for New Harmony/Main Street/young people, families 
  • Art and culture as utopia 
  • Literary New Harmony/utopian literature over time 
  • Spirituality, philosophy, alchemy, and utopia

PLACE

  • Current utopian experiments and planned communities, contemporary communal studies 
  • Activating spaces/placemaking as utopias/temporary utopias  
  • Food, drink and agriculture in utopian/planned communities 
  • Preservation and history/context 
  • Tourism as temporary utopia
  • Architecture and landscape architecture 
  • Labyrinths/other physical metaphors/sacred geometry

More about the project: We all grapple with divides in society and real-life examples of dystopia (shootings, mass incarceration, ecological degradation) and utopia (experiments such as co-living communities that make people demonstrably happier). This project is about exploring historical and contemporary real-world examples of utopian experiments and social design projects as well as theoretical and fictional utopias and dystopias. Our goal is for the impact of Social Alchemy to be a deeper understanding — via history, literature, and the philosophy of art, design, and architecture — of the relationship between the built environment and social good.

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APLR Homes Available

APLR Homes Available

Housing applications for artists now live.

Click here to apply or go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHZ6YFV

Are you an artist who wants to engage and help shape a community? Located on a block in both the Garfield Park and Bean Creek neighborhoods on the near southside of Indianapolis, the Artist and Public Life Residency (APLR) program is an innovative and experimental approach to supporting artists who use their talents and skills to help drive positive change in the community.

For this program, we view the label of artists to include creatives, makers, and designers. Fields include — and are not limited to — architecture, culinary art, curation, visual art, public art, furniture, fashion, craft, design, film and video, creative writing and journalism, performing arts, music, theater, placemaking, socially engaged art, etc.

The APLR —  taking applications for resident artists now through December 23, 2019 — is a long-term, affordable and community-invested artist home ownership program as part of a community land trust approach.

Applicants will be notified if they moved on as semi-finalists by January 6. Finalists will be selected by mid January. Public information sessions will be at Tube Factory art space December 5th, 6 pm and December 7th, 11 am.

In partnership with Riley Area Development and supported by Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP), the APLR’s goal is to provide artists enjoyable and equitable home ownership while they work — in part — to collaborate with other neighbors and boost the culture, creativity, diversity, livability, safety, health, and economy of the local and greater community. This is a reboot of the program launched two years ago before pausing to work out various aspects of the program and partnership. So far three families have been placed into the homes.

Through a community-inclusive selection process, artists of all disciplines can apply to be matched with one of five affordable homes and downpayment assistance.

Ultimately, we will be teaming up with resident artists who see their work with the public – and their work for the benefit of the community – as at the core of their practice and production as artists. We are looking for artists who want to make a difference, as artists and neighborhood leaders, and see this work in support of the community as truly part of their art.

The APLR program works as sort of an exchange, with artists who qualify for the program both financially and in terms of their practice as artists co-owning the homes with the partnership — that way only paying a portion of the cost. As in community land trusts, the artist homeowner will purchase a 49% ownership interest in the home costing between  $49,000 and $72,000. The artist home buyer must meet income qualifications. Qualified artist buyers are required to make less than 80% of the average Marion County income, or less than $43,250 per year for single member household. As part of the exchange — which also includes downpayment assistance — the artist residents commit to working for six years in support of the community as part of their practice as artists. 

If the artist should move out in the future, the partnership will buy their 49% share of the house and put it back in the program at the same cost level, ensuring that affordable home ownership sustains. This way, increased property values that might be caused — at least in part — by art-focused community development boosting demand in the neighborhood won’t price out artists on this block currently transforming from mostly vacant to vibrant. The program works as land trust for artist housing. The idea is to keep the houses outside of market forces and maintain an affordable place for artists to be able to be homeowners and leaders living in and supporting the community.

The houses in this program were previously vacant, some for a long time, and no existing residents were displaced. These efforts for APLR are happening in partnership with current residents as a way to work together to further strengthen the neighborhood and keep affordable housing for artists in place. Our partner, South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan and others are also working on strategies for affordable housing in general in the area. And we are all teaming up on efforts to avoid the displacement of existing residents.

Throughout this process, we’ve researched other initiatives around the country as well as teamed up  with expert volunteer teams — like Ursula David’s Indy Mod Homes and Axis Architecture — to develop this program and renovate five formerly boarded up houses. Indy Mod and Axis adopted one house to transform as a lovely home for artists. These five homes will soon serve as a catalyst for positive activity on a short block that dead ends into an interstate highway that has caused challenges for the neighborhood now anticipating a boost from Indy Go’s Red Line bus rapid transit, opening this summer.

We focus on artists in the APLR program because Big Car Collaborative is an arts organization working in partnership with a nonprofit community development corporation to support the neighborhood where we are based and, with multiple staff members, where we live.

This project is linked to larger efforts on the block funded by a $3 million grant by Lilly Endowment announced in December of 2018. Learn more about that here. Also, this program and process comes — in part — from the research and organizational efforts by Indianapolis-based artist and planner Danicia Monet.

More details:

  • Resident artists will receive research and training support from Big Car staff and others as they will represent our partnership in the community.
  • Artists will open their home and/or grounds for some form of public engagement during neighborhood-wide open house or art walks events – usually on the First Friday of the month.
  • Artists will dedicate 16+ hours per month to work with the public in the community. This includes time on their own public projects, training and meetings, and time supporting other Big Car or neighborhood programs.
  • Artists will have opportunities to participate in Big Car-organized exhibition and collaboration opportunities. We will encourage partnerships between resident artists, visiting artists, other local artists, and our staff artists.
  • Qualifying artists will be selected by a panel of experts on community-focused art and housing (some from other cities) and neighbors. The selected artists will be able to become homeowners while also committing to building participation and strengthening the community through art, along with Big Car, in the South Indianapolis neighborhoods and the greater Indianapolis community. This is an investment by both owners in the homes and community, and a way to keep housing affordable in the neighborhood in the long term.

Additional keys to this project and the future of our Cruft Street micro community:

• We live in the neighborhood, communicate and work with neighbors as neighbors — and welcome everyone

• Our programming is about social cohesiveness first — with art as an avenue to bringing people together

• Physical improvements artists will help build create needed social infrastructure

• We have already created a cluster of positive energy in a small area — one block built around Tube Factory

• We anticipated and support public transit (the nearby Red Line), walkability, and bike access

• We bought these previously vacant properties early before market forces began to influence price

• We are not displacing anyone with this project and are, instead, moving people with low incomes into long-term affordable housing

• We team up with many partners (some covering our gaps in our expertise)

• We aren’t concerned about profit for reinvestment in the next project

• We’re creating an open/porous cooperative cohousing community vs. a closed one that is for members/owners only (includes shared meals)

• We value active public and third spaces and help create them when needed and when invited

• Artists welcome the idea of supporting the community in exchange for affordable housing and studio affordability

• We track data and gather stories, revising and adjusting along the way