View Post
Social Alchemy: Jim Walker on Placemaking as Utopian Experiment

Social Alchemy: Jim Walker on Placemaking as Utopian Experiment

People working in this field often get the same question: What, really, is placemaking? A good answer, in my view, comes from considering the “short-term action for long-term change” of tactical urbanism and the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” strategy Project for Public Spaces has long advocated for in making places better for people. 

The very important next questions are often, “Who are these places made for? And how are they better?” In true placemaking, the places are for everyone. And better places are welcoming, inclusive, accessible, comfortable, and respectful ones for all who’d like to be there. These places should be flexible, adaptable, and designed for visitors to shape their own experiences. 

True placemaking is also, at its core, about supporting social infrastructure that facilitates connections between people — places where we can talk with each other and enjoy being together, even when we don’t yet know each other. Less isolated folks are healthier, safer, happier, and more successful. And a community of connected people is more inclusive, trusting, empathetic, resilient, and civically involved. 

In many ways, placemaking is a way to work toward a sort of utopia

For more: Read Big Car co-founder and executive director Jim Walker’s article featured on the Project for Public Spaces blog. Big Car is a co-presenter of the upcoming Walk/Bike/Places conference June 15-18, 2021 in Indianapolis, and online. Registration is still open for locals to attend. Don’t miss out!

View Post
From all of us at Big Car, Thank You!

From all of us at Big Car, Thank You!

On behalf of the Big Car staff and board of directors, thank you to everyone that supported our year-end campaign, Sounds Like a Place to Call Home.

Your contribution will play a crucial role at Big Car as we enter into the new year. With your help, we’ll continue to provide affordable housing for artists working to turn a block from half vacant to vibrant and bring cultural content to the airwaves that you won’t hear anywhere else via our noncommercial broadcast radio station, WQRT 99.1 FM.

Through our Patronicity campaign, we received contributions from more than 50 donors! With your support, we’re helping to build a truly connected community — and a better tomorrow. 

A special thank you to the following year-end contributors:

Ann Stack // Anne Laker // Aryn Schounce // Ben & Connie Berg // Beth Huffman // Brian & Gail Payne // Carlie Foreman // Clay Robbins // Daniel Fahrner // David Anderson // David Marbaugh // David Schalliol // David Yosha // Dee Alderman // Diana Mutz & Howard Schrott // Ed Mahern // Elizabeth Nash // Erin Foster // Frank Basile // Georgia Cravey // Gina Rakers // Gloria Mallah // Harrison Null // Holly & Matt Sommers // Ian & Mary Kohen // Jacinda Ross // Jane Henegar // Janet Fry // Jason Larrison // Jen Brown // Jim Walker & Shauta Marsh // John Barth // Jordin Ennen // Kathleen Surfus // Katie Clements // Kipp Alan Normand // Kristen Yates Permuy & Eduardo Permuy in honor of Jim Yates & Eduardo Macias // Linda Brundage // Malina Jeffers // Mark, Nancy & Alex Ruschman // Martha Steele // Matthew Gonzales // Melody Harrop // Michael Hall // Michelle & Perry Griffith // Molly Martin // Neil Ahrendt // Paula Goldberg // Robert Schendel // Roe Wright // Rosanne Altstatt // Sam Sutphin // Samantha Cross // Sarah Powers // Scott Brookie // Scott Hall // Sharon Adams // Stephen Gates // Steven Guichelaar // Summer Alaniz // Terri Sisson // Ursula David

View Post
Call for Ideas – Walk/Bike/Places 2021 Indianapolis

Call for Ideas – Walk/Bike/Places 2021 Indianapolis

Indianapolis will host the Walk/Bike/Places conference June 15-18 and we’re looking for local projects to highlight in interactive and engaging mobile workshops!

Walk/Bike/Places is a bi-annual, international conference that connects people who are working to create engaging places that are walkable and bike-friendly. In addition to presentations and panel discussions, the conference offers attendees “mobile workshops” – opportunities to experience the host city outside of hotel walls while highlighting local initiatives that advance the values of connectivity, access, engagement, and equity.

Click here to submit your idea for a mobile workshop!

This year’s conference theme is: The Route to Recovery. And we seek to bring together practitioners, policy-makers, and public space advocates to address the many urgent challenges and long overdue injustices that have come to the surface within our field. Many of the events that took place throughout 2020 only intensified and revealed issues that had been longstanding and devastating influences in our society relating to public health, systemic racism, climate change, economic inequality, and democracy.

How public space plays a role in these issues is front and center in our minds, And we are certain these are front and center in yours too. Ultimately, we aim to deliver a program that shows examples of how our public spaces can serve as part of our social, economic, physical, and emotional recovery.

The Indianapolis conference will have a strong focus on EQUITY and RESILIENCE. The conference will be an in-person and virtual hybrid event.

The Indianapolis host committee, which includes professionals and citizen-advocates working in a wide range of sectors, is excited to share the work of local individuals and groups who are making our city and region a better place to live, work, and gather.

For more information about the conference visit www.walkbikeplaces.org

Mobile workshop leaders will be paid a stipend.

The deadline to submit a mobile workshop is January 15 at 5 pm.

View Post
Sounds Like a Place to Call Home

Sounds Like a Place to Call Home

Support our affordable homes for artists on the block around Tube Factory and our on-air and online home of art and music at WQRT 99.1 FM as we wrap up the year.

Rebound, Rebuild, and Be Better

The world has changed. But we’re more certain than ever about the importance of artists in society — and of our role in Indianapolis as an artist-run organization. Our world needs to rebound, rebuild, and be better. And, to do this right, we need the risks, the laughter, the creativity, the critique, the challenges, and the beauty that art and artists provide. 

We at Big Car believe humanity has a collective soul. And it’s the artists who manifest it into a tangible reality. That’s why we’re focused on offering long-term affordable housing for artists and providing an on-air, pandemic-proof approach to sharing their work through our radio station, WQRT, that also produces online audio content.

But we need your help as we face financial shortfalls and uncertainty with both programs in 2021.This isn’t just about you supporting Big Car. It’s about supporting artists, our neighborhood, and our city. The future of Indianapolis depends on organizations like ours not only surviving, but thriving. 

More Than Survive, Thrive

We’re asking for your donation to help us with these important aspects of what we do: 

Artist and Public Life Residency artist, Justin Cooper, painting a boarded up house on Cruft Street, summer 2020.

• Provide affordable housing for artists working with our dedicated staff and board to turn a block from half vacant to vibrant. We know artists are struggling now more than ever due to the pandemic. Our affordable artist housing program offers discounted home ownership or rent to artists who support the community. So far, we’ve placed artists in ten houses with two more currently taking applications. And we’ve recently purchased two more formerly vacant houses to be turned into affordable homes for artists. We now have 21 new artists and their family members living on the block in what had been vacant houses. Some are poets, some painters, some musicians, some dancers. It’s an amazing group, but we need your help to keep the program going. Check out recent articles about this program featured in Indianapolis Monthly. To learn more about affordable artist housing, click here

TeenWorks teens using the WQRT studio to learn how to write and produce radio shows during their summer program at Tube Factory/Listen Hear.

• Bring cultural content to the airwaves that you won’t hear anywhere else via our noncommercial broadcast radio station, WQRT 99.1 FM, that also streams at wqrt.org. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve learned just how important radio is for connecting people to the resources they need and to each other. So the station — which reaches pretty much the whole city — has turned out to be a great way of not only bringing safe, quality arts programming to households around Indianapolis, but also to support artists, musicians, and writers. In 2021, we’re expanding our programming with two series produced by our staff that highlight Indiana writers and Indiana’s utopian history. To learn more about WQRT, click here

These programs are far more than an affordable housing initiative and a cultural radio station. This work is building a truly connected community — and a better tomorrow. 

How YOU Can Help!

We need your help to make it happen!

View Post
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. 

View Post
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.


View Post
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.

View Post
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.

View Post
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.


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


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

local coverage


Indianapolis Business Journal
FOX 59


Indianapolis Star

Urban Land Institute