View Post
Social Alchemy Symposium

Social Alchemy Symposium

The Social Alchemy Symposium was a participatory mini-conference that took place in New Harmony, Indiana April 10-13, 2022.

You can listen to audio from the symposium here:

More about the symposium: Twice the site of utopian experiments in communitarian living, New Harmony is a town rich in beauty, culture, and history. And it made the perfect location for more than 150 people to gather for the symposium in person and enjoy conversations led by more than 20 notable authors, artists, designers, and philosophers from Indiana and around the world as we explored the role of utopian thinking.

With more than 1,300 viewers (both in-person and virtual), the symposium connects the history of utopias in this small town with our ongoing efforts at Big Car Collaborative to build an inclusive and affordable arts-based intentional community at our Cruft Street campus. 

The symposium — organized through a partnership between Big Car Collaborative, the University of Southern Indiana, Historic New Harmony, and the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art — was made possible by Indiana Humanities, the Efroymson Family Fund, and New America. Additional partners included the Indiana State Museum and PATTERN Magazine.

Check out pictures from the symposium

Here’s a reading list from the symposium and about utopian thinking.

Check out the full program schedule here

Some related PATTERN Magazine publications

Some highlighted sessions & recordings

Dreaming of New Worlds: World Building for Community Work with Maurice Broaddus [author]. Listen here.

Utopian Literature & Writing in New Harmony moderated by Jim Walker with Susan Neville [fiction writer/essayist], Matthew Graham [Indiana Poet Laureate], & Kevin McKelvey [poet & UIndy professor]. Listen here.  By the way, this is the poem Matthew talks about where, yes, Big Car gets its name.

Utopic Cultural Projects Conversation – Visual Art, Music & Movement moderated by Shauta Marsh with Keesha Dixon [Asante Arts Institute of Indianapolis], Docey Lewis [designer], Lauren Curry [Indy Movement Arts Collective] & Oreo Jones [musician & Big Car artists & WQRT FM manager]. Listen here.

Inclusion & access with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail & Neighborhood Development with DeAmon Harges [neighborhood organizer] & Brian Payne [CEO, Central Indiana Community Foundation & driving force behind the Cultural Trail]. Listen here.

Utopian Architecture with Marsh Davis [president, Indiana Landmarks], Lourenzo Giple [deputy director of planning, preservation, & design, City of Indianapolis], Adam Thies [associate VP for capital planning at Indiana University]. Moderated by Anne Laker [writer & Social Alchemy symposium team member]. Listen here.

New Harmony Meets Columbus, Indiana with Richard McCoy [Landmark Columbus Foundation], Kathryn Armstrong [Columbus Area Arts Council], & Kent Schuette [professor of landscape architecture & planning at Purdue]. Moderated by Chris Merritt. Listen here.

Here’s a great way to listen to the story of the origin of New Harmony:

A quick history of New Harmony Pop. 719 (as of 2019)

MISSISSIPPIAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: Native Americans maintained complex, productive communities in the area, including earthen mounds built for ceremonial and cosmological purposes.

THE HARMONISTS: German farmer George Rapp and 400 followers arrived in 1815, building New Harmony as 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.”

Why we at Big Car did 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 19-building, 16-home, one-block Cruft Street Commons project in Garfield Park –– to make an arts-focused, socially cohesive mini 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 AlchemyIf you haven’t already, this audio story we made as part of our overall Social Alchemy project is an entertaining primer on how New Harmony began.

Learn more about the overall Social Alchemy project.

View Post
Social Alchemy Symposium Program (April 10-13, 2022)

Social Alchemy Symposium Program (April 10-13, 2022)

The Social Alchemy Symposium is a participatory gathering April 10-13 in New Harmony, a town twice the site of utopian experiments. Conversations — led by more than 20 authors, artists, designers, and philosophers from around the world — will look at the role of utopian thinking: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Attendees are welcome to join any parts of the free symposium in person, online, or both. Organized by Big Car Collaborative and the University of Southern Indiana. And made possible by Indiana Humanities, the Efroymson Family Fund, and New America.

You can still register and are welcome to arrive in person. More info here.

If you haven’t already, this audio story we made as part of our overall Social Alchemy project is an entertaining primer on how New Harmony began.

Note: New Harmony is in the Central Time Zone.

Symposium locations in New Harmony
New Harmony Inn & Conference Center Great Room, 504 North St.
New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, 506 Main St.
Atheneum, 401 Arthur St.
Thrall’s Opera House, 612 Church St.
Rapp Owen Granary, 413 Granary St.

Sunday, April 10

Sunday, April 10 @7:30 PM ET/6:30 PM CT || New Harmony Inn Great Room (at registration area) Emily St. John Mandel [author of Station Eleven] in conversation via zoom with an in-person viewing party. Join virtually here.

Emily St. John Mandel is a Canadian novelist and essayist. She’s written numerous essays and five novels, including Station Eleven (2014) and The Glass Hotel (2020). Station Eleven, translated into 33 languages, has been adapted into a series on HBO Max. The Glass Hotel was selected by Barack Obama as one of his favorite books from 2020.

Monday, April 11

Monday, April 11 @ 1 PM ET/12-1 PM CT|| New Harmony Inn Great Room (at registration area) Cara Courage [placemaking/contemporary art expert & author] in conversation with Jim Walker [Big Car Collaborative co-founder] via zoom and in-person viewing party. Join virtually here.

Dr. Cara Courage is the executive director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detriot. Courage has published widely on these art, activism, and placemaking and is editor of The Routledge Handbook of Placemaking (Routledge, 2020), co-editor of Creative Placemaking and Beyond (Routledge, 2018), and author of Arts in Place: The Arts, the Urban and Social Practice (Routledge, 2017).

Monday, April 11 @6:30 PM ET/5:30-7:30 PM CT|| New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art. Reception: Visualizing Spaces exhibition. At 5:30, Visualizing Spaces exhibition conversation with Nasreen Khan & Janie Stamm [artists]. Moderated by Iris Williamson [director & curator of New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art]. Join virtually here.

Nasreen Khan is an Indianapolis-based artist primarily working in wood. Her art is grounded in her cultural experience as an immigrant mother and she draws the most inspiration from the clash of the natural world and the urban landscape that she inhabits.

Janie Stamm is a craft-based artist currently residing on the western banks of the Mississippi River in Saint Louis, Missouri. Her work focuses on preserving Florida’s environmental and Queer history in the face of climate change.

Iris Williamson is a curator, arts administrator, and educator. She currently directs and curates the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Southern Indiana. At the same time, she directs the gallery HOLDING Contemporary in Portland and is a 2021-22 Curator-in-Residence at the University of Oregon’s Center for Artistic Research. She’s worked on several curatorial projects nationally.

Tuesday, April 12

Tuesday, April 12 @10 AM ET/9-9:30 AM CT|| Atheneum Welcome remarks & New Harmony Intro video. Join virtually here.

Tuesday, April 12 @10:30 AM ET/9:30-10:15 AM CT || Atheneum Utopic Public Places & Inclusive Communities, Small Towns, & Cities Learning from Each Other with Lora Arneberg [New Harmony community leader], Chris Merritt [landscape architect with Merritt Chase], moderated by Shauta Marsh [director of Big Car’s affordable housing program]. Join virtually here.

Lora Arneberg moved to New Harmony, IN with her family at the age of 10. She’s been a leader on the Harmony Way Bridge Restoration Project, and participated in town government and several non-profit boards and organizations. She currently splits her time between community projects, real estate work, and raising her family in New Harmony.

Chris Merritt is a landscape architect & founding Principal of Merritt Chase. His work focuses on the design of culturally significant public spaces in social, ecological, and infrastructural contexts. He’s received recognition for his work with awards from the Urban Land Institute, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Institute of Architects, and more.

Tuesday, April 12 @ 11:30 AM ET/10:30-11:20 AM CT || Atheneum Dystopian Utopia in Practice with David Rubin [landscape architect of Land Collective]. Join virtually here.

David Rubin is the founding principal of DAVID RUBIN Land Collective. Rubin is also a recipient of the 2011-12 Garden Club of America Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture from the American Academy in Rome and is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. His visionary contribution to the field of “empathy-driven design” is a hallmark of the studio, earning increasing renown for fusing issues of social justice in cities with excellence in the design of public spaces.

Tuesday, April 12 @ 12:30 PM ET/11:30 AM-12 PM CT || Atheneum Co-operative Ownership for Healthy Communities with Jacob Bower-Bir [political scientist-policy specialist] & Nathan Bower-Bir [sustainable housing specialist]. Join virtually here.

Jacob Bower-Bir is an Affiliated Faculty at the Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. He is a frequent consultant and field researcher for international development and governance agencies. He is the Founding Designer at Terran Robotics, a startup that uses artificial intelligence and flying robots to build houses out of mud. He is the Founder of Design Anarchy, an architectural worker co-operative focused on building affordable homes and community spaces. Despite his best efforts, he is – like pretty much everyone today – a shill for the Market System. He’s working on it.

Nathan Bower-Bir was born and raised in Indianapolis. A housing co-operative Nathan co-found proved the place of much of his education, a site of great learning and unlearning. His experiences have led him to believe that people know what they need and what they aspire to in their own lives. People work better and do better when they work together towards shared goals. Professionally, he works to help people attain power and coordinate their work through co-operative organizational structures. In the long game, he hopes that more co-operative lives will build a society oriented around care and responsibility for all the worlds we share. In the meantime, Nathan will always support the strike.

Tuesday, April 12 @12:10-1 PM CT || Opera House LUNCH & Listening party

Tuesday, April 12 @ 2:15 ET/1:15-2 PM CT || Atheneum New Harmony in Historical Context – 19th century American Utopian Communities with Claire Eagle [Historic New Harmony], Tom Guiler [Oneida Community Mansion House], Jon M. Childers [Executive Director of Amana Heritage Society]. Join virtually here.

Thomas A. Guiler is Director of Museum Affairs at the Oneida Community Mansion House. A scholar of intentional and utopian communities, Guiler has published and presented on a wide variety of intentional communities including Byrdcliffe, Roycroft, and Rose Valley in addition to extensive work on the Oneida Community. He is currently working on a book, The Handcrafted Utopia: Arts and Crafts Communities in America’s Progressive Era.

Jon M. Childers joined the Amana Heritage Society (AHS) in 2016. He is dedicated to the vision of telling Amana’s story in new ways that will lead to the sustainability of AHS’s collections and historic properties.  This effort has led to several capital campaigns and a vision for Amana’s future that include a number of new, and improved, heritage sites to engage visitors in Amana’s 300-year heritage. 

Claire Eagle is the Interim Assistant Director of Historic New Harmony. As part of the Historic New Harmony team, she has led a number of programs including the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Robert Owen’s birth and Water/Ways, a Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit. She earned her Bachelor of Science in history from the University of North Alabama and her Master of Arts in history with a historical administration emphasis from Eastern Illinois University.

Tuesday, April 12 @3:15 ET/2:15-3 PM CT || Atheneum Contemporary Utopias & Planned Communities with Silvia Rode [USI Center for Communal Studies] & Jennifer Greene [USI University Archivist]. Moderated by Leslie Townsend [Director of Community Engagement and Historic New Harmony at the University of Southern Indiana]. Join virtually here.

Jennifer Greene is the Associate Professor of Library Science and University Archivist at the David L. Rice Library, University of Southern Indiana. She serves on the Center for Communal Studies Advisory Board and manages the communal studies collections.

Silvia Rode received her Ph.D. in Germanic Studies from the University of California, Los Angelos. She serves as Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. Her research focuses on the Harmonists, communal history, and utopian theory.

Leslie Townsend is the Director of Community Engagement and Historic New Harmony at the University of Southern Indiana. She brings 25+ years of experience working with heritage-based outreach programs focusing on the areas of cultural/heritage tourism, historic preservation, history education, and community engagement.

Tuesday, April 12 @3:15-3:45 PM CT || Atheneum Activity: Who Are You & What Do You Want? Brief introductions by attendees: whatever you’d like to share about your work or interests.

Tuesday, April 12 @5PM ET/4-5 PM CT || Atheneum New Harmony Meets Columbus, Indiana with Richard McCoy [Landmark Columbus Foundation], Kathryn Armstrong [Columbus Area Arts Council], & Kent Schuette [professor of landscape architecture & planning at Purdue]. Moderated by Chris Merritt. Join virtually here.

Richard McCoy is the founding Executive Director of Landmark Columbus Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for, celebrating, and advancing the world-renown cultural heritage of Columbus, Indiana. He has a long history of creating unique solutions to complex cultural heritage challenges and occasionally writes about his work.

Kathryn Armstrong is an arts and cultural leader and visual artist, whose work is centered around making communities stronger through place-based activation and civic engagement. Kathryn has served as the executive director of the Columbus Area Arts Council (CAAC) since 2016. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including in several project-based residencies.

Kent Schuette is a professor emeritus of architecture and urban design at Purdue University based in New Harmony. As a landscape architect, Schuette has studied the Athenaeum extensively.

Tuesday, April 12 @5:15-6:15 PM CT || Opera House DINNER & Listening party

Tuesday, April 12 @7:30 PM ET/6:30-7:30 PM CT || Atheneum Utopian Architecture with Marsh Davis [president, Indiana Landmarks], Lourenzo Giple [deputy director of planning, preservation, & design, City of Indianapolis], Adam Thies [associate VP for capital planning at Indiana University]. Moderated by Anne Laker [writer & Social Alchemy symposium team member]. Join virtually here.

Lourenzo Giple is the Deputy Director of Planning, Preservation, and Design for the Department of Metropolitan Development. Through his work, he oversees the visionary, long-term projects of city development, day-to-day planning, historic preservation, transportation planning, and urban design. Lourenzo has poured his time, energy, and heart into helping others feel more connected to people, places, and spaces in the city.

Marsh Davis is President of Indiana Landmarks, the nation’s largest statewide preservation organization. Davis has served as a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Chairman of Preservation Action, the nation’s grass-roots public policy organization. For his work in historic preservation, Davis was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Frank O’Bannon.

Adam D. Thies is the vice president for capital planning at Indiana University. Thies has led and managed many of Indiana’s premier planning and design projects, including planning for the 2012 Super Bowl Legacy Neighborhood Project, the redesign of Indianapolis’ Monument Circle, and the creation of a plan for midtown Indianapolis.

Tuesday, April 12 @7:30 PM ET/6:30-7:30 PM CT || Townwide Choice of activities: tours, walks, performance. In-person or join virtually via Instagram live @bigcarpix

Wednesday, April 13

Wednesday, April 13 @10 AM ET/9-9:45 AM CT || Rapp-Owen Granary Inclusion & access with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail & Neighborhood Development with DeAmon Harges [neighborhood organizer] & Brian Payne [CEO, Central Indiana Community Foundation & driving force behind the Cultural Trail]. Join virtually here.

DeAmon Harges is a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, Community Organizer, Creator of the Learning Tree, and chairperson of the Grassroots Grantmakers Association Board , and featured in the new documentary “The Antidote: On Kindness in America” – is a frequent speaker on ABCD in secular and religious groups around the world, and is a layperson at Broadway UMC, Indianapolis.

Brian Payne is the president and CEO of Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and The Indianapolis Foundation. Payne is also the founder and founding artistic director of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick, a project that has been recognized as the best North American example of a big, bold, transformative project that is changing the way we think of cities and city life. As one of six community foundation executives on the design task force of NEON – Nexus for Equity + Opportunity Nationwide and CICF, Payne is part of a national effort in dismantling structured and systemic racism to achieve economic and cultural mobility.

Wednesday, April 13 @11 AM ET/10-10:50 AM CT || Rapp-Owen Granary Utopian Literature/Writing in New Harmony with Susan Neville [fiction writer/essayist], Matthew Graham [Indiana Poet Laureate], Adrian Matejka [poet & IU professor] & Kevin McKelvey [poet & UIndy professor]. Join virtually here.

Susan Neville is the author of seven books of creative nonfiction and three collections of short fiction. Her most recent book, The Town of Whispering Dolls, won the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction and her first book, Invention of Flight, won the Flannery O’Connor Award. She is the Demia Butler Professor of English Emeritus at Butler University and has written about New Harmony in several essays.

Adrian Matejka is the author of six books, most recently a mixed media collection inspired by Funkadelic, Standing on the Verge & Maggot Brain (Third Man Books, 2021) and a collection of poems Somebody Else Sold the World (Penguin, 2021). His book “The Big Smoke” (Penguin, 2013). His first graphic novel, Last On His Feet, is forthcoming from Liveright/Norton in February 2023. He is the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington and was Poet Laureate of the state of Indiana in 2018-19.

Matthew Graham is the author of four collections of poetry and is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Pushcart, the Indiana Arts Commission and the Vermont Studio Center. Graham is a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Southern Indiana and is the current Indiana State Poet Laureate. He is married to the painter Katie Waters.

Kevin McKelvey is a place-based poet, writer, designer, and social practice artist. McKelvey has been a writer-in-residence in the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon and at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. This inspired him to bring this model to Indiana, working with local land trusts to create annual, centuries-long creative and scientific reflections on natural areas, including NICHES Land Trust and ACRES Land Trust. His work in novels, essays, social practice, and placemaking continue to explore the intersections of art, writing, ecology, gardening, food, and farming.

Wednesday, April 13 @ noon ET/11 AM-12 PM CT || Rapp-Owen Granary Utopic Cultural Projects Conversation – Visual Art, Music & Movement with Keesha Dixon [Asante Arts Institute of Indianapolis], Docey Lewis [designer], Lauren Curry [Indy Movement Arts Collective] & Oreo Jones [musician & Big Car artists & WQRT FM manager]. Join virtually here.

Sean Oreo Jones is an Indianapolis-based artist. Jones founded “Chreece,” one of the Midwest’s largest hip-hop festivals. In 2015, he became the sound artist in residence at Big Car Collaborative’s Listen Hear, curating and managing exhibitions and developing the low-power radio station, 99.1 FM WQRT. Oreo Jones has released over 9 studio albums, participated in artist residencies, and received awards for his work in the hip-hop community.

Docey Lewis began her career in San Francisco as an artist, weaver and yarn designer, developing fabrics for fashion and interiors. Lewis is the chief design consultant for 3form, Inc’s Full Circle product line and is an advisor to the Madagascar artisan and farmer focused Conservation for Poverty Alleviation. Lewis also sits on the boards of Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation, the New Harmony Business Associates, and on the Advisory Committee of the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Lauren Curry is the executive director at Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective. After returning to Indianapolis from Texas, she worked with No Exit Performance, Phoenix Rising Dance Company, and performed at the Regional Alternative Dance Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She is most proud of her work with Indy Movement Arts; programming weekly classes, presenting national artists in Indy, and investing in local dance-makers.

Keesha Dixon is the executive director of the Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis, Inc. She has been a teaching/performing artist for the past 19 years and serves on local and national committees to further the tradition of Black storytelling or to improve the quality of life for others. She is a conscious-minded culture worker striving to preserve and protect the true history of Africans, enslaved Africans, and African Americans. Outside of work, Keesha’s hobbies include textile artist, ethnic clothing designer, gardening, vocalist, Yoruba drumming, and motorcycling.

Wednesday, April 13 @12-1 PM CT || Rapp-Owen Granary LUNCH & Listening party

Wednesday, April 13 @2:15 PM ET/1:15-2:15 PM CT || Atheneum Dreaming of New Worlds: World Building for Community Work with Maurice Broaddus [author]. Join virtually here.

Maurice Broaddus is a community organizer and teacher. His work has appeared in places like Lightspeed Magazine, Black Panther: Tales from Wakanda, Weird Tales, Magazine of F&SF, and Uncanny Magazine. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. His books include the sci-fi novel Sweep of Stars; the steampunk works, Buffalo Soldier and Pimp My Airship; the middle grade detective novels, and The Usual Suspects and Unfadeable. His project, Sorcerers, is being adapted as a television show for AMC. He’s also an editor at Apex Magazine.

Wednesday, April 13 @3:30 PM ET/2:30-3:30 PM CT || Atheneum Imaginary Cities – Utopia & Dystopia in Thought, in Art, & in Culture with Darran Anderson [author] (via zoom). Join virtually here.

Darran Anderson is an Irish writer residing in Scotland focused on the intersections of urbanism, culture, technology, and politics. Anderson is the author of Imaginary Cities (chosen as best book of 2015 by the Financial Times), The Guardian, the A.V. Club, and other publications. A work of creative nonfiction, Imaginary Cities roams through space, time, and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia, and the afterlife, where time runs backward or which floats among the clouds. In doing so, Imaginary Cities seeks to move beyond the cliches of psychogeography and hauntology, to not simply revisit the urban past, or our relationship with it, but to invade and reinvent it. Anderson has also co-edited the journals The Honest Ulsterman, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, and White Noise.

Wednesday, April 13 @7:30-9:30 PM CT || Atheneum Outdoor movie screening of Black Panther (indoors at the Atheneum in case of bad weather).

Some tips if you’re joining us in person

Mornings: While we plan to have coffee and water available, we also encourage you to get breakfast at one of multiple excellent options in town: Main Cafe at Capers (602 Main St. enter at the side door) has a great and affordable diner-style breakfast and excellent cinnamon rolls, Black Lodge (610 Church St.) offers great coffee roasted on site as well as local pastries, and Sara’s (500 Church St.) which offers breakfast options. Sara’s is closed Tuesdays. The Main opens at 6 am and the others open at 8 am.

Evenings: While everyone who is around Tuesday evening is invited to a big communal meal at the Opera House, other evenings are dining on your own. Sunday night, most things are closed other than the higher-end restaurant, Mary Scott’s. We will have snacks at the Emily St. John Mandel zoom watch party at the Inn on Sunday evening. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, the best option is the Yellow Tavern at 521 Church St. It offers a variety of good bar food and excellent bread pudding. The American Legion at 516 Church St. is closed Monday and Tuesday nights but open Wednesday and also has good food, including pizza. The public is welcome there. Also, the west side of Evansville is a 30-minute drive. We really like Gerst Bavarian Haus at 2100 W Franklin St. It is open until 9 pm on Sunday, closed Monday, and open until 10 pm Tuesday/Wednesday.

View Post
Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

At Big Car Collaborative, we’re working every day to be builders in a world that sometimes feels like it’s falling down. We team up to build community through art exhibitions and public events that welcome people and encourage connecting with each other. 
We’re rebuilding vacant houses into affordable homes for artists who support our city. We’re using the tools of art — including our own FM radio station — to build a future for everyone filled with creativity, camaraderie, and smiles. Please help us keep building by making a tax-deductible donation today. 

Click here to donate.

View Post
DigIndy is back!

DigIndy is back!

Big Car is excited to announce that we’re teaming up with Citizens Energy Group on the DigIndy Art Project for the third year! This time we’ll collaborate to paint a mural on Citizens’ pump station located at 3750 West Washington Street in Indianapolis.

DigIndy started in 2018 to use public art to raise awareness of the DigIndy Tunnel System, a 28-mile network of tunnels located 250 feet under the city. Once complete in 2025, DigIndy will virtually eliminate sewer overflows into area waterways.

In 2019, DigIndy partnered with Big Car to highlight some of the major changes taking place under our feet and allow community members to become involved. Eight Indianapolis-based artists developed manhole cover designs to visualize our city’s future with enhanced waterways as a result of the DigIndy Tunnel System. 

In 2020, we worked with local artist and illustrator, Ess McKee, to paint a colorful mural on a pump house building at Meridian Street and Westfield Avenue near the canal, an important water source for Indianapolis.

Just like DigIndy will help improve our waterways, the DigIndy Art Project enhances our community’s quality of life with art.

We are reaching out to ask for your help in designing this year’s mural. Please take this survey and tell us what you love about Indy’s waterways to inspire this year’s art.

Thank you for being part of this exciting project!

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 // 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.