View Post
2016: Wow! look at what’s next

2016: Wow! look at what’s next

At Big Car, our art projects and programs include and serve people of all ages and backgrounds. We bring art to people with the purpose of sparking creativity and, building on that, helping improve quality of life. We strive, first and foremost, to connect and collaborate with people. Everybody deserves access to culture, creativity, and opportunities to spend time together in great public spaces and places.

Who are “we”? Twelve talented and creative staff members (eight full-time, four part-time), a dedicated and active board of directors, and a loose collective of additional artists and community leaders who contribute in a variety of ways to projects and programs. In 2016, this group is teaming up with many partners — with the support of an incredible group of generous local and national donors — to bring the following artist-led, community-based cultural experiences in Indianapolis:

Neighborhood Initiatives: Our place-based initiatives enliven places, leverage collective impact, and engage people with their neighbors, long term. Our next big project will focus our creative placemaking efforts in the heart of the Garfield Park neighborhood when we open our new, permanent exhibition area, workshop, and community space, Tube Factory. A critical expansion of our work in this neighborhood will be the creation of a community of affordable homes for artists (in partnership with Riley Area Development) near The Tube. Also in 2016, our Listen Hear sound art space and retail incubator will feature art exhibits and events and serve as home to our low-power FM community- and art-focused radio station. And our mobile outreach with the Wagon of Wonders will continue on the Far Eastside in collaboration with the Indianapolis Public Library’s Bookmobile and in a new area, the Near Westside, as part of the Local Initiative Support Corporation’s comprehensive creative placemaking effort, Great Places 2020. And we’ll be working on additional exciting creative placemaking projects with Near West and LISC in the spring and summer.

Creative Placemaking: Our design and facilitation of experiences, spaces and materials enables partners, neighbors, and other members of the public to identify and maximize their assets, tell a compelling story, build identity, and connect with each other. Building with Big Car — In summer 2015, 12 teens from the TeenWorks program — a summer employment and college readiness program serving low-income youth ages 15-18 in Marion County — were mentored by Big Car teaching artists. Teens experienced creative placemaking firsthand by working together to create furniture and sculptures made from invasive honeysuckle harvested from Bean Creek, an overgrown waterway in Garfield Park. They learned how to design, build, and paint the sculptures, many of which were used in the landscape design at Spark Monument Circle. In 2016, we’ll be working with TeenWorks to pilot our youth-oriented public programs at our new Tube Factory artspace workshop and in public places in the city. We continue to work as creative placemakers with Reconnecting to Our Waterways, a series of projects and programs that activate neighborhood areas near our city’s streams and rivers. And we’re excited to team up with artist Mary Miss and a variety of partners in support of the Streamlines art and science project also near our city’s waterways.

Citywide Collective Projects: Our citywide initiatives on livability foster a culture of innovation and generate creative energy in Indianapolis. Spark Monument Circle: With funding from a NEA Our Town grant in partnership with the City of Indianapolis, Big Car led an 11-week creative placemaking project in the city’s main public plaza, Monument Circle, invigorating the space with people-centric infrastructure and daily artistic and community programming reaching 45,000 visitors. The project featured 300-plus varied small events and happenings including weekly artist-led walks, musical performances, and opportunities to get creative. Check out all the numbers presented in a fun and graphical way here. In 2016, we plan to produce Spark again in partnership with the City of Indianapolis (details coming soon). Also, we’re excited to team up, this year, with Riley Area Development to commission a mural in a prominent place honoring Indianapolis poet Mari Evans who turns 97 this year. And, working with a variety of partners, we’ll again help bring TEDxIndianapolis back for its fifth year.

Please check out our year-end report and video if you missed all of the details on our 2015 accomplishments. It was a great year!

Now, we hope you can get involved with all that’s happening this year! Contact us at email hidden; JavaScript is required if you’d like to participate as an artist or volunteer. You can also help us bring art to more people by making a much-appreciated donation. And always just feel free to show up and enjoy yourself.

View Post
Tindley Prep Poetry Reading

Tindley Prep Poetry Reading

Students from Tindley Preparatory Academy held homage to black artists at Tube Factory on January 16, 2017 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Teacher Tasha Jones brought a group of 40 8th graders from the all-boys middle school to the artspace for a poetry reading and celebration of culture.

Before the event, each Tindley student was assigned to write about their personal experiences in the form of an “I am” poem, which they shared in front of family and Tindley faculty members at Tube. The poems explored topics like identity, inner peace, and discovering self-worth. The poems varied in tone and structure but showed strong sense of pride – the boys were confident in what they wrote and were happy to share their poetry with the audience.

After the reading, students and community members learned more about the Civil Rights Movement through sharing other poetry and open discussion. Much of the day centered around  writer Mari Evans – one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, longtime Indianapolis resident, and subject of Carl Pope’s exhibit in the Tube gallery.

To remember the field trip, the students’ poems from the day were later hung up in their classroom surrounding a picture of Mari, seen below. See more pictures from this event here.

View Post
Big Smiles: 2015 Year in Review

Big Smiles: 2015 Year in Review

While this year was one filled with some big transitions — including moving our home base to the Garfield Park neighborhood — we accomplished much as the city’s only full-time socially engaged art and placemaking organization. In 2015, we reached more than 30,000 people, provided part- and full-time work to more than 50 artists, sparked major investment in a long-overlooked area of the city, and helped bring vibrancy to several underutilized public places near our waterways and in the heart of Downtown.

But the most important outcome of our work was helping so many people feel happy while getting creative. We’re glad our projects brought smiles to people’s faces. We’re glad the free opportunities to celebrate and participate in art and play helped folks feel closer to each other. And we’re glad our events helped us all better appreciate this place we call home.

These important accomplishments — and the list below — were all made possible thanks to our donors and partners, board and staff, volunteers and neighbors, and artists and performers who brought their incredible ideas and energy into the mix. If you’d like to get involved, email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required. If you’d like to help by making a donation, it’s easy to do here.

2015 in video:

Here’s a chronological list of Big Car’s highlights from 2015:

At The Show Room and Listen Hear: This pair of pop-up cultural spaces in a mostly vacant retail strip in the Lafayette Square Mall area featured social practice art projects such as an instruction-based interactive show, a gallery in a bathroom, and a slate of sound art programming through May of 2015. Note: the Listen Hear sound art space concept will transfer to our new space in the Garfield Park neighborhood in early 2016.

Placemaking with Reconnecting to Our Waterways: With support via the Kresge Foundation, Big Car hired Alan Goffinski as the ROW Creative Placemaker. Alan and staff conducted placemaking workshops for artists and neighbors, and wide variety of eclectic outdoor public social events (from a flash mob in Broad Ripple, to a Day of the Dead celebration in Fountain Square, to a leaf jump along Fall Creek), drawing 450 people. Read more here.

Building with Big Car: Mentored by teaching artists, a dozen teens from the TeenWorks program experienced art and placemaking firsthand by working together to create furniture and sculptures made from invasive honeysuckle harvested from Bean Creek in the Garfield Park neighborhood, and painting sculptures to be used as part of parklet seating at Spark Monument Circle. See photos here.

Music at the Texaco: This ALL-IN Block Party drew 200 Garfield Park neighbors for live local music of many genres at a vacant former gas station, as a way of leveraging community pride, connections among neighbors, and economic development. A new, full-time commercial use of the old gas station is in the works. ALL-IN is a program of Indiana Humanities.

Garfield Alive Sculptures: Big Car collaborated with Friends of Garfield Park to develop interactive sculptures (shaped like abstracted vintage victrola record players) marking points of interest for an audio tour of the historic 128-acre park.

Wagon of Wonders: Designed collaboratively by Big Car artists on the platform of an ice fishing trailer from Minnesota, this mobile art gallery, pop-up public space, and mobile bait and tackle shop (used for Reconnecting to Our Waterways placemaking programming) features interactive art activities, a tiny library with a fold-out reading desk, and commissioned exhibits by Indianapolis artists Beatriz Vasquez and Casey Roberts. The Wagon reached 6,500 in its first six months.

Spark Monument Circle: With funding from the NEA via the City of Indianapolis, Big Car led an 11-week placemaking project in the city’s main public plaza, invigorating the space with people-centric infrastructure and daily programming reaching 22,000 residents, workers and visitors from around the world — while also testing out the city’s plans for a permanent renovation of the Circle area.

TEDxIndianapolis: Keep It Simple: For the fourth year, Big Car and our partners produced this day long-conference of ideas, at the University of Indianapolis, bringing in Australian placemaking expert David Engwicht to speak, among others. Attended by 500 people, the event included a Big Car-designed, simplicity-themed interactive exhibition at the UIndy art gallery for the entire month of October.

Southside Murals: On Indy Do Day in early October, Big Car engaged with Lilly Global Day of Service volunteers to paint two murals designed by nationally known Indianapolis artist Nat Russell, on two new Big Car buildings in the Garfield Park neighborhood, The Tube Factory artspace and Listen Hear. In November, Big Car teamed up with the Bates-Hendricks Neighborhood Association who commissioned Big Car’s Andy Fry to design and facilitate painting an underpass mural highlighting the neighborhood and its history.

5×5 Idea Competition at Tube Factory: In November, Big Car hosted its round of this arts ideas competition at Tube Factory artspace in the Garfield Park neighborhood — our first event in the building still under renovation. More than 200 people attended, hearing ideas for improving livability through art. A coalition of foundations provided the winning intergenerational team, Arts for Learning, with a $10,000 prize for their community story-gathering idea. We also gave the other presenting teams a $500 stipend.

View Post
You can Help us Share the Joy of Art and Creativity Together!

You can Help us Share the Joy of Art and Creativity Together!

At Big Car Collaborative, we believe everybody should get to participate in making and enjoying art and vibrant public places. As artists ourselves, we know the thrill that comes from creativity, from spending time with people celebrating art and culture. We don’t want to bottle this up for ourselves. We’re determined to share.

Everyone, of all ages and backgrounds, should enjoy opportunities to get creative together with events and programs that are fun, affordable, and welcoming to all. We love it when this happens spontaneously — with people stumbling upon engaging, hands-on art activities and events in public spaces. Maybe they didn’t consciously set out in search of a creative experience. But when they find us doing something fun along a waterway, in a park, or at Monument Circle, people smile. And they stop and create, play, socialize, relax, and share.

With the support of many partners, generous funders — and individuals like you — we’re working to enhance public life. This is made of non-commercial and spontaneous social activities that happen at public spaces and places. This is what Spark Monument Circle and Service Center were all about. This is the essence of our work taking shape in the Garfield Park neighborhood. And this is what we’re doing every day as Indiana’s only nonprofit organization — and one of a handful around the world — dedicated, full-time, to helping improve life for people through placemaking and socially engaged art.

As 2015 draws to an end, please join us in celebrating our big year and please consider a making a tax-deductible donation to help us bring art to even more people in 2016. Thank you!

Also, please check out our 2015 year-in-review video.

Big Car's 2015 Year in Review from Big Car on Vimeo.

View Post
Kurt’s Top 10 Big Car photos from 2015 + the making the year-in-review video

Kurt’s Top 10 Big Car photos from 2015 + the making the year-in-review video

by Kurt Lee Nettleton, Big Car videographer

Since officially starting at Big Car four months ago as the “documentation person,” responsible for both video and photo (and more recently branching into the social media posting too, tepidly), I’ve found myself in a whirlwind of activities, people, places, happenings, noise, and music. Below are my ten favorite images from that whirlwind.

Spark-Game of Graces

1) “A Game of Graces” – I don’t actually remember when this photo was taken down at Spark, but it’s pretty dense with information, which is a usual goal when documenting events. I found it while searching through folders for this post, and you can’t help but stop when someone’s face is so obviously “lit up” like that. I tend to shoot low aperture, which creates that blurry background. I like it because it isolates the subject in a super intentional fashion. What’s more, I always tend to like imagery that “feels cinematic,” or has some element of before and after to the frame. Here this girl clearly looks “accomplished,” and even if you don’t know the Game of Graces (she just successfully tossed that ring to the older man using those two sticks) you know she just did something to be proud of.

Cherie, the Shark, and the Lobster

2) “Surrealist Win” – The primary reason I love this photo: that lady is Cheria Caldwell and she is a newer staff member to Big Car, like me. She vehemently objects to being photographed, and so as you can tell, here she is mid objection. I think that look on her face is fantastic. This was taken at the Spirit & Place Surrealist Party so you can also see Anne Laker dressed with a shark head. That was one of the best surprises of the night. What you can’t make out, is the random lady dressed as a lobster eating a barbie in the background. It was an astonishingly fun night. We made paper hats, after Hugo Ball (who yes was a Dada artist and not Surrealist, but whatever).

John Flannely Noise at Tube

3) “John at the Tube” – This one I’m super proud of. It’s the most recent of the 10 images here, and it’s showing John Flannelly, a spectacular local sound artist, performing alongside the Dream Indy 5×5 Spirit and Place event at the Tube. What I’m primarily proud of, apart from it being a nicely framed shot of someone talented, is that I lit this shot during the day when the room was filled with daylight, with no time to wait to test the lighting. All I knew was that I wanted it to mix colors, and to seem to be carved out of the dark background with subtle but highly contrasted lines.

Fencing on the Circle

4) “Fencers on the Circle” – One of the coolest parts about Spark was the absolute randomness. It was particularly nice towards the end of the two and half months, because it was a nice way to break up the regular programming (I was almost down there everyday for a solid two and half months, so even absurd things were starting to feel ordinary). Here it was some random Saturday and this fencing club requested they bring their stuff down and put on live demonstrations. Not only was it just fantastic imagery to photograph, but it was a really fun environment to be in. Here these people are, doing an arguably eccentric pastime, out in public, and they’re openly inviting people to participate and learn (fellow on the left is from the group and is demonstrating for the fellow on the right, who was just passing through the circle at the time). And all of this wasn’t our (Big Car’s) idea, they came to us. Quite enjoyable.

The Winning "Smile"

5) “The Winning Smile” – Yes that title is a pun. Sometimes a photo is about the sheer surprise you able to capture something. This was also at the Dream Indy 5×5 Spirit and Place event at the Tube. Prior to announcing the winner I tried to set up for a shot on stage of the winning pair posing in the oversized prop Big Car had made. As the announcement happened I caught a reaction out of the corner of my eye, swung right and snapped a couple pictures. The young woman on the right is one half of the pair that just won the prize.

The Owl

6) This is absolutely my favorite photo I’ve taken since starting at Big Car. I was just hanging out by the Welcome Wagon on the Circle when some Indy Fringe performers came walking by advertising for their respective shows. This owl was part of one nice gentleman’s act. This photo has like all the aspects of photography I strive for: strong eye contact, dynamic leading lines, slightly backlit, low aperture. My proudest image of the last few months.

Big Carp Leaf Jump

7) “Leaf Jump” – This was an event held by Alan Goffinski for Reconnecting to Our Waterways he called a Leaf Jump. To be honest I was a little cranky that day and was feeling rushed to get an overlapping second event.  But when Alan finally busted out the Big Carp, it was worth it. Talk about a photographic dream, the light was hitting the back of the pile just right, the leaves and all their particulates started flying, and the leaf pile erupted with activity. So much so that I actually started feeling better.

Walker Theater

8) “Indiana Avenue Tour” – Of all the Spark events covered, the tours were by far the most challenging and the most visually rewarding. Walking backwards, rolling video, audio and capturing photos all simultaneously (I even tripped over a stone planter on this specific tour and tore some skin off of my lower back). This tour went particularly late, had a lot of good stops and stories and history. Combined with the nights coming sooner, it was kind of dark by the end of the tour at Walker Theater. Such a beautiful building, I really wanted a good photo, but my ISO was soaring as it got darker (particularly because there’s not a whole lot of direct streetlight on that corner). So in an effort to keep the ISO low I used a longer shutter and got this decent effect.


9) “The Athenaeum” – Another tour, another beautiful building. There’s actually two photos from this tour I particularly am proud of, but this one I find uncanny. Not only is it a full building shot from the middle of Mass Ave during golden hour, but I find it also entertaining that the sprawl of the tour attendees somewhat mirrors the shape of the Athenaeum from this angle.

Jesse Sugarmann

10) “Jesse Sugarmann” – This is the ultimate golden hour shot (referring to that magic hour when the light from the sun casts across the ground at just the right angle to produce some interesting color, usually near dawn and dusk). This is one of the last shots of three full days of work for Jesse, who is the artist responsible for the “People’s 500,” a piece that called for normal people to drive a full race around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To be honest it was the shot I’d been hoping to get all day, and it was such a relief when in the last ten minutes I got it.

So that’s a breakdown of how I shoot, what I look for, how I frame and the aesthetic I aim to capture. The most recent task I completed was to finish a video review of 2015 for Big Car (click here if you’re on your phone) and all its programming. It presents a unique challenge because obviously I did not capture the entire year myself. However, for as much as I enjoy capturing imagery, I actually find greater enjoyment in editing. So I spent a good amount of time reviewing Flickr for imagery and video of the ten projects to be highlighted, and assembled them all into folders (good editing is in organization, that is more than half the battle).

After assembling my materials, I set about creating a first cut, and it actually came together surprisingly quick. I set about creating an intro, set up Big Car and their intention, specifically their theme bringing art to people. While typing the titles it occurred to me that art and people lined up almost, which I thought was uncanny, so I let it linger. After establishing an introduction, I wanted to give the premise some validation so I found a couple interview clips stating the importance of Big Car’s mission and how easily it can be accomplished at times, which finally leads to the review of programming.

In this first cut I was just getting my content ideas on “paper” so to speak. Laying out the order of imagery for each project, beginning usually with something abstract/intriguing, then an establishing image, then a series of explanatory images or imagery that exemplifies. I also like to layer my edits so sounds start to rise before the clips that match enter the frame (called J or L cutting). One of my original intentions was to stamp each section with a logo that pertained, however that quickly proved a little confusing as some logos were partners and some logos were Big Car creations.

When re-editing, we aimed to make the text a little more explanatory, and also more concise. The music underneath remained the same, the first track is an original I found in the Big Car archives and the followup song is from Bigfoot Yancey, recorded down at Spark (the second song of theirs I’ve used, they’re really good). Lastly I like to give my videos a vague sense of a “day.” It’s a subtle way of communicating a video is coming to a close. So I like to begin with brighter shots and end with darker shots, as if the sun is setting. All in all it was a pretty smooth video to create, and it helps that it’s about a pretty fascinating group of people and all their efforts.

View Post
Finish Lines and Festivals: Creativity in Service of our Waterways

Finish Lines and Festivals: Creativity in Service of our Waterways

A Reconnecting to Our Waterways 2015 Recap

by email hidden; JavaScript is required, ROW Creative Placemaker

Fun fact: if you travel anywhere at all in Indianapolis, you likely traverse one or more of our six major waterways on a regular basis.  

“Six waterways? What are you talking about?” you may be asking. “I have seen the White River from my car window. That’s one. What about the Canal? Does the canal count?”

Yes! The Canal counts!  There’s also Pogue’s Run, Pleasant Run, Fall Creek, and Little Eagle Creek.  That’s quite a six-fingered handful. And just like a six-fingered hand, they fan out across our fair city, their cool waters tickling so many of our diverse and vibrant neighborhoods.

Our waterways are sometimes hard to spot as we motor home from the office at breakneck speed with the tunes up, or as we facebook our way through rush hour traffic (tsk tsk).  I’ll admit that often they are difficult to spot even from a bicycle or while walking because of the overgrown invasive honeysuckle that chokes out their banks.

That’s where ROW comes in.  Reconnecting to Our Waterways is a grassroots collective impact organization taking an holistic approach to our waterways for the transformation of our communities. Through generous funding from the Kresge Foundation and a partnership with Central Indiana Community Foundation, ROW is dredging our waterway system out of the dark ages of the Industrial Revolution.

Big Car Collaborative has been a long-term partner in this effort to make our waterways cultural destinations with art, nature and beauty everyday for everyone.

Now, allow me to reintroduce myself.

I am Alan Goffinski, Big Car Collaborative’s Creative Placemaker for ROW. Among other things, I have been tasked with bringing people-centric placemaking experiences to our waterways.  My goal is to reverse the magnetic polarity of our waterways, so to speak.  Since late 1800’s, American cities have turned their backs on the disease-ridden, malaria-infested hazards that our waterways had become. Our waterways began to repel people, communities, and development. Well, NO MORE! Let’s keep using this undervalued resource as our canvas as we paint stronger communities! The following is a recap (with great pictures) of some of the ways we have been doing that.

This series explored creative approaches to revitalizing communities and improving public places. The free series helped attendees learn about strategies and meet leading thinkers in the fields of environmental art, creative placemaking, and tactical urbanism. In pursuit of a better city, the idea is to get people together to reimagine our public spaces and bring new energy to the city’s waterways.


In his project “Charting Pogue’s Run”, Sean Derry set out to memorialize our native waterway with a long, blue line and iron markers mapping the stream’s 1831 path. Derry will share his perspective and experience of completing such a massive public art project. This event took place in collaboration with the White River Festival.


A 90-minute walk lead by Artist Sean Derry took place along the historical but hidden banks of Pogue’s Run. Participants navigated old-timey maps along our modern city thoroughfares while considering the value of creativity and natural resources in our modern cities. This event took place in collaboration with the White River Festival.


This discussion with renowned Environmental Artist Mary Miss will offered insight into her work and creative process. Additionally, the discussion focused on her StreamLines project underway now in Indianapolis. 


During this casual brown-bag lunch, artists involved with Spark discussed placemaking and projects that engage people before.  Artists Stuart Hyatt and Ash Robinson shared their artwork and how they engage in people-focused art.  The conversation included a brief walk around Monument Circle led by Big Car’s Jim Walker.


As Spark: Monument Circle came to a close we gathered to consider the impact of creative placemaking projects. Attendees ate lunch while having a conversation with Australian public space guru David Engwicht.  We discussed the challenges and outcomes of creatively transforming our shared spaces.  


 This workshop invited artists to conspire for the good of their communities. Creative placemaking and tactical urbanism experts Anthony Garcia from Miami, and David Engwicht from Australia assisted artists in developing creative interventions for public space along our waterways. 


David Engwicht is one of the world’s most inventive thinkers and writers on creating vibrant public spaces. This presentation shared insight from his experiments in Creative Placemaking and explored how they relate to our public spaces in Indianapolis.

This project is a collaboration of many local and national artists.  The Wagon of Wonders (WOW) is a tool for engaging individuals who may not have art or waterway experiences and may not know how to engage either.  The Wagon of Wonders is a large interactive art trailer with one half dedicated as an artistic rendition of a bait shop.  It was visually modeled after the Westside Bait and Tackle Shop, a family business that has been a hub of culture in the Indianapolis fishing community for over 50 years.  When the WOW is stationed near waterways, it is stocked to loan fishing poles to kids and adults and sell bait and tackle provided by Westside.  When the WOW is not near water, a waterway expert provides information, educational games, and fun experiences that bolster system wide awareness and appreciation for our waterways.

No doubt Big Car’s waterway mascot, “Big Carp” has been making a splash at a waterway near you!  Big Carp is excellent at instantly transforming space, welcoming hesitant wallflower types, and partying with fun-loving people of all ages. Also, he’s good friends with Bigfoot. He often accompanies the Wagon of Wonders and is quite fond of a good dance party.  Even when there is no waterway in sight, Big Carp is especially good at sparking conversation and raising awareness about our waterways. Special thanks to the local mascot maniacs at Avant Garb for enthusiastically making Big Carp a possibility.

Volunteer artists and activists engaged trail users in an impromptu finish line celebration for average, everyday canal trail users.  Participants emerged from their hidden positions to surprise runners, bikers, and walkers. Unsuspecting Canal trail users were shifted out of their everyday routine mindset to begin wondering what it would be like to have more public art and trail competition in their public spaces. Everyone also got a big dose of good ol’ fashioned encouragement!

Three public readings were hosted along the bank of the White River in support of author Kevin McKelvey and Silt Loam Press’s publication of the Upper White River Bookmap.  This event included location-inspired collaborative poetry and drawing exercises.  This was a collaboration with White River Festival activities.

In partnership with Garfield Park Baptist Church, near the confluence of Pleasant Run and Bean Creek, the Wagon of Wonders Mobile Bait shop engaged children and adults alike in waterway education games and encouraged attendees to look to their waterways as a source of beauty and recreation

Educational programming and waterway related art games created a spotlight on the nearby Pleasant Run and celebrated the Pleasant Run Trail.  Children and adults learned about the effects of erosion on our landscape and what they can do to help water quality.

Along the White River, this event celebrates local culinary culture and food production.  The mobile bait shop provided a hub for creativity and a highlighted the White River amidst the festivities.

Artists were gathered to assist partygoers in the construction of sculpture pieces composed from trash that was removed from the White River.  Sculptures were displayed at the City Market.

This event was a partnership between ROW, Sense Charter School, the Bates Hendricks Neighborhood Association, and local churches.  The Dia de los Muertos celebration highlighted the vibrant Mexican culture of many of the neighborhood residents and Sense Charter School students at the new Barth St. pedestrian bridge.  This event included invasive plant removal and bulb planting.

Is there any better way to celebrate fall than to jump into an enormous pile of leaves on the creek that shares the season’s name? This event was a partnership with Broadway Methodist church and their artists in residence. After raking the biggest leaf pile you’ve ever seen, we spent hours swan diving into it.  The Wagon of Wonders made an appearance and we made some leafy art projects.  Families brought picnics, lounged in hammocks, and roasted marshmallows to go with their hot cider.

Lead by Pogue’s Run artist Bre Gerard and Bloomington author Richard Wehrenberg Jr., This writer’s workshop brought a great group of writers out to explore the inspiring Pogue’s Run.  After a little meeting at Rabble Coffee, we trekked down to Pogue’s Run to get some good river vibes and listen a short reading from Richard’s book, River. Afterwards, we returned to support the cozy local coffee shop for an inspired writing workshop exploring the significance of “place” and how we relate to it.

“Cool stuff!  So, what’s next?”

I’m so glad you asked!  One huge aspect of this Creative Placemaking endeavor is the coalescence of the creative energy in our communities around our waterways.  This means identifying lead artists for all ready waterways and strategizing ways to tailor placemaking interventions to communities in specific ways that will resonate with local residents.  This also involves raising up a community of artists who view their local waterway as a canvas or venue for their own brand of community-focused art.  This is giving us plenty to work toward in the off-season.

BUT- don’t let ROW and Big Car off your radar this winter! There are numerous ways to get involved with ROW, starting with your local waterway committee meeting.  And make sure to check in as we roll out exciting ideas that inspire our fellow Hoosiers and bring people together to reconnect to our waterways.

View Post
Meet Three New Big Car Staff

Meet Three New Big Car Staff

Thanks to Channie Jones (Program & Administrative Manager), Kurt Nettleton (Videographer), and Cheria Caldwell (Urban Design & Research Fellow), Big Car’s capacity for documentation, evaluation and programs is now larger than ever.  You’ll likely see Channie hosting events and organizing volunteers. You’ll see Kurt filming and taking pictures at every Big Car event or project. And you’ll see Channie collecting and organizing data about Big Car’s impact.

Get to know these new Big Car team members a little more:

How’d you get connected to Big Car?

Channie: I attended Big Car events in Lafayette Square area and Murphy building.

Kurt: Started going to Big Car while they were in that big room in the middle of the Murphy.

Cheria: I connected with Big Car during the Spark Project at the end of the summer.

What skills and passions do you bring to Big Car?

Channie: My love for the arts and introducing people to new experiences.

Kurt: I’m the videographer/photographer/editor, so primarily documentation skills.

Cheria: Urban planning, community engagement and my love for the City of Indianapolis.

Favorite Big Car moment so far:

Channie: Hearing people share their dreams and draw on the white picket fences for Ash Robinson’s “American Dream” art installation.

Kurt: I met an owl (at Spark Monument Circle).

Cheria: Talking to Bridgette (a woman seated outside of Starbucks) daily at Spark, getting to know her story, and purchasing the hats that she crocheted on the Circle each day.

Favorite thing about Indianapolis:

Channie: Art opportunities and events in the city.

Kurt: Probably the same thing anybody would say about any city they seem to be in for the long haul: good people.

Cheria: Because I can’t just choose one: family, friends, the Indiana Fever and the bike trails.

Get to know Channie, Kurt and Cheria (and other Big Car staff) here.

View Post
Placemaking as Homemaking

Placemaking as Homemaking

by Chris Shumerth

David Engwicht was the son of a traveling preacher. As such, he felt like an outsider in schools, churches, and even in the places his family stayed. What that “vagabond” lifestyle did, according to Engwicht, was “to create in him an inner ache for home.”

Perhaps it was inevitable then, that the Australian became a professional placemaker (and founder of Creative Communities International), but it took a major turn to get there. “I was a high school dropout who was washing windows for a living,” Engwicht explained at a brown bag lunch at Spark Monument Circle last month during his week-long stay in Indianapolis at the invitation of Big Car.

As a window-washer, Engwicht got involved in a fight in his town over a road-widening initiative. “Traffic is us in our cars,” Engwicht said. “We can’t ask for this road not to be widened unless we’re willing to use our cars less.” He went on to say that “Traffic is a social problem, not a design problem.”

Engwicht was well on his way to inventing the “walking school bus” and writing the 1999 book, Street Reclaiming: Creating Livable Streets and Vibrant Communities, among other works.

“Placemaking is like homemaking,” Engwicht said at his talk at TEDxIndianapolis at the University of Indianapolis. In placemaking, he said, we try to take a public space and turn it into a place. The two things aren’t the same, and the goal is the feeling of home.

Placemaking, according to Engwicht, should do two things. It should create transformative experiences for people, and it should become the antidote to our addiction to movement.

When I talked to Engwicht after TEDxIndianapolis, he noted that the United States seems especially movement-oriented and that even Indianapolis’s bike lanes would benefit from a few more “linger nodes.”

Maybe Engwicht’s vocation doesn’t completely abandon his roots, because there seems to be something prophetic, if not downright spiritual, about Engwicht’s ideas.

He’s an advocate of what he calls “deep placemaking,” which seeks to address not just the surface-level dilemmas of towns and cities and traffic, but rather the stories behind the problems that come up.

According to Engwicht, deep placemaking has to address three main meta-narratives that are often ingrained in a community. The first story is one of identity, and limits: the “I am just…” story. Engwicht termed a second kind of story as the “we will fly when” story. The old kick-the-can-down-the-road story. And the third story that deep placemaking has to counter is the roadblock story, i.e. red tape, bureaucracy, retailers, and the like.

In order to fight one’s way around these roadblocks, Engwicht recommended taking action by calling an initiative “a trial.” During the trial, one ought to collect some data and write the necessary report with the hopes that the experiment becomes permanent. The key, you may notice, is that the action precedes the report, rather than the other way around.

But what about problems like repetitive vandalism or violence? What then?

According to Engwicht, the principles still apply. Traditional responses too often tend to “outsource civic responsibility.” Instead, Engwicht argued that, “the only way to solve (these kinds of problems) is to develop a civic relationship with the perpetrators.”

“It costs us to build trust,” he added.

In his consulting work, Engwicht likes to start by creating “red-tape-reduction groups” charged with seven-day makeovers.

What do we have? What am I willing to give? A resources bank is the starting point, according to Engwicht, and not so much elaborate wish lists that will probably never come to fruition. The idea is to create the kind of community people want from what they already have.

“Take your vision of the future, and live that way now,” Engwicht told me. “If your future isn’t committee meetings, then stop going.”

Engwicht said citizens often only know about twenty percent of what they want at the beginning of the process; that is to say they discover the eighty percent by going on “a voyage of discovery.”

“We built more community in two months of sitting on our lawn chairs eating dinner than in 20 years of bitching and moaning about city hall,” Engwicht said in his TEDxIndianapolis talk.

I was lucky enough to participate in an abbreviated version of Engwicht’s start-up process at a session sponsored by Reconnecting to our Waterways. In addition to Engwicht, the event featured by Anthony Garcia, a Miami tactical urbanist who also spoke at Indianapolis’s recent TEDx.

The placemaking workshop attracted a few dozen professionals from the city who were tasked with creating a resources bank for the various waterways in Indianapolis. I sat down at the Fall Creek table with Bonnie Mill and David Orr of The Sapphire Theatre Company, and Corrie Meyer, a landscape architect and urban planner.

Through the process of brainstorming, we discovered that the theatre company possesses several already-built, four-sided wooden platforms, which could be used to create linger nodes along the trail for graffiti projects, performance art, and/or yoga classes.

So if you’re an Indianapolis resident who frequents the Fall Creek area, keep your eyes out!

View Post
Nov. 12 5×5 Indy finalists set

Nov. 12 5×5 Indy finalists set

On Thursday, Nov. 12, judges and audience members will award $10,000 to an idea for using art to strengthen community in Indianapolis at 5 x 5: Dream Indy. The event is the fourth of four 5×5 idea competitions this year, in which five finalists have five minutes and five slides each to pitch an idea. The event is presented by Big Car Collaborative, the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community, and Joy’s House Day Adult Service, as part of the 2015 Spirit & Place Festival (whose theme is “Dream”).

The event takes place in the grounds of Big Car’s new Tube Factory artspace, at 1125 Cruft St. in Garfield Park. A team of judges selected five finalists from among 27 submissions. The five selected ideas address building neighborhood identity, crossing demographic boundaries, and building social capital:

presented by Danicia Malone and Tomm Roesch
Indiana is one of five states in the nation with no anti-hate crimes legislation. This public art project will combat microagressions with microaffections through an interactive typographic projection of text related to ethics and advocacy, and eight gramophones strategically positioned around the city that collect and project words of encouragement.

Open Music Indy: A Collaborative Concert Series
presented by Rob Funkhouser and Austin Senior
Open Music Indy is a concert series that would gather musicians (composers, songwriters, performers) from different Indianapolis communities to create new music and perform it free to the public. Collaborations would be designed to join audiences and artists that would not normally listen or perform together. The concerts would happen in all-ages public spaces and be used as a tool to foster relationships between musicians and music lovers of all kinds and to eliminate any perceived barriers, cultural, demographic, or otherwise, between them.

Neighborhood Stories
presented by Bob Sander and Alysah Rice
Neighborhood Stories connects Near Eastside residents, young and old, through storytelling and illustration. Visual artist Emily Kennerk will design a “Reader’s Chair,” a public artwork, to mark the site of monthly reading events, where community members can gather to share stories about their neighborhood, across generations. Workshops, sponsored by Arts for Learning, will be held at area schools for students to create books based on the stories collected and their own dreams for the community.

A Place to Call Home: Saint Clair Place and Neighborhood Identity
presented by Lukas Schooler and Beverly Roche
Through neighbor-driven interviews and tailored public workshops, NoExit Performance would work with youth in the Saint Clair Place neighborhood to create a unifying historic and/or social narrative for their neighborhood through interviews with residents. NoExit Performance and neighbors will devise a series of short performances that will debut at the annual Saint Clair Place Parade.

The Secret of Life Society
presented by Christopher M. Dance and Chad Hankins
The Secret of Life Society is a series of figurative public monuments depicting current community residents, selected through a voting process. The sculptures would include benches and information about the unique place where the monuments are located. The aim is to inspire hope through creating value and interest in public spaces and individual champions of neighborhoods.

Funds for 5×5 come from the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), the Efroymson Family Fund, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc. The goal is to stimulate grassroots innovation in Indianapolis. This is the third year of the 5×5 program, in which $110,000 has been granted to 11 creative ideas.

At the Nov. 12 competition event, one idea will get $10,000 and the other four will receive $500. The panel of judges will select the best idea based on viability, community impact, creativity, intergenerational appeal. The audience vote counts as well.

The event is from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. and is free, with food and drink available for purchase. An RSVP is required.

View Post
Big Car lands two major grants

Big Car lands two major grants

Two Indianapolis-based foundations recently announced major gifts to Big Car Collaborative for our Garfield Park Creative Community initiative. Our artist-led non-profit will use the funds to renovate and occupy two formerly vacant buildings in Garfield Park as community art spaces to leverage cultural and economic revitalization of the near southside neighborhood.

A $250,000 contribution from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation will be used for renovation and furnishing of The Tube Factory artspace (above after 2015 Lilly Day of Service) at 1125 Cruft St., and Listen Hear, at 2620 S. Shelby St. A two-year $125,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pullman Charitable Trust will be used for staffing and programming when the two spaces open in early 2016.

Tube Factory is Big Car’s new permanent long-term home base featuring community gathering space, contemporary art exhibition area, and a cooperative workshop. Listen Hear is a venue for sound art and community radio, with a mini-laundromat and retail offerings. The Garfield Park Creative Community will also include affordable artist housing and art projects throughout the neighborhood in its next phase.

“We’re thrilled about these two major gifts and the impact this will have on our community,” executive director Jim Walker said. “The Tube Factory will be an anchor for a neighborhood full of art experiences. And it will give us a home base for placemaking and socially engaged projects around the city and beyond.”

The Allen Whitehill Clowes and Pulliam Trust grants add to the almost $800,000 already raised toward the $1.5 million goal. Supporters include a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development ($466,000), the Efroymson Family Fund ($150,000), Lilly Endowment, Inc. ($50,000); Christel DeHaan Family Foundation ($35,000); Indianapolis LISC ($20,000), Howard Schrott and Diana Mutz, Ursula David, The Madeira Fund, The Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation ($10,000 each), and the Arthur Jordan Foundation ($2,500), as well as a major in-kind contribution from Blackline, the lead architect firm on the Tube Factory project. Riley Area Development Corporation is a key partner in the Garfield Park project as well.

Additionally, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) invested $75,000 in Big Car and Riley Area Development’s housing initiative to refurbish vacant and neglected properties on Cruft Street as affordable live and work homes for artists who work with the public.

With Big Car owning its buildings, the Shelby Street corridor in the Garfield Park neighborhood is the permanent home and area of focus for the organization. Big Car works as an artist team embedded in Indianapolis neighborhoods to activate public space, engage artists and residents, and help transform the built environment as part a project called Garfield Park Creative Community. The goal is to make art and creativity integral to the culture of the neighborhood.