About Cruft Street Commons
Art, culture, and creativity are powerful drivers for inclusive and equitable artist-led community development. As part of Big Car’s ongoing work in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of Downtown, our team works closely with the South Indianapolis Quality of Life Plan, Garfield Park Neighbors Association, and residents of all backgrounds to help revitalize this area along the Shelby Street corridor between bustling Fountain Square and the University of Indianapolis.
Read more about our current renovation work of homes for artists, a public greenspace and sculpture garden, and a second larger exhibition, studio, theater, and event space funded by Lilly Endowment and Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Herbert Simon Family Foundation and others here.
History of Garfield Park
The Garfield Park area includes a combination of the city’s oldest park and a mixture of stable blocks of mixed-income homes and other blocks – divided from the park by busy Shelby Street – that struggle with crime, vacancy, blight, and issues related to poverty. With most of Big Car’s staff artists living and working in the southeast area, we’re dedicated as neighbors to helping improve the quality of life for all people in this often-overlooked part of the city that also suffered from I-65 slicing through it in the early 1970s.
With our Garfield Park Creative Community Project, which continues as the top priority of our ongoing work, our major objective is to collaborate with neighbors and other partners to accomplish these goals:
- The neighborhood enjoys a higher quality of life, is safer, few buildings sit vacant, people of all backgrounds feel better connected to this place and their neighbors (both physically and socially), and children and adults enjoy more opportunities to succeed.
- The neighborhood is a walkable village (also easily accessible by mass transit) where small businesses thrive, employ and serve neighbors, and draw customers from all over the city.
- People outside of the Garfield Park neighborhood have more positive attitudes about this area and neighbors on all blocks (both east and west of Shelby Street) enjoy an elevated level of pride and involvement.
- Art and creativity are integral to the culture of the Garfield Park community and artists view the neighborhood as their long-term home. Plus, residents feel positive about artists in the community.
To do this, we’re taking a four-prong approach: Opening a large community art space in a neighborhood, a sound art space with a community radio station on the Shelby Street commercial corridor, affordable artist housing, and advocacy for a safer and more walkable village.
In 2015 and 2016, we purchased and renovated a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing building called Tube Factory artspace as the anchor for our work. This previously vacant facility built for use by a dairy in 1908 is a workshop and hub for our citywide placemaking work, a socially engaged art lab, and a space for contemporary exhibitions from local and national artists focused on place, and a large room for community meetings and cultural events. It opened in May of 2016.
Additionally, we have fixed up a storefront building on nearby Shelby Street to house Listen Hear, a sound art space with a community radio station (WQRT 99.1), gallery, and listening room. This space, previously located on the west side, moved to Garfield Park and opened in April of 2016.
Big Car and Riley Area Development Corporation – inspired, in part, by Project ROW Houses in Houston – have also transformed 14 houses surrounding The Tube into affordable living-working homes for artists. Boarded up houses became assets to the neighborhood with involved artists supporting the community and helping make a difference.
We’re also working hard in partnership with the City of Indianapolis and neighborhood groups to work in hands-on ways and advocate for a safer, more walkable, and connected neighborhood for all.
Check out additional excellent coverage of the project in The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Business Journal, NUVO Newsweekly, on WRTV6, in the Southside Times, in No Mean City and in The Urban Times.
In order to make this project transformational for the neighborhood and help the city as a whole, we continue to raise funds to support these projects and our placemaking work in other neighborhoods and areas of the city. People interested in donating can do so here.
Garfield Park Creative Community 2018 update
The Garfield Park Creative Community saw major project updates for the 2018 year. Big Car Collaborative has managed to continue do a wide variety of programming with the community in support and in-mind. From revamping tool shop classes to the new Chicken Chapel of Love, some major improvements include:
Major upgrades were added to our low-power FM radio station 99.1 WQRT. Housed in Listen Hear on Shelby Street, the WQRT website integrated new live streaming feature for your listening pleasure. The community and greater Indianapolis area can now access the station from anywhere, anytime. WQRT continues to offer a vast number of new community-generated radio programming. You can read about the community content along with the regular programming from our website. Anyone interested in becoming a DJ or a part of the WQRT LP Indianapolis community can now attend a radio DJ workshop – offered bimonthly by resident sound artist, Sean “Oreo” Jones.
The artist house at 1135 Cruft saw major upgrades to its interior and exterior. The home next door to Tube Factory officially titled the Guichelaar Gallery and Artists Residency House, had big improvements including new siding, roof, dormers, gallery walls, interior refinishing and painting, remodeled bathroom, accessible ramp and door, new porch, and a 8’ x 8’ light box art installation by artist David Schalliol.
You can see before and after photos of the artist house here.
The community food garden in the green space grew a total of eighty-six plants in 2018! Mostly tomatoes, lettuce, corn, and a variety of herbs, these plants could be picked for their fresh organic food anytime by visitors of the space. More 2018 improvements of the greenspace include a new pizza oven and two chicken coops with a flock of 11 new chickens. The chicken homes were built in a style of geometrical domes painted in light blue and salmon pink pastel colors. In-between the coops and public garden is Indianapolis’ first Indianapolis Bee Sanctuary. A public art and socially-engaging sculpture by St. Louis artist Juan William Chávez and local collaborators Bee Public and Teen Works.
You can see a video and read more about the project here.
Our successful Sunny Side Up Patronicity campaign secured the project funding for the Chicken Chapel of Love and various additional projects. Big Car greatly appreciates the individual contributors, community partners, and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) through the CreatINg Places challenge in matching the campaign contributions. Helping to make a vibrant cultural gathering space next to the Tube Factory artspace, the Chicken Chapel of Love will be fun, educational, and inviting. You can read more about the Chicken Chapel of Love from its 2018 news coverage at the IndyStar, NUVO, and IUPUI Art and Humanities Institute. Also, as part of the campaign, we will build a social kitchen and a serving space in our community gathering area where we will host free public programs about food, nutrition, urban ecology, and agriculture.
Also check out this Youtube video of Big Car co-founder Shauta Marsh, explaining the project and introducing you to our new community chickens! And see more of the chickens at our project photo page here.
We shifted gears a lot in 2020. But that’s nothing new for Big Car. After nearly 20 years as an artist-run nonprofit, we were as ready as we could be to keep connecting people with each other and supporting artists — even in the middle of so many challenges.
In 2020 we:
- Renovated five artist homes, now affordably rented to artists (and their families) who give back to the community through their creative practices. Two of these homes and Big Car/Tube Factory were featured on the HGTV series, Good Bones. This is part of our larger effort supported by Lilly Endowment’s Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative. As 2020 to a close, we purchased two more vacant houses and are in process on a third with support from Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP).
- Further expanded our eclectic mix of locally produced arts, music, and literary shows on our FM radio station, 99.1 WQRT (www.wqrt.org) – now offering 30 community-made music and talk shows. Arts Council of Indianapolis relief funding was especially helpful for WQRT in 2020.
- Launched a regional regranting program funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts giving 60 grants of $1,000 each to Indianapolis visual artists in need of emergency funding. This will become a regular grant program for artists and artist-run spaces in 2021. Also, we received two years of additional support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for exhibitions and programs at the Tube Factory campus.
- Finalized architectural plans for our new 44,000 square foot building – an industrial reuse project that will house artist studios, contemporary art galleries, a commercial kitchen, cafe, and event and gathering spaces.
- Completed plans for a new outdoor greenspace and living sculpture garden where neighbors will be able to gather in the midst of chickens and bees and native plants. This space and the big building are set to open in 2021 with major support from Lilly Endowment and the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation.
- Strengthened urban rural ties thanks to a grant from Indiana Humanities in New Harmony, a southern Indiana town of 800 important to our state’s cultural and political history. We produced radio shows for WQRT, published articles with Pattern Magazine, and interviewed New Harmony residents as part of this ongoing program exploring utopian ideals also supported by the Efroymson Family Fund.
- Taught 13 teens radio production at WQRT and building skills through the summer TeenWorks program supported by the Summer Youth Program Fund.
Our partners are Bean Creek Neighborhood Association, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, Indiana University, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, Learning Tree, and Riley Area Development Corporation.