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.