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Efroymson grants $150,000 for Big Car’s new Tube artspace

Efroymson grants $150,000 for Big Car’s new Tube artspace

By Big Car Collaborative Staff

The Efroymson Family Fund, a Central Indiana Community Foundation Fund, recently granted Big Car $150,000 toward its art-based revitalization effort in Garfield Park on the near southside of Indianapolis. The grant will help Big Car finish and furnish The Tube Factory, its new long-term home base that featuring community gathering space, contemporary art exhibition area, and cooperative workshop. This is part of a comprehensive effort by Big Car and its partners that also includes a sound-based commercial building and artist housing.

The Efroymson Family Fund, a major supporter of the arts in Indianapolis and around the Midwest, is a longtime backer of Big Car — giving the organization its first foundation grant in 2007. The Efroymson Family Fund further backed Big Car as it grew rom an all-volunteer organization into one now employing 10 people and operating with an annual budget of $1.3 million. This $150,000 grant is the largest foundation gift ever received by Big Car, an artist-led nonprofit placemaking and community arts organization that formed in 2004.

“We so much appreciate the vision of the Efroymson Family and their confidence in us. We, and our community, are better off in so many ways because of their generosity,” said Big Car executive director Jim Walker. “(Efroymson Family Fund advisor) Jeremy Efroymson saw the potential of Big Car from the start. And we’re so grateful that he continues to see the value of artists working to make a difference in our community.”

As a longtime supporter of Big Car, Jeremy Efroymson said he’s excited to see how the organization’s work in the Garfield Park neighborhood develops. “We’re happy to be able to help Big Car with its efforts to support the revitalization of the neighborhood,” he said.

The Christel DeHaan Family Foundation also recently granted $35,000 toward the Tube Factory renovation. This boosts the amount raised, so far, to more than $800,000 of the goal of $1.5 million for the overall Garfield Park project.

Big Car plans to launch a capital campaign to raise the balance in early 2016. Other support so far includes a $466,000 Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development via the City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, a $50,000 grant from Lilly Endowment, a $20,000 façade grant from Indianapolis LISC, a $10,000 gift from Howard Schrott and Diana Mutz, a $10,000 gift from The Madeira Fund, a $10,000 gift from Ursula David, a $10,000 grant from The Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation, a $2,500 grant from the Arthur Jordan Foundation, as well as a major in-kind contribution from Blackline — lead architects on the Tube Factory project.

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 Garfield Park community.

By November 2015, The Tube Fatory artspace — a former hydraulic tubing factory — will open for preview events highlighting what will be gallery and event space, a tinkering lab, and workshop for Big Car artists and others. A nearby property on Shelby Street will also open at about the same time as a sound art gallery, small retail space, and future low-power FM radio station studio known as Listen Hear. In 2016 and 2017, several vacant homes nearby will be refurbished as artist residencies in partnership with Riley Area Development Corporation.

About Big Car: An Indianapolis-based 501c3 nonprofit, Big Car uses creativity as a catalyst to a better city. By providing and supporting unique, educational, participatory, playful and personal experiences, Big Car engages people of all ages and backgrounds in art making and creative problem-solving — inspiring them to be creative thinkers and involved, connected citizens. Learn more at www.bigcar.org.

About The Efroymson Family Fund: The Efroymson Family Fund, a donor-advised fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation, continues a long charitable legacy in central Indiana. The Efroymson Family Fund was established in 1998 by Dan and Lori Efroymson to promote the viability of communities and to date has awarded more than $88 million in grants in central Indiana and beyond. For more information about the interests and impact of the Efroymson Family Fund visit

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Big Car 2014 in Review + Looking Ahead

Big Car 2014 in Review + Looking Ahead

by Jim Walker, Big Car Executive Director

This year was a busy but successful one for Big Car. It started with our three-year pop-up socially engaged arts experiment, Service Center for Culture and Community, closing after a market-rate tenant leased the space. In the middle of relocating and expanding our work to include Downtown Indianapolis, we accomplished much, including:

• Three major public events attracting 5,000 people (the TEDxIndianapolis conference at Hilbert Circle Theatre, the Art in Odd Places public art experience Downtown, and No Brakes 10-year Big Car retrospective at University of Indianapolis).

• Pop-up cultural spaces on three sides of town lacking easy and free access to cultural opportunities (Lafayette Square, Far Eastside, Near Southside) including a new sound-art gallery curated and organized by one of our artist fellows, John McCormick, a recent Herron School of Art MFA graduate.

• Three major murals in Central Indiana and nine more nationwide — all created in collaboration with community members, involving more than 2,500 people in making art, and helping beautify a variety of public spaces.

• Design work for 15 fellow nonprofits, including a virtual historic tour of the Athenaeum — and logos and other materials for Ensemble Music Society, iMOCA, White River Festival, Garfield Park Neighbors Association, Reconnecting to Our Waterways, and Youth Power Indiana.

As part of a NUVO Newsweekly cover story in September highlighting Big Car’s 10 years of working Indianapolis, writer David Hoppe called Big Car artists “impresarios of the imagination,” using our creative expertise to “benefit people where they live.” This, as always, continues to be our goal. Read the rest of Hoppe’s story here.

In 2015, the theme of the annual TEDxIndianapolis big ideas conference we lead will be “Keep it Simple.” We plan to use this as a guiding principle for our approach for 2015. One way we plan to simplify is to focus more of our programming this year on a particular neighborhood — Garfield Park just south of Fountain Square. Look for exciting details soon on a new home base we’re establishing there. A good portion of our work in the early part of 2015 will be focused on launching this location while also advocating for neighborhood-wide improvements and furthering our relationships with community partners there.

We’ll continue pop-up programming and projects in Lafayette Square and the Far Eastside, including the summer-long partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library that pairs our mobile art-experience unit — the DoSeum — with the Bookmobile, making stops at apartment complexes in very challenged areas of the city. There, Big Car artists make art with young people and share free, healthy snacks. We call this entourage Fun Fleet and we look forward to another summer of fun in these neighborhoods.

And we’ll again bring a few major citywide projects to Indianapolis in 2015. The biggest is a partnership with the City of Indianapolis to bring arts programming to Monument Circle from June to September. Funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town awarded to the City and Big Car, this work — also in partnership with Art Strategies — will include temporary, site-specific cultural programming that helps the community reimagine what can happen at the Circle.

We’ll also further expand our work to make public sculptures using salvaged honeysuckle wood removed from waterway areas around the city. We’ve created a system for volunteers to clear the invasive honeysuckle, which blocks views of our waterways and kills native species, and then repurpose it as building material for chairs, benches, arbors, and other sculptures. Our artists work with volunteers, including young people from the TeenWorks program, to design and collaboratively build the pieces, which are often placed in public areas near the waterways.

Our audience in 2015 will continue to be a blend of primarily lower-income residents who don’t have easy access to art, and an arts audience (including many local artists) that continues to support Big Car and our work. We believe connecting people who are newer to the arts with existing arts supporters and artists is crucial to expanding the arts audience in Indianapolis. And we believe involving people in making art helps them better connect with it and appreciate it.

All of the artists at Big Car see working with people to improve the quality of life as our artistic practice. It’s not a side outreach program. It’s not something we do for a living, begrudging, while we wish we were doing our art. While many of us still make other kinds of art, our work with people is integrated with this practice. And our personal passions — the issues that mean the most to us — are integrated into our approach to the work we choose as an organization.

What we strive to create at Big Car is a better world, starting with our own community and our own neighborhoods. We use the tools and the power of art to help people become more culturally and creatively inclined, happier, healthier, more active and engaged, and better connected to each other in an increasingly divided world. That’s our art, as it should be. And, ultimately, it’s everybody’s art.

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Space and community

Space and community

by Cara Courage, Thinker in Residence

I’ve now been able to see all the spaces that Big Car has. After moving from the Service Center base, Big Car can now be found at Lafayette Square, where it has its Listen Hear and Showroom spaces; at Superior supermarket on the Far East Side, in its Galeria Magnifica space; its administrative base at The Hinge in Fountain Square; and Truck Stop, its storage, meeting and gallery space. I have also seen the potential future space for Big Car, the Tube, a factory in the Garfield Park area that presents Big Car with a truly multifunctional space to house all its various activities under and from.

Big Car’s Jim Walker talks about the vision for these spaces in a video tour of them here and a map of past, current and future Big Car spaces can be found below (an image from the No Brakes Big Car exhibition at UIndy).

BC map

Each of the gallery spaces brings with it huge possibility. The spread across the city is a material realisation of Big Car’s ambition to bring art to the people and people to art, literally, across Indy, and between neighbourhoods too. It gives opportunity also for artists to respond variously to each location, to think of the space itself, its setting and the spaces in-between. All the spaces facilitate a variety of uses – from gallery, to meeting space, to rehearsal room, to workshop, to performance space…I saw Showroom operate for the first time as a live venue this week with Hourglass, a participatory dance performance.

Hourglass 07

The spaces also pose a singular challenge at this time of beginning. This challenge is about finding the community around them, getting to know them and creating a programme that will get them over the threshold of the space and keep them coming back. And get them going to events at other Big Car spaces, crossing the neighbourhood boundary. Activity at Galeria Magnifica will soon centre on just this – getting to know who shops at the store it is housed in, getting to know the local area and starting a programme that will bring people together from within the area and then with others through food and storytelling.

Galeria Magnifica 02 crop ip

I can see the role that Big Car has played on Fountain Square over its ten years and it’s told to be by nearly everyone that I have interviewed here. I have come to Big Car at a time when as it enters its second decade that it is starting anew in many respects – the offer presented by the new spaces a creative watershed. Knowing Big Car as I am getting to, the challenges it faces will be tackled with creativity and tenacity and over time, from these early days and from its wealth of experience, these challenges will transform into opportunities and into relationships, programmes and events.

I get the sense too that Indy may be in a similar position as Big Car as again I am told that Indy is undergoing something of a cultural renaissance. I can certainly sense that Indy is looking at community afresh, seeing a resurgence in community initiatives city-wide and a local design, arts and culture infrastructure that is self-supporting and generating.

For both Big Car and Indy, its shared concerns with community, the space of the city and the role of the arts in this, these are very interesting – and exciting – times.