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by Cara Courage, Thinker in Residence

Indy and the work and place in it of Big Car has really opened up to me this week. I have seen it at work in the community with mural painting in and out of the city. I have seen its connections across the city and peoples’ warm and enthusiastic reactions to the mention of Big Car, and the pride that so many have from being involved with Big Car or from seeing how it has grown and what it has achieved over its ten years.

Talking to a fellow placemaking researcher, Anita Mckeown, an artist and PhD candidate at National College of Art and Design Dublin, she reminded me of ecologies – the worlds in which we all may live, work, study and play, and how our own worlds will inter-mingle with those of others – and this perspective is helping me make sense of Big Car’s place in the city.

Big Car’s activity may be a situated ephemeral activity, as in the coming together of a group of artists and community members in the course of a day to create something, as with the mural project for Indy Do Day last week (and the image above), where an extended team of volunteers were galvanised in the task into a creative community that created not just an art object but also an experience that had meaning. One person said that painting the mural made them want to ‘paint the whole city!’

With projects where it is more deeply embedded over a longer duration with a community, it may also be considered a social movement. This is work where Big Car, like a social movement, has its own modus operandi; a singular ethos; operates as a collective action where multiple viewpoints are incorporated; is a responsive and interactive learning process; and works to transform the socio-political characteristics of an area.

Where this thinking is leading me is to consider Big Car as a situated art practice that works with micro publics, in the various ecologies of the arts and community settings of Indy, with different drivers for different types of work. This live practice, whether it be along a street or across a whole neighbourhood, produces a generative knowledge that culminates in a social movement within Indy. Big Car may be doing its work through hyperlocal local sites, but these sites are all across the city, and together its effect is city-wide as both a driver and constituent of the city’s creative and cultural ecology.