May 20, 2013

City Gallery awarded grant from ArtPlace America

by cgindy


Indianapolis, share our joy!  “ArtPlace America announces today the award of a $100,000 grant to the Harrison Center for the Arts (HCA) for the City Gallery. City Gallery was chosen from over 1,200 applications as an exceptional example of creative placemaking.”


ArtPlace America is a collaboration of leading national and regional foundations, banks and federal agencies committed to accelerating creative placemaking – putting art at the heart of a portfolio of strategies designed to revitalize communities. We at the Harrison Center and City Gallery have enjoyed years of community and city support.  We are grateful for our partners here in Indianapolis who know us and who have given thousands of dollars in support of our work in the city.  The ArtPlace grant marks the first time that our work has been recognized and funded at a national level.


We’re continuing our mission to promote the beauties of  living, working and playing in urban Indianapolis.  We believe that place (in our case, Indianapolis’s core neighborhoods) is important, and that a vibrant arts scene is a community and cultural development catalyst.  ArtPlace funding will allow us to, among other things, produce over 30 celebratory place-based  exhibits, festivals and community events, including a new singer-songwriter festival this fall.  We’ve had several of our summer interns arrive this week, including Paul Smallman, our new “brand ambassador” from Baltimore, who is also an accomplished singer-songwriter.  Paul has the daunting charge of writing a song a week telling the stories of urban Indianapolis.  Friday afternoon, we all sat together in the office and listened to his first composition, Different Speech, a moving ballad referencing Robert Kennedy’s announcement of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. which took place just a few blocks from us in what is now MLK Park. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to have these bits of our neighborhood history captured in song.


The official announcement and community celebration of the ArtPlace America award will take place on June 8th at our 12th Annual Independent Music + Art Festival (IMAF), a day-long festival that includes 12 local and regional bands and over 100 modern crafters and artists with an expected attendance of over 7000.  But we wanted you to know first!  Thank you to ArtPlace America for this unprecedented opportunity, and thank you to all of our partners here in Indianapolis who work tirelessly to make this world class city such a great place to live. We’re proud to be working alongside you.

May 17, 2013

School at 23rd & Park plays vital role in neighborhood renewal

by emilyvanest

In the 1970s, the neighborhood now known as Fall Creek Place was informally known as “Dodge City, because of the increased number of shootings; soaring crime rates, rampant drug abuse, and a serious abandoned and deteriorating housing problem contributed to the blight.  At a grassroots level, however, neighbors were working in their own ways to bring about change.  Percy Scruggs, an African American boy scout leader from Alabama, opened the first Community Outreach Center in the neighborhood.  Russ Pulliam once said of Scruggs, “He never talked about diversity or racial reconciliation.  But he practiced it, bringing together blacks and whites in a common cause to help a neighborhood.”


In the 1990s, former governor Mitch Daniels, then an executive at Lilly, and a group of friends and fellow businessmen decided that Indianapolis needed a different kind of school that could be a redemptive force for reconciliation in the city.  They picked the bleakest area of the city they could find, found space in an abandoned IPS building at the corner of 23rd and Park and opened the Oaks Academy.  The Oaks was founded on the idea that all children are capable of the duty and delight of learning, and that a rich, high quality education should be available to all.  The leaders envisioned and developed a rich classical curriculum, celebrating the “gold” of our great cultural heritage, integrated and organized along the historic timeline.  Students study the art, politics, history, literature and philosophy of the Ancient World in second grade, Greece and Rome in third, the Middle Ages and Renaissance in fourth, on through the modern era in sixth grade.  Everything repeats in middle school.  The approach seems to be working.  The school’s ISTEP pass rate is currently 100%, with most students testing one to two grades above grade level.  At the end of every school year, all students march down 23rd and Park, costumed, and dancing to music from the era they have studied.  It is an exuberant display of joyful learning and one of my favorite events of the year.  If you live in the Fall Creek area, come watch this year’s parade at 7:00 p.m. tonight (May 17).   It is one of those little snapshots that reminds me that there is hope in the world.


In the spirit of Percy Scruggs, the Oaks has always been intentionally committed to racial and socioeconomic reconciliation and unity.  The student body is roughly 50% low income, 25% middle and 25% high, and 39% African American, 45% Caucasian, and 16% Biracial, Asian and Hispanic.  At the Oaks Academy, faculty and staff are deeply committed to caring for each individual student.  Head of school Andrew Hart says, “No matter who you are, no matter what neighborhood you come from, no matter where the decimal point is in your bank account, what we say to every parent who comes in here is that there is one thing you need to be sure of: Your child will be known, and your child will be loved.” And it is true.

The days of “Dodge City” are a memory.  Fall Creek Place, the neighborhood that surrounds the Oaks Academy,  is now one of the most beautiful and desired neighborhoods in our city.  In the early 2000s, the city developed an aggressive home ownership program to address the problem of abandoned housing and absentee landlords. Under the leadership of the King Park Area Development Corporation, development and sales have far exceeded projections.  Today, more than 400 new families join many long-time residents in calling the neighborhood home.  Fall Creek Place has won four national awards for excellence in planning, design and community development, and has been featured in eight national magazines.  Thanks to our Indianapolis Community Development Corporations, city leaders and neighbors like you who see needs and do something about them.  Our city becomes more beautiful every day as we all work together.

May 13, 2013

Oh, the places you’ll go!

by emilyvanest


In my family, we have been looking forward to the grand opening of the Cultural Trail for a long time.  We draw a lot of attention as we bike around town: 2 adults (plus a bike trailer carrying a toddler) and 6 children on bikes, my husband leading the way and me bringing up the rear, shouting encouragements to straggling “tired” complainers and warnings to those veering into traffic or fighting to get in front of their siblings.  My husband and I have a long-standing argument about whether to ride on the sidewalk or the street.  The Cultural Trail settles things beautifully for us — you ride here.

We also live in Fountain Square.  We endured months of torn up streets, non-existent sidewalks, “no parking,” and construction vehicles and workers everywhere.  My littlest son came into toddler-hood during this time and was elated.  His best entertainment was walking down to see the “diggers and bulldozers.”  Our older children were less enthused, but we kept telling them to “Just wait!  This is going to be amazing.”

As the trail started to take shape, we began to see all the places we could go.  In an interview in last week’s NUVO, trail founder Brian Payne said, “You can see every major arts/cultural/heritage/sports/entertainment venue from a safe, beautiful, framed experience that really takes all the anxiety and worry out of it.”  How true.  We discovered that my high school daughter could bike from home to Herron High School, both destinations only a few blocks from the trail.  Last summer, my husband and I biked to Cafe Patachou every Saturday morning for breakfast and found it faster than driving and trying to find parking . . . and far more inspiring.  Every week we would say, “Isn’t this incredible?? We are so lucky to live here!”  One day last summer, we decided to bike as much of the Cultural Trail as we could.  We biked to IUPUI, White River Park, the Central Library, Mass Ave, and home to Fountain Square, stopping off for coffee, lunch, shopping, ice cream, and talking with friends we saw along the way.  We discovered new routes to places we didn’t realize were connected, innovative solar experiments, beautiful public art, a wildflower garden.

Vanest 001

The nationally hailed Cultural Trail officially opened on Saturday.  We got out our bikes and headed down to the trail early.  After running into friends, we followed the marching band downtown, past outdoor zumba classes, a knitted house, a Brazilian street band who later taught my kids capoeira, and street games.  We warmed up with free coffee and lemonade, played croquet and picked up new free books from my discovery of the day, Indy Reads Books (a gorgeous independent bookstore on Mass Ave. that gives all of its profits to fighting illiteracy in Central Indiana).

As the weather warms up, come out and explore the city again.  Find something new to you. Our City Gallery show this month showcases Emma Overman’s magical discoveries in her Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood.  I stopped in Kyle Ragsdale’s studio today for an early sneak peak of his view of the city, featured in the City Gallery next month.  We’d love to hear what you discover as you bike or walk around Indianapolis this spring.

May 3, 2013

A Stroll through Mapleton-Fall Creek reveals city surprises

by emilyvanest


In 1902, the city of Indianapolis annexed the area currently known as Mapleton-Fall Creek, and a parade of city dwellers began making their way across the new bridges over Fall Creek, away from the increasingly commercial north side of the city, to greener pastures.   Mapleton-Fall Creek was a “suburban” neighborhood, with a little distance from the city, yet was still easily accessible by streetcar and the new automobile.  By 1915, the area had become the city’s most desirable address.  Today, thanks largely to the work of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation, the neighborhood has again become a walkable delight filled with quaint churches, old vine-covered homes, and mysterious wooded lots.

Emma Overman, this month’s City Gallery artist, had long wanted to move into the city and fell in love with the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood when she bought her house there a few years ago.  These days, she plays at the Children’s Museum and wanders the winding wooded streets with her daughter, Annabel.  Overman’s quirky, whimsical paintings are easily recognizable by the emotive wide faced children she sets in fantastical, sylvan, fairy tale-like settings.  But “A Stroll Around the Block” particularly celebrates her Mapleton-Fall Creek adventures with Annabel.  From the specific house on Pennsylvania that she always thought would be a grand place to have a party to the decrepit tower on 32nd and Washington that embodies every little girls’ princess dream, viewers will recognize several iconic places in this neighborhood.

But Emma’s pieces, beautifully framed in salvaged and newly painted vintage frames, feature more than the crumbling grandeur of historically significant architecture.  Sneaky vegetables grown by the man on Emma’s block “primarily because he wants to teach the neighborhood children how food grows,”  the waving monkey on the carousel at the Children’s Museum that makes Annabel laugh, hedgehogs (trimming hedges, no less), and squirrels (“I couldn’t have a city-themed show without them”) peak out of many of these paintings.  The school bus stops on the corner, an orange curtain flutters through a window, and on Delaware street, a rooster crows.


“City Slicker,” Emma’s painting of a rooster is inspired by both the rooster on her block who often wakes her in the mornings, and her early-rising husband.  Some people might be surprised to find a rooster in the heart of the city, but Indianapolis stands virtually alone as a city in which both chickens and roosters are allowed, with no maximum number and no permit required.  In fact, according to city code, if you have the space, “horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, jackasses, and llamas are allowed” in city limits. My family eats eggs from the chickens raised by my doctor-neighbor down the street.  At her house, my city-kids have seen brand new baby chicks pecking their way out of their eggs, carried full grown hens around under their arms, and hunted for fantastically colored eggs in the nesting boxes in her garage.  My urban neighborhood, like Emma’s, has given my children a much broader experience than I ever would have expected.

As the weather warms up, we open our windows (and hear our rooster crowing) and spend evenings out on the street with our neighbors.  We feel like we get reacquainted with our own little corner of the city every spring.  This month, come to the City Gallery for a surprising and delightful stroll around Mapleton-Fall Creek as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic resident, one of Indianapolis’s favorites, Emma Overman.