Reporter's Notebook

Indianapolis, Indiana
Show Description +
Show 1 Newer Notes

How Art Can Renew a Community

Children at an event put on by the Big Car Collaborative in Indianapolis
Children at an event put on by the Big Car Collaborative in Indianapolis Courtesy of Jensen Productions and New America

This is No. 2 in a series of three videos from our friends at New America about the realities of community revitalization and economic recovery in the much-discussed Industrial Heartland of America. It’s based on an Indiana tour that Deb Fallows and I made this spring, co-organized by New America Indianapolis and Indiana Humanities.

Installment No. 1 was about an innovative, inclusive job-training program called Build Your Future. This one is about the topic on which Deb and I have most changed our minds—or, really, had our eyes opened—during our travels over the past few years.

That topic is the role of public arts, “place making,” cultural festivals, and other arts-based means of generating civic connections and promoting economic development.

A Big Car Collaborative arts event in Indianapolis (Courtesy of Jensen Productions and New America)

Half a dozen years ago, before we began these city-by-city travels, if you’d asked me about “the role of the arts,” I would have said something like: “Yeah, sure, arts are great! Everyone should like art [etc.].” Now we have a vivid place-by-place sense of the difference that ambitious public-arts programs can have. For instance:

The film below is about one of Indianapolis’s (many) answers to the question of how arts can renew a community.


Children at a Big Car Collaborative event in Indianapolis (Courtesy of Jensen Productions and New America)

The video focuses on the Big Car Collaborative, which is a multibuilding art space and civic-engagement organization in Indianapolis. Among its events are its First Friday gatherings and art tours. Check out the video for more.

Thanks to the videographer and editor Michael Jensen, the executive producer Fuzz Hogan, plus our other friends at New America.

Michael Brannon, a carpenter apprentice and graduate of the Build Your Future program in Indiana
Michael Brannon, a carpenter apprentice and graduate of the Build Your Future program in Indiana Courtesy of Jensen Productions Inc. and New America

This spring, Deb Fallows and I made a trip through Indiana for a series of events and meetings co-organized by New America Indianapolis and Indiana Humanities. We were in Muncie, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and the small northern-Indiana town of Angola. You can read some of our series of reports here from Fort Wayne, here from Muncie, and here from Angola, with links to others.

While we were there, a video team from New America made a series of three short films. They’re about the up-close realities of issues that usually appear as slogans or abstractions in so many speeches, policy papers, and panel discussions.

These are issues such as “restoring opportunity,” “re-creating middle-class jobs,” and “bringing hope to the heartland.” Or about working with “returning citizens,” those who have been incarcerated, to increase their chances of a successful return to economic and family life.

To put it another way: Everyone talks about creating opportunity. Here’s what it looks like when people do something about it.

The first film, shot in Fort Wayne and around Indianapolis, describes the work of an innovative program called Build Your Future (BY, for short). It’s five minutes long, and you can see it below.

Thanks to the videographer and editor Michael Jensen, the executive producer Fuzz Hogan, plus our other friends at New America. Two more films shot in Indiana are ahead in the series. The next one is about an art-collaborative project in Indianapolis called Big Car.