Go Ahead and Play Project by the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana

UPDATE: Here’s a cool promo video for the Go Ahead and Play Project.

I’m very pleased to have contributed to a fun local public art project organized through The Women’s Fund of Central Indiana – the Go Ahead and Play project.

Women's Fund Go Ahead and Play Project

Go Ahead and Play will place 20 pianos, all transformed into works of art by local Indiana artists, throughout Indianapolis in public spaces and in neighborhoods of organizations serving women and girls in central Indiana. Pianos will be in place August 1 – 18, and people will be encouraged to sit down and play to their heart’s content.

Women's Fund Go Ahead and Play Project

The project is part of the Women’s Fund’s “GO: Give Back” program, which teaches philanthropy and leadership to young people. Go Ahead and Play was led by children in 6th through 12 grade, they made decisions about what the project would be and how it would work, guided by parents and by Women’s Fund volunteers.

Women's Fund Go Ahead and Play Project

Our piano was decorated with knitting and crochet pieces, creating a “piano cozy” in shades of pink. Organized by the Yarnburners and led by Annette Marino, we knitted and crochet and then sewed together and attached the various panels to create a warm and homey piece.

I’ll have more photos of the finished piano after the opening reception where we get to see all of the completed work from various artists.

Continue ReadingGo Ahead and Play Project by the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana

Infill Before Density: Some Ideas for Indy Velocity

Erika Smith from the Indy Star fills us in on a new plan for development in downtown Indianapolis that includes improving residential as well as retail and business development. Here’s some basics about the plan:

This is the thinking behind a new strategic plan called Velocity.

Led by IDI, this year-long process — with the help of dozens of community, political and business leaders — will come up with a five-year vision for Downtown Indianapolis. Under consideration are ways to drive economic development, make better use of public spaces and parks, improve transportation (yes, including transit), increase housing options, and add more arts and cultural attractions. A public launch is set for Tuesday.

But this isn’t planning for your father’s Downtown Indianapolis.

We’re talking Raymond Street to the south, 30th Street on the north, Tibbs Avenue to the west and Keystone Avenue/Rural Street to the east. That box includes a lot of up-and-coming neighborhoods that have benefited from Downtown’s growth, but it also includes a lot of neighborhoods that missed the rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats.

You can take a survey to give your opinions about what will improve downtown – your answers will help shape the advisory groups vision of what Indianapolis can be.

One of the things I emphasized in the comments of the survey is that we should concentrate on infill before density. There are hundreds of empty lots in downtown and “downtown adjacent” neighborhoods where homes have been bulldozed over the last 30 years. We have a lot of empty spaces to fill in – but rather than doing that completely with condos, townhomes and multi-story apartment buildings, consider strategically filling them in many of them with single-family residences. And where you are filling in with more dense residential construction – give apartments some breathing room. Make them three-bedroom rather than two. Make them two bedroom rather than one. Make them appealing to families with kids and dogs, not just single professionals. In short, concentrate on filling in the vast wasteland of empty lots up and down College Avenue with residences before building yet another downtown condo.

Old Northside Neighborhood

I agree that urban sprawl is bad. I know that density is considered ideal in urban planning. But we have a lot of empty slate to work with here. We can be careful about how much density we’re adding, because Indianapolis is attractive to it’s current residents for a reason. Stephanie and I considered living in Chicago, New York and Toronto when we were deciding where to live; we didn’t just land in Indianapolis by accident, or because we grew up here. The reason we picked Indianapolis over those other cities is because we’re able to afford to have a private library in our own home, and keep a dog and a vegetable garden in the yard, even living downtown. It’s not that I love driving – I’d rather take a bus (or better yet, a streetcar! Lets bring those back) to my workplace. But Chicago and New York seem frenetic and stressful, like there are people living in your lap all the time. We can come up with a happy medium between our current sprawl and the density of a large city, and better public transit can get us from place to place.

We’re not Chicago, and we don’t need to be. In fact it’s better off if that isn’t our goal; if we take advantage of opportunities we have that Chicago does not. Indianapolis has a distinct advantage in doing this sort of city planning over larger cities; we don’t have to make the same mistakes they did. We don’t have to force people to live in 300-square foot boxes because we’re retrofitting blocks and blocks of 200-year-old buildings. We don’t have to screw up by making the Robert Moses mistake of displacing urban neighborhoods and local businesses. We don’t have to become unfriendly to families with kids who need space to raise them. We also have the advantage of having a built-in target market for new residents – the people just north of us – the folks who grew up in Carmel and Noblesville because their parents moved out of Indianapolis in previous decades. This generation of young Hamilton County adults is more culturally aware than the people of their parent’s generation who fled the city for the suburbs. They’ll see the advantages of living closer to their workplace and shortening their commute while broadening their cultural exposure and awareness. But they grew up with a backyard and a dog and room and bedrooms for kids, and they may still want that.

I’m sort of curious whatever became of the Ball State plan for Urban Design Indianapolis that was in the works back in 2007 and 2008. I linked to that project several years ago, and when I went back to reference the guidelines they came up with here, the link to the website where the plan resided is broken. I was wondering how much that plan might inform the current one. After a considerable amount of searching, I wasn’t able to come up with a link to the plan that worked.

Continue ReadingInfill Before Density: Some Ideas for Indy Velocity

Indy 5×5 Presentations: Make Indy

We’re at the second of Make 5×5 – four events designed to fund and celebrate ideas and innovation in Indianapolis.

Five presenters have five slides and 5 minutes to explain their vision for a project that would make Indianapolis a better place. The audience votes, and the winner gets $10,000 dollars to make their project a reality. I’ll update this post with more about the projects and the winner in the morning, when I’m not typing on my iPhone and drinking awesome wine from my all-time favorite beverage maker, New Day Meadery.

At the first event, I met and volunteered to help out one of the presenters, Lori Leaumont, with her Girls Stories project, which we’re working on now.

Looking forward to seeing this second event; one of the presenters is planning a local publishing project.

The event was held at Indianapolis Fabrications, a business that does fabrication and design work on the near east side. Its a cool space where they keep the materials that People for Urban Progress like the fabric from the Hoosier Dome and all of the fabric from the Superbowl banners, which gets made into items for sale that help fund projects. We were all about exploring the IndyFab space until we got yelled at for touching one of the projects.

Indy Pub Co-op, Brandon Scaaf
This was a plan to create a small not-for-profit publishing house in a storefront on the east side of town, where young people could go to publish their stories and see how they became finished works by participating through the whole publishing process. Stephanie and I were both not keen on the project after we heard the proposal – there’s a distribution aspect to publishing that seemed to be missing from the plan.


Making Gardens Grow: The mobile garden + grow with IndyGo pilot project by Dawn Kroh of Green3 Studio
This was an idea to put a garden on the back of a flat-bed truck and move it around town, with volunteers coming to work on the garden at various locations. I wasn’t sure whether it was also supposed to sell the food? I didn’t feel like the plan was completely clear.


“Tinkertown: an innovative space for creating, making, inventing, manufacturing and educating” by Jaron Garrett of Dreamapolis
This was the most well-thought out idea, and probably the one that will succeed as a functional project. It’s basically an idea to create an art space for people to come and created whatever project they are interested in building – fashion, digital, building – you’d bring in your idea and use the tools from the space to create it, from start to finish. They’d also do training on all sorts of design and creation tools, and certification programs.

Very cool idea, and it seems like it already has a solid plan in place, which was one of the reasons why we didn’t back it – they wanted the $10,000 for a feasibility study, not for the project itself. I felt that if they only thing the community was getting was a study done, it might not be the best use of the money.

Tinker Town

“Urban Alley Infill: embracing the space in between” by Kyle Perry of PROJECTiONE
This project was an idea of selecting an alley space somewhere in town and creating an art sculpture/lighting project that would hang in the alley and make the space more visually appealing and lit at night so alleys would be a place of transit. It’s an interesting idea, but the sculpture they proposed wasn’t at all visually appealing to me. And they seemed to talk down about the state of design in Indianapolis, which in a really cool design renewal right now, so that didn’t sit right. And the other thing that bugged me was that the project was being proposed by a business that really seemed to have all the funds they needed to create this. So why did they need the $10,000?

Urban Alley Infill

“The Cool Bus” by Kirstin Northenscold of WORD ON THE STREET
This project proposal was for a reworked school bus that would become a literary center for kids, where they can go to get help writing stories and be given books to read, and it would move from one neighborhood to another to reach kids in urban neighborhoods. They planned to obtain books free from libraries and bookstores and give them to kids.

The Cool Bus

This idea – if it were executed differently – would be interesting. For one thing, the title of the project “The Cool Bus” – that’s kinda dumb. No one is going to think a reading and writing bus is “The Cool Bus.” And the designs for the bus interior were really pretty terrible- squares of primary colors. It was like being trapped in a kindergarten toy box. If it were a bus redone like this, we’d be getting somewhere:

Pirate ship

Book exchange

Either of those would be a cool bus. In the end, we did vote for the cool bus, but neither of us were particularly thrilled with any of the presentations.

And the winner turned out to be The Cool Bus. I hope it doesn’t suck.

Sponsors of the event:


In all, I wasn’t as impressed by this even as we were by some of the presentations at the first event held at big car gallery.

Continue ReadingIndy 5×5 Presentations: Make Indy

Indianapolis Museum of Art’s unnecessary budget cut backs

There’s a lot to unpack in this article on the IMA’s recent decision to cut it’s budget under director Charles Venable – [The sad, unnecessary situations at MOCA, Indy | Tyler Green: Modern Art Notes | ARTINFO.com.]

But it’s well worth reading the whole article to tease out the details, especially if you are a member of IMA or if you care about where the arts are headed in Indianapolis. In really simple terms, the IMA director Venable decided to cut the budget to keep their draw from endowment under 5%, which will result in laying off staff. But their endowment is quite high and could easily retain that staff given the current state of the economy. And the board is supporting that decision, even though it will result in a reduced quality of services and cultural impact for Indianapolis.

Especially disturbing are the suggestions that there was a whisper campaign that past directors of the IMA were profligate about spending – there’s no real evidence of irresponsibility, and IMA stands as an example of a very well-run and quite popular institution given it’s size and the size of the metropolitan Indianapolis community.

I urge you to pop over and read the whole article, it’s worth your time.

IMA 100 Acres

IMA’s 100 Acres

Continue ReadingIndianapolis Museum of Art’s unnecessary budget cut backs

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Bill introduced in the Indiana State legislature this week:

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

The analysis of this bill by Indy Democrat Blog: “Where to begin? It’s pretty easy. Almost everything in this bill is designed to reduce the power of Democrats in Marion County. From reducing the power of the County Commissioners (the Marion County Treasurer, Assessor, and Auditor) to deleting the At-Large seats on the Council, this bill would, as it stands now, reduce the power of the City-County Council in one majorly blue county.”

This was a bill requested by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to try to control the city-county council. It significantly tilts the balance of power in city government to the mayor and gives them unprecedented and unnecessary control of the city. It’s out-of-bounds.

1) Spread the word: Make sure your friends and family know about SB 621 and how it hurts our city by eliminating the independent power of the City-County Council and the elimination of the four at-large Council seats.

2) Call the Mayor: Media reports have made it clear – Mayor Ballard requested this proposal. Call his office and let him know that you oppose SB 621. His number is (317) 327-3601.

3) Call your state representative and senator: This bill will be heard in the Indiana General Assembly – call your state rep at (317) 232-9600 and senator at (317) 232-9400 and tell them you oppose SB 621.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.
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Park 16 Apartment Fire

This evening, fire broke out in the “Park 16” apartments being build at 16th and Broadway Avenue in Indianapolis, a few blocks from our house. We ran up the street to take photos, and were able to get remarkably close.

The Park 16 Apartment complex (formerly called Caravelle Commons) was controversial, which I wrote about when they were planning it – the subsidized housing that had been at that location was poorly managed for many years. When the state and federal government allocated money to tear down the old housing and build shiny new apartments, there were lots of neighbors (including me) who were concerned about the density and size of the replacement buildings, which were much larger than the surrounding area. There were also, unfortunately, several Tea Baggers amongst our neighbors who were very vocal in opposing the project because the residents were black and of lower income. It would not surprise me in the slightest if they found this to be arson.

Continue ReadingPark 16 Apartment Fire

Tear down wall of denial so we can fix broken IPS

former IPS School Board President Kelly Bentley has some thoughts about how to fix IPS in this Indy Star editorial: Tear down wall of denial so we can fix broken IPS | Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

Even recent good news about IPS is tempered by the reality that the numbers often aren’t as positive as they appear. The community rallied around a report last month that the district’s graduation rate, which a few years ago was well below 50 percent, climbed again last school year. Yet, a significant portion of that increase was achieved by a heightened reliance on academic waivers, which means many students really didn’t meet all the requirements for graduation but received diplomas anyway. Certainly, waivers are justified in some cases. But when more than 40 percent of graduates at Arlington High School receive waivers, as occurred last year, alarms should go off in the district headquarters and in the community.

Continue ReadingTear down wall of denial so we can fix broken IPS

Post-Super Bowl

As a Naptown native, it was quite fun to see how the city transformed for the event – sad that it takes a sporting event for the city to suddenly infuse the local arts scene and local businesses with cash so we can put cool murals and public sculptures in place and promote local restaurants and tourist spots. That should happen regardless of major tourist events.

But boy, does the city look really nice, and watching locals go from being cynical about the city (the “Indianoplace” slam gets used by residents far more than visitors) to supporting local artists and businesses and being proud of them when they see the outcome of the investment is pretty damned cathartic.

And the event was kind of nice “in your face” to the suburbs – we have a lot of suburban snobs who say crap like “I never go downtown” which is code for “I don’t want to rub shoulders with people of color” – who suddenly “discovered” the center of the city for the first time. I had some friends telling *me* about the downtown foodie scene. Dudes, I live downtown; of course I’ve eaten there. I’m not your fraking sherpa, Robert Peary.

I also love that the number one compliment from visitors who compared our Super Bowl to other cities where they attended the event was this: “So wonderful that everything was close together and within easy walking distance; parties, hotels, restaurants and the event were walkable or within close shuttle distance; the convenience made the difference.”

That would be another slam right in the face of suburban commuters – if you lived here, you’d be home now. You could work downtown and walk home instead of driving 45 minutes to get there, dummies. That’s 90 minutes a day you could spend with your kids, or relaxing at home.

Continue ReadingPost-Super Bowl