Get to Know Our Two New Staff Members!

As you know, we welcomed two new staff members to our team this year; Community Engagement Director LaShawnda Crowe Storm, and Program Director Erin Kelley. But how much do you really know about Erin and LaShawnda? We asked our new directors a few fun questions to help us—and you—get to know them a little better! Keep reading to learn about why they joined Spirit & Place Festival, what dreams they have for the future, and their hidden secret talents.


Erin Kelley
Program Director

Q:Home town?

Q: College?
Ball State (B.S. in sociology & history ) and IUPUI (M.A. in public history)

Q: First job?
Gift shop cashier at the Indianapolis Zoo when I was 14.

Q: Favorite childhood memory?
Riding my bicycle all over town with my friends with no instruction other than to be home by the time the street lamps turned on.

Q: If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Honest, Hardworking, Impish

Q:What attracted you to Spirit & Place Festival?
I’ve loved being a part of the festival as an attendee, program partner, and volunteer for more than a decade. Being a part of the festival as a program partner and (committee) volunteer made me a better public programmer and helped me understand the power of community collaborations. To actually be getting paid to work with others and help them see the benefits of being engaged with Spirit & Place is still a bit unreal to me!

Q: What dreams do you have for Indy?
My dream for Indy is that it can achieve greatness in a new and different way from other growing cities; I want Indy to be a place that makes space for everyone, from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Q: What is one secret talent you have?
I am unnervingly adept at picking things up with my toes.

Q: Favorite blog:
Museum 2.0 by Nina Simon.

Q: Favorite Indy restaurant:
This changes frequently, but right now I’m a fan of Bent Rail.



LaShawnda Crowe Storm
Community Engagement Director

Q: Hometown?

Q: College?
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Q: What Attracted you to Spirit & Place Festival?
Lots of variations on the same theme.

Q: What dreams do you have for Indy?
Racial Equity

Q: What is one secret talent you have?
Dancing under the stars.

Q: Favorite blog?
For Harriet

Q: Favorite Indy Restaurant?
Bru Burger

And now you know our new staff members a little better than you did before!  We are so excited to see how Erin and LaShawnda help shape Spirit & Place Festival in the future and what we can dream up together for the 2015 Festival!

What’s a secret talent YOU have that no one knows? Share with us on Facebook and/or Twitter!

Dreaming of Sea Turtles

By Lyla Mahmoud, Spirit & Place Festival Intern

Spring has finally arrived and our beloved spring break has come and gone. For many of us college students, holding on to the memories of warm weather and relaxation that this coveted week off provided are the only things getting us through these last few weeks of school.  The final stretch of school before summer break is characterized by projects we procrastinated on, final exams we would rather forget exist, and frantic extra credit assignments after snapping out of our spring break daze and realizing we have to go back to real life.

IMG_0572My spring breaks in the past have been pretty low-key – I visit my family in Arizona and recover from midterms while soaking up sun rays in the desert heat. This year, however, I pulled out all the stops, and it was definitely a spring break for the books.  Through the Alternative Break Program at IUPUI, I was able to travel to the beautiful islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) family and I worked with leatherback sea turtle habitat conservation and ecotourism in the less urbanized areas of the Island of Trinidad.

For those of you who may not be as geographically adept, Trinidad and Tobago are two islands in the Caribbean, just south of Barbados. Trinidad, the bigger of the two islands, is home to one of the largest nesting colonies for leatherback turtles in the world, where more than 10,000 female turtles journey yearly to lay their eggs. Sadly, these numbers have fluctuated greatly since the 1980’s, the decade that marks when this species was placed on the endangered animals list, due mainly to pouching and accidentally by catch in the fishing industry. Organizations such as The Turtle Village Trust, the NGO my ASB team had the pleasure of working with, have successfully worked toward IMG_0546bringing these numbers back to normal levels.

Our days in Trinidad were filled with hikes through the rainforest, beach cleanups in the Trinidadian sunshine, afternoons spent absorbing local culture, and magical nights where we were able to see the female sea turtles nesting. Watching the females wander up onto the beach and perform their nesting ritual was a truly fascinating moment, and as the days between now and the end of spring break become greater and greater, I find myself constantly reflecting on the experiences I had in Trinidad. This trip marked the first step of my dream to make an impact on how humans view both our global and local environments and begin to become more conscious about our current standards of living.

Spring break may be over and done with for this year, but next year holds potential for a whole new adventure. What’s your spring break “dream” destination? We’re looking forward to your comments!

Intern Spotlight

We’re so thrilled to have our three interns return back to Spirit & Place Festival and help us make “DREAM” the best festival yet!

Our interns have been on the job for almost two weeks and we couldn’t be happier with their work so far. We asked one of our interns, Lyla, to answer a few questions. Read this quick Q/A to know more about her.

Our intern Lyla at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Our intern Lyla at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Lyla, our communications intern, is part of Spirit & Place Festival through the Sam H. Jones Service Learning Assistant Scholarship and has been with us for THREE semesters now!

Q: Who are you?

A:I’m a sophomore at IUPUI studying Political Science and Legal Studies and hope to study environmental law after I graduate from IUPUI. 

Q: How did you get to know about the Spirit & Place Festival?

A:I was recommended for this internship by a really great professor; he thought I was a good fit for the position, and I think he guessed right.

Q: What sort of duties do you have as the communications intern?

A:I help develop the festival newsletter and also get to work on blog posts, like the one you’re reading right now!

Q: What’s the most exciting opportunity you’ve been able to have through your internship?

A: I think I’d have to say the coolest opportunity I’ve had so far was attending the 2014 festival on JOURNEY. We interns work all year round for a festival that happens in November, so during the first part of the year it’s hard to see exactly what we are working towards. Being able to physically attend the festival and see what all our hard work created is a really satisfying experience.

Q: So you’ve been with Spirit & Place Festival for three semesters now, why do you keep coming back?

A: I don’t think there’s anything else quite like Spirit & Place Festival in Indianapolis.  I love being part of a festival that has such breadth, one event might make you reflect deeply on what you see happening in our city, while another might make you laugh or dance or ride a graffiti covered bus. Social issues are complex ideas with many working parts, and Spirit & Place understands that; the festival creates a platform where all of the interlinking components of these issues can be displayed, dissected, and discussed with the general public.

Q: Spirit & Place is a festival that partly focuses on social issues in Central Indiana, what social issues are important to you?

A: I definitely believe that many of the social issues in Central Indiana are intertwined; poverty is linked to health, health is linked to environmental concerns, environmental concerns are linked to education, education is linked to poverty. It’s hard to make a separation between two things that are systemically connected, or to be a champion of one social issue without being concerned with the others.

Estes Park, Co

Estes Park, Co

Q: What do you like to do outside of your work for Spirit & Place?

A: I’m a pretty outdoorsy person, so beyond my school work and this internship I like to be active outside.

Q: What are you dreams for the future?

A: Graduating IUPUI and continuing on with my education; I think I’ll probably be in school for the next 10 years because there’s just so much to learn!

Noblesse Oblige

By Matt VanScoik


I recently had the opportunity to go to Rome. Gary Krupp, an author I work with through the author publicity division at my company, Bohlsen Group, used to build medical facilities in New York, but his life has taken a more esoteric turn. For the last few years, Gary and his wife, Meredith, have been running a non-profit called Pave the Way Foundation, whose main goal is to build relationships between religions. They helped the Vatican digitize its archives, are helping to re-open the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey and regularly help arrange interfaith tours to Israel, among numerous other things.

One of the projects they are working on now, be it by providence or happenstance, ended up being assigned to me. “Pope Pius XII and World War II: The Documented Truth” is a compilation of primary-source international evidence that reveals the wartime acts of the Vatican.

“The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself.”

The Vatican has had more than its share of public relations problems, and I had always heard, as many have, that Pope Pius XII was either silent during the Holocaust or even complicit. As I began to review the evidence for myself, cracks began to form in what I thought I knew to be true.  Although it still seems to me that the Vatican supported Fascist governments to an extent, it is abundantly clear to me that the papal household and the Nazis had a deep gut-wrenching hatred for each other.

Among the interesting things t4295-06928hat you can read on Pave the Way Foundation’s well-organized library of 76,000 pages of documentation are: Nazi intelligence documents that name Pope Pius XII as a collaborator in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, Nazi plans for the invasion of the Vatican and the assassination of Pius XII, and documents that show how Pius XII used his own life as leverage to halt the arrest of the Roman Jews.

Every day of this trip to Rome got more and more exciting to me as someone who is interested in military affairs, history and religion. At one point I told Gary that I needed to find a basement, because these jaw dropping experiences required me to find something deeper than floor level to facilitate the further extension of my dentition.

The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself during a public audience where we presented him with a coin to commemorate a trip he had made to Israel.  I spoke some broken Spanish to him and he shook my hand with the tired but bright eyes of a man carrying the burdens of being both a political and spiritual leader who is trying his best to make a difference in a chaotic world.

“Noblesse oblige,” is a phrase I kept hearing during my trip. It means with nobility and station, comes great obligation.

Why one man is learning to drive again

photo (3)By Debra Des Vignes

For several years Tyrone C. was homeless and struggled to keep a job and find a place to stay. He felt alone and overwhelmed. Take a look at how one homeless veteran’s journey might look like.

Tyrone’s part-time job ended and he did not know where his next paycheck would come from. With his daughter in Indianapolis, he traveled by bus to stay with her and they looked for help, a place for a homeless veteran to stay. On his third day in Indianapolis he heard about the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF). From the moment a veteran enters HVAF’s housing, the goal is to help him or her regain stability and take back their life. The following day Tyrone spoke to a case manager and was provided supportive housing at HVAF’s Moreau property. At Tyrone’s request, his case manager connected him with one of HVAF’s partners, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic for legal help.

“The 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran couldn’t get behind the wheel.”

From the street.

Once housed, Tyrone had a barrier he faced that limited his mobility. His driving privileges had been indefinitely suspended since 1999. In fact, he was on a lifetime habitual traffic violator (HTV) status. The 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran couldn’t get behind the wheel.

The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic represented Tyrone in successfully petitioning the Marion Circuit Court for a probationary, restricted license which allows him to drive to and from work, medical appointments, and rehabilitation programs. Although this type of license comes with significant restrictions, Tyrone learned in September that he will receive full driving privileges back in three years (which would be for the first time in 18 years!). He currently has probationary driving privileges, so he can drive to work and medical appointments once he has a vehicle.

Someone to turn to.

“It’s overwhelming, the outpouring of support. I get emotional sometimes because I definitely needed the help,” says Tyrone.

NCLC also represented Tyrone in seeking an expungement of his prior convictions. Although it has been moer than 15 years since his last conviction, a record can still present obstacles to getting a better job. This process will improve Tyrone’s prospects because it removes low-level convictions from the public record.

Tyrone has a lot to look forward to. He moves into his own one-bedroom apartment next month and is excited about driving again soon as well as having a clean record and a fresh start.

He says his life intersected with organizations and resources that made a difference and the results will last a lifetime. There’s no greater example than Tyrone to show us that along life’s journey, second chances remain within reach.


Debra Des Vignes is Vice President of Marketing, Communication and Public Relations at HVAF of Indiana.

Self-care: First step in the journey toward healing

By Dan Carpenter

“I am the most important person in the world.”

For many of us, all it takes to utter that proclamation is a little brass or a sense of humor.

For those on the journey to recovery as codependents of persons addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it is an act of liberation and of courage.

For the codependent, the journey upward and forward must first be a step back and a look inside.

For the codependent, the addiction is The Other – he or she who is out there God knows where doing the Devil knows what, and taking family and friends along for the ride to destruction as helplessly as he himself or she herself is carried.

The alcoholic, knowing better, takes one drink. Back home, the wife, the father, the lover, the friend worries, waits up, works the phone, prowls the bars, pays the bail and the bills, issues the ultimatums, shouts the indignation, pleads for common sense, makes excuses to the drinker’s boss, concocts lies for the neighbors, and generally sacrifices health and happiness to the cause of saving the life for which the codependent feels responsible.

Knowing better.

“For those on the journey to recovery as codependents of persons addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it is an act of liberation and of courage.”

Knowing, if he’ll just review his own record and consult the wealth of literature and the vast experience of others in his fix, that it doesn’t work.

Not helping the alcoholic hurts those of us who love him. Hurts like hell. And guess what? Helping the alcoholic hurts him. Often, to hell.

Freeing the alcoholic to find his own path to sanity and a decent life means overcoming one’s own aversion to feeling selfish. It means embracing self-care. It means stepping back to accept the futility of denying one’s powerlessness, and looking downward to find the sources of one’s impulses to control, to cure and to play the martyr.

It’s scary, just like the fundamental change that the alcoholic must undertake in order to escape the opposite trap of self-absorption. In each case, the most important and most avoided person in the universe must be confronted at last – the true self, warts and all, needs and not-really-needs.

In neither case can the journey be made alone. Just as not drinking and not using have proved impossible without the fellowship of love and without a surrender to a Higher Power of some definition, so goes the challenge of learning to sleep with the phone turned off, to spend the lawyer money on a long-overdue vacation, to tell your husband’s boss nothing and your own boss you’ll be happy to take on that time-intensive extra project. Oh, and did I mention Al-Anon and Alateen and meetings, sponsorship, meetings, prayer and meetings? Just like “your” alcoholic and his/her program. Only from this foundation of honesty and self-worth can real generosity be accomplished.

And guess what? “Your” alcoholic is very likely to feel, not resentment, but riddance from a resentment that codependence has only aggravated. That’s in the experience and literature also. In other words, you’re not alone as Number One. Go for it.


Dan Carpenter is a former columnist for The Indianapolis Star and the author of two books of observations and opinions from his long journalism career, Hard Pieces and Indiana Out Loud.   

Join is Nov. 8, 2014 at Fairbanks Recovery Center for Spirit & Place Festival event, “From Addiction and Loss to Wholeness.” Learn more

To Make Sure You Get There Alright


Matthew-BoultonBy Matthew Myer Boulton

Maybe it’s because of our location, once described as the country’s frontier and now as its heartland, “the crossroads of America.”  Or, speaking of roads, maybe it’s because our signature sporting event is a celebration not only of speed but also of the very idea of a 500-mile journey.

Whatever the reason, the notion and experience of a journey has always been close to the Hoosier heart.  Some of us travel far and wide.  Others of us basically stay put, welcoming travelers with that legendary Hoosier hospitality.

I say this as a relative newcomer, my family having moved to Indianapolis from Boston just a few years ago so I might serve as president of Christian Theological Seminary.  Now, Boston is a friendly place – but there are differences.

“The notion and experience of a journey has always been close to the Hoosier heart.”

My very first week here in town, I found my car nearly out of gas, and so asked a stranger for directions to the nearest gas station.  After providing them he offered to follow me.  A bit taken aback, I said, “Why?”  I’ve never forgotten his answer.

“Well,” he said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “to make sure you get there alright.”  Still a bit off-balance, I declined his offer – but as I drove to the station, I smiled all the way there.

We still have a long way to go on this journey we call “Indiana.”  There are too many hungry kids in our neighborhoods, too much violence in our streets, and in our homes, and in our hearts.  The great teachers and traditions often turn to the theme of journey in their stories and instruction – and this is no accident.  It’s part of the genius of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, for example, that the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, end not in the promised land, but on the verge of it:  in sight of the land of milk and honey, but not there yet.

We’re not there yet either, and we need the best in our traditions to propel us and challenge us to take pride not only in the distance we’ve traveled, but also in the distance we will travel today and tomorrow.

“We’re not there yet either, and we need the best in our traditions to propel us and challenge us to take pride not only in the distance we’ve traveled, but also in the distance we will travel today and tomorrow.”

One of the most beautiful ideas in the Christian tradition is the idea of vocation or “calling,” of living life as an answer to a kind of summons.  Dag Hammarskjold, former secretary-general of the United Nations and a man of extraordinary spiritual insight, describes it this way:

“I don’t know Who – or what – put the question, I don’t know when it was put.  I don’t even remember answering.  But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”

Which is to say, his life became:  a journey, a great adventure of discerning and living out what we are meant to do, what we are inspired to do, what we are drawn to do – drawn as if by a magnet outside of us that pulls on something deep inside of us, something that’s been there all along.

What we may need most are intentional, extraordinary conversations about this kind of journeying, and this kind of purpose.   Not only so we can each clarify our own callings but also so we can support each other along the way:  whether we find ourselves at a crossroads, or turning around a great track of 500 miles or more that always, in the end, brings us back home.

So let every Hoosier follow his or her own path – but let us also take care of each other, all of us, as we go.  And if any of our fellow travelers ask us why, we can always say, “Well, to make sure you get there alright.”

Matthew Myer Boulton is the President and Professor of Theology, Christian Theological Seminary