NEW! 2016 Application Guidelines

By Erin Kelley

The application guidelines for the 2016 Spirit & Place Festival are ready and there are several new features to be aware of.

Special Preference

The festival will continue to give special preference to those events that are interdisciplinary (combining arts, religion, and humanities) and/or target youth, minority populations, religious groups, and other under-served populations. This year special preference will also be given to those events that demonstrate collaboration built on shared authority and/or creative input and design.


We’ve moved our application deadline back seven weeks to April 22 to give you more time to find collaborative partners, flesh out ideas, and draft your application.

Fee Structure
To encourage the participation of smaller organizations, congregations, and individual artists and musicians, Spirit & Place is implementing a sliding scale fee structure.

  • $100 for individual artists & musicians
  • $200 for organizations with operating budgets less than $100,000/yr
  • $400 for organizations with operating budgets more than $100,000/yr

Special Recognition
The festival application asks you to choose the characteristic that best exemplifies your event. If the Selection Committee agrees, not only will your (sliding) entry fee be halved, your event will be recognized during the festival through special mention in the Event Guide, signs, onstage mentions, web features, and more.

Award of Excellence
Three to five of the above mentioned special recognition events will be secretly evaluated during the festival. A $1,000 “Award of Excellence” will be announced at the closing event with the winning organization/artist receiving the prize.

LINKS: Application Guidelines:

About the Author


Erin Kelley is the Program Director for the Spirit & Place Festival. Erin oversees the annual festival by working with community partners and creates year-round programming opportunities for the public.

Spirit & Place Partners with Indiana Landmarks

By Pam Blevins Hinkle

pamIndiana Landmarks and Spirit & Place share a passion for the way that history, heritage, and architecture work together to build community and enhance our sense of place.

We are pleased to announce a year-long partnership with Indiana Landmarks in 2016. Spirit & Place will be hosting key meetings and events in the beautiful Indiana Landmarks Center on the Old Northside as we explore the layered meanings of HOME (our 2016 theme) in our individual and community life during Indiana’s bicentennial year.

Indiana Landmarks Center is located at 1201 N. Central Avenue in the renovated church formerly known as the Central Avenue United Methodist.  Founded in 1852, this congregation was active in the Social Gospel Movement in the early part of the 20th century, and was instrumental in founding Methodist Hospital and the Wheeler Mission.

Rescued and repurposed as Indiana Landmarks Center, the stunning complex opened in 2011 after three-year, $20 million renovation that turned the sanctuary into a theater, the Sunday school into Cook Theater, and the school and office wing into the nonprofit organization’ headquarters.ILC_ext_Apr30_13

This place—a space that has housed and nourished people of faith, community leaders, preservationists, artists and musicians, and more—will be our home-base in 2016.

I encourage you to check out the preservation initiatives of Indiana Landmarks, which range from African American Landmarks and Indiana Modern to Sacred Places. Or check out their historic sites which include three interesting homes in Cambridge City, Aurora, and Indianapolis.

If you’re interested in learning more about participating in the Spirit & Place Festival, visit our website or email us at


Farmers Pray, Too

pamBy Pam Blevins Hinkle

Have we considered how what we label a dream might be a nightmare to others? Have we been thoughtlessly indoctrinated into the dreams of the “teams” we join? What happens when our dreams compete with other people’s dreams? These are some of the provocative questions raised by Grammy-winning rapper/hip-hop artist Michael Render (aka “Killer Mike”) at Full Circle Dreaming during the festival.

“Do we spend proportional energy trying to understand the impact of our dreams upon others, especially those that don’t look, worship, spend, and live like us?”

Killer Mike illustrated some of these questions with a story. When he and his wife flew to Jamaica for a much needed vacation, they were disheartened to disembark in the pouring rain. When they complained to the cab driver, he simply said, “Farmers pray, too.”

That statement led Mike and his wife to rethink their dreams of a perfect weekend getaway. They turned their attention from outdoor activities to each other, to the people around them, and to a slower pace that led to a restful retreat … all because a cab driver reminded them that their dreams are in relationship to others.

In a time and culture that emphasizes independence/individuality over interdependence/community, it’s all too easy to overlook the critical significance of relationship and connection in building healthy societies.

Instead, we join opposing teams: Republicans vs. Democrats, women vs. men, race vs. race, sacred vs. secular, MBAs vs. MFAs, liberals vs. conservatives, and the list goes on. We spend energy, money, and time promoting our own values, agendas, and dreams to create the world we want. As we should.

But. Do we spend proportional energy trying to understand the impact of our dreams upon others, especially those that don’t look, worship, spend, and live like us? Probably not.

What to do? Here are three suggestions that can make a difference for you, for others, and for your community.

  • Make friends with people who don’t look like you. This was Killer Mike’s number one suggestion.
  • Support a new organization on #GivingTuesday that helps people who are not like you. I’ll let you decide what this means, but use this as an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and stretch in a new direction.
  • Make a $20 gift to Spirit & Place on #GivingTuesday. In a world that is hungry for meaning and connection, Spirit & Place brings people together across boundaries of difference to listen, explore, share, and create … illuminating what is possible when we dream together.


Dreaming Brings Hope and Hope Enhances Life

By George Kelley

As I stood one day on the stones of the ruins of Urquhart castle on Loch Ness in Scotland, I remembered being a small boy reading a comic book about a ghost in those very ruins and dreaming about visiting this castle some day.

I always thought my dream was unlikely. I lived in rural Northern New York, and Scotland was as far away as the moon for me, and also because my family did not have the money to afford such kind of trip. However, I never stopped dreaming about the all places I would love to go, and as I aged my dreams took a backseat to more important things, but they were always there, and like in that moment on Loch Ness, coming rushing back to remind me of what it means to dream to have hope for the future.  It happened again with another dream, to straddle the equator, however this time, the feeling was different.

423265_10150684482091208_163197800_nNear the equator, in Western Kenya, a group of faith communities from Indianapolis joined the Kenyan faith groups and began supporting orphans and vulnerable children by providing school lunches and educational subsidies to combat the ravages of HIV/AIDS.  More than 3000 children receive much needed food and many receive tuition and other support for schooling through the Umoja project of the Global Interfaith Partnership.  This project helps the community, already trying to build scaffolding for those who lost parents to illness, make their work easier.  I was able to visit our project with a group of interfaith leaders from Indianapolis and in doing so had the opportunity to fulfill that dream of standing with one foot in each hemisphere.

Standing on the equator was moving experience but much more as I shared the moment with others, concerned for the wellbeing of children a world away from my home.  While at their age I dreamed of Loch Ness, but those kids dreamed of food and shelter.  This was humbling for sure, but it also reminded me that it is okay to dream, even if the dream is far away.  Some of the children in Kenya could have never imagined that someone would be concerned enough to help them finish school, but we came. It allows them to dream bigger dreams. It is those dreams that help enhance one’s life and strive for more.  Something we can all do.

About the Author

George Kelley is the Education Director of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck.  He is active in the interfaith community and serves on the Executive board of the Global Interfaith Partnership (GIP) among other community involvement.  He grew up one of eight children in rural New York state and has lived in many states over his 50 years.  He is a storyteller and loves to travel with his wife Dianne.

[2015 DREAM Essay] Perchance to Dream

We are pleased to partner with WFYI to present a series of powerful essays on Spirit & Place Festival’s 20th anniversary theme, DREAM.

Davidby David Bodenhamer, 

The year was 1957. I was a 10-year old Southern boy whose dream was to be like Roy Rogers— a courageous righter of wrongs, manly but gentle, respectful of old people, kind to animals. Roy also had a great horse and he played the guitar. (Even at 10, I understood that a guitar would help me attract girls.) If I wasn’t playing football in the side yard with my brothers, I was riding the range in my imagination, rescuing damsels in distress and fending off the bad guys.

We had just moved from a small farming community of 200 people to the cotton mill town of LaGrange, Georgia, where my father had begun a new pastorate.  The elementary school was right across the street from the parsonage, and I often used its large bushes as hideout and as welcome shade from the hot Georgia sun.  One late summer afternoon, shortly before school was to begin, I was in my customary spot, waiting for the outlaws, when Mrs. Lee, the fourth grade teacher, walked out of the building.  I had been assigned to her class but I knew only two things about her: she had square thumbs, surely the result of pushing all those thumbtacks into the blackboard in her room; and she was mean, by far the strictest teacher at Dunson Elementary School.

“Like you, I have had big dreams, some of them personal but others more centered on what we as a community can do to redeem the ideals we claim as Americans and as Hoosiers. Spirit & Place is one of those dreams.”

Her reputation—and my dread of the upcoming year with her—demanded action. Stepping out from behind the bushes, I yelled, “Hey, meanie.” Mrs. Lee paused, then resumed walking. I yelled again, this time louder, “Hey, meanie.” This time she turned slowly and stared at me. “What did you say?” At that moment, it dawned on me that perhaps I had acted precipitously. “What did you say, young man?” Now I have always been a quick thinker but not necessarily a smart one, so I replied with the first thing that came to mind: “Oh, I was just calling my dog. Here Meanie, here Meanie.” (I had no dog.)  Then I walked away with as much nonchalance as I could muster, although with the hindsight of fifty years I am sure I was running, shouting all the time, “Here, Meanie. Come here, Meanie.”

I had scarcely gotten out of sight when the adrenalin rush disappeared, and I was left in a mess of shame. I had betrayed my dream: I wasn’t Roy Rogers, defender of what was right and just; I was Black Bart, the evil one. I wallowed in despair, made worse on the first day of school when Mrs. Lee brought some dog treats for me to give to Meanie. (In good southern fashion, she knew how to pile on the guilt.)  Finally, I confessed to my mother. After the expected rebuke—“David, how could you?”—she reminded me that it was not enough to pretend to be Roy Rogers. I also had to act like Roy.

Lesson learned, although not always remembered. Like you, I have had big dreams, some of them personal but others more centered on what we as a community can do to redeem the ideals we claim as Americans and as Hoosiers. Spirit & Place is one of those dreams. I share my desire for an intentional, reflective community with hundreds of participants who gather each November to celebrate the spirit of this place we call home and to dream about ways we can make it better.  But each year I also am reminded that dreams are not enough. They are essential but not sufficient.  Shakespeare got it right when he has Hamlet say,

“To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub.”

To listen to the audio version of this essay click here!

About the author

David Bodenhamer is the executive director of The Polis Center. An active researcher and professor of history, Bodenhamer is author or editor of eight books, including The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis and The Main Stem: the History and Architecture of North Meridian Street, and has published almost 30 journal articles and chapters in books.

[2015 DREAM Essay] Dreaming the Impossible Dream

We are pleased to partner with WFYI to present a series of powerful essays on Spirit & Place Festival’s 20th anniversary theme, DREAM.

By Sr. Norma Rocklage

The call came on a late Saturday afternoon. My youngest brother Al had had a heart attack while driving and was in critical condition. Deprived of oxygen for seven minutes, the prognosis was not good. The family gathered at the hospital were told by the medical staff that he would not recover and life supports should be removed. We decided to wait and my dream took over my every waking moment … to have the opportunity for Al to regain consciousness and have one last conversation.

A few days later, to the amazement of the staff, Al began to respond, not to staff but to family. Tears would roll down his cheeks when his sons spoke to him of their love and need; lips would move as his wife spoke to him; eyes would open when other families touched him … but still absolutely no response to medical staff.

A month after the accident he became conscious of where he was and the long process of full recovery continued. The medical staff, calling him the miracle man, agree that their medical treatment was excellent, but there was “something else” without which his recovery would not have occurred–the powerful energy of family relationships. My dream was realized!

The “something else” is part of an amazing story of the “elephant whisperer,” Lawrence Anthony, who spent many years protecting elephants in Africa. He courageously rescued elephants from the Baghdad Zoo during the US invasion in 2003, taking them to his reservation, talking to the matriarchs daily, providing for them for three years.  In 2006, feeling they could safely leave, they left never to see him again.

On March 7, 2012, he died. Two days after his passing, the wild elephants, led by two matriarchs, showed up at his home in droves to say goodbye to their beloved man-friend. Thirty one elephants, after walking for 12 miles, stayed for two days and two nights without eating anything and then turned from his grave making their long journey back. Scientists ask “how did they know?”  Conclusion: there is something in the universe that is much greater and deeper than human intelligence; there is a wondrous sense of the “interconnectedness” of all beings!

How has this affected me during the past few years?  It has given me the conviction and “foolishness” to DREAM that the ugliness of evil which has caused us to question what has happened to the “human” in “humankind” can actually be changed. The “something else” described above has strengthened my understanding of quantum physics tenets, that we are one, not just humans, but all creation, the entire universe.  We live in a complex set of relationships and can actually seed the world with good by our thoughts, words, and actions.

And so I dream that the disharmony destroying our world can be changed into peace and harmony if we daily CONSCIOUSLY live in the awareness of that “something else,” both in personal as well as community endeavors, and have the graced foolishness to DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM.

To listen to the audio version of this essay click here!

About the author

Sr. Norma Rocklage, OSF, is the Executive Director for Education Formation Outreach at Marian University.  She is a Sister of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Indiana, and holds a M.A. and Ph.D. from St Louis University.  Sr Norma has experience as an educator, administrator, lecturer, and retreat and spiritual director.  She served as a member of the General Council of her congregation for eight years.

Celebrate DREAM! 20th Anniversary Signature Events

By Erin Kelley

Enjoy music and dance? We’ve got you covered.

Want to hear a dynamic lecture? Done.

Like interacting with artists? We’re happy to oblige.

Feel like engaging thoughtful leaders on tough issues of the day?  We’re doing that too.

This is what makes Spirit & Place great—it offers a little something for everyone. No set of offerings better demonstrates this than our 20th Anniversary Signature Events.

After 20 years of igniting creativity, inspiring place-making, and sparking connections to create a more civically aware and active community, we have put together a suite of events that truly reflect our community and its dreams.

  • This is NOT a Program asks you to tap into your creative and artistic side by delving into the subconscious and letting your imagination run wild at this surrealist-themed kickoff event. (Think Willie Wonka … but without the oompa loompa or potentially deadly candies.)
  • The Choreography of Dreams interprets the dreams—past, present, and future—of elders and turns them into dance performances by Dance Kaleidoscope that dispel stereotypes about aging.
  • Best-selling author David Brooks and Christian Theological Seminary president and professor of theology Matthew Myer Boulton will explore how we can strive to create the vibrant communities of our dreams in the SOLD OUT event, A Conversation with David Brooks.
  • Tackling the issues of poverty, hunger, race, and more our Full Circle Dreaming speakers represent the arts, religion, and humanities in unique and challenging ways. (And, hey, where else but Spirit & Place will you find a line-up that includes David Brooks AND Killer Mike?!)
  • Some of Central Indiana’s most thoughtful emerging leaders will discuss their dreams for the future at this year’s public conversation that even includes special guest remarks by Dan Wakefield—one of the original public conversationalists from 1996.

Honoring the past, but with our eyes on the future, this year’s festival dares to dream big and we hope you’ll come long for the ride!

About the Author



Erin Kelley is the Program Director for the Spirit & Place Festival. Erin oversees the annual festival by working with community partners and creates year-round programming opportunities for the public.