Dreams Are Worth Dollars

By Anne Laker

The room is wiry with energy. Nervous presenters stand ready to make a pitch for a dream: a certain dream of making Indianapolis more accessible, healthy, green, or vibrant … using the arts. Ten thousand dollars is on the line, and the crowd and the judges are queued up. This’ll be the scene at 5 x 5 Idea Competition: Dream Indy edition, come November 12.

Why attend?  Five reasons:

1) Your vote counts. Here’s how it works: five presenters (narrowed down from a field of 30-100 applicants) have only five minutes and five presentation slides each to pitch an idea. You (the audience) get a vote, and so do the judges, made up representatives from the producing organizations: Big Car, the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community, and Joy’s House. (Spirit & Place Festival brought this unlikely partnership together).collage 2

2) Be part of the wave of innovation. 5 x 5 is now an Indianapolis tradition. Funded by Central Indiana Community FoundationChristel DeHaan Family Foundation, Efroymson Family Fund and Lilly Endowment Inc., the annual series of four cash-based idea competitions exemplifies Indianapolis’ incubatory atmosphere.  Past winning ideas have included a mobile cinema set-up, a floating garden, poems on abandoned houses, and a pocket park with a vintage car. What will this year’s ideas be?

3) To cheer on intergenerational teams. A new twist this year is the encouragement of team presentations including two people at least 20 years apart. Why? To widen perspectives and add depth. We’re hoping grandparents and grandkids will team up for a rich idea. Or professors and students. We’re seeking ideas for how the arts can make our city or its neighborhoods better. Examples: universal (accessible) design, the role of art in helping senior citizens thrive, creative re-use of materials or places — and on and on. Submit your own idea before October 25 … applications will be open by Sept. 30.

4) To be the first to see Big Car’s new space. The event will happen at The Tube ArtSpace, a 1930s-era factory building now being renovated as a new community cultural space in the Garfield Park neighborhood, operated by Big Car. It may still be in the raw, but anyone who comes to the November 12 event will get a first look at this former-dairy-turned-art-space.

5) Free food, cash bar, and music. The eats, beverages and tunes are TBD, but rest assured, they’ll be yummy.

See you at 5 x 5 Idea Competition: Dream Indy!


About the Author

Anne Laker is director of cultural programs at Big Car Collaborative — and a staffer at the Spirit & Place Festival from 2000 to 2003.

Moving Toward Community

By LaShawnda Crowe Storm

The Spirit & Place Festival is at an exciting evolutionary moment, of which our community engagement efforts are crucial to supporting the festival as we move into new and uncharted territory. Some of the major changes in how we are moving deal not only with a perspective shift, but in incorporating new strategies in working with our community. Our engagement approach can be viewed from three broad categories:
•       People-centered engagement
•       Adaptability and flexibility
•       Capacity building and collective impact

People-Centered Engagement

We’ve reoriented our perspective from “outreach” (which assumes a center/source and a target) to “community engagement” (which embraces reciprocal and ongoing relationship / community development that builds trust). In this model, time is the most critical investment to successfully build effective, collaborative relationships and programs. Being present at crucial community conversations is important, as well as listening without expectation or agenda. In being present and listening to learn and understand, community concerns are in the driver seat and approaches are people-centered.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Flexibility is essential to effective community building and civic engagement work in order to accommodate its many forms, which range from bringing together disparate groups with similar interests and compatible skills to pairing a more established group to mentor a start-up group.

It is also important for Spirit & Place to have a presence in current events and issues. Our work with assisting with the “Talking About Freedoms Without Freaking Out” public discussion series, which explored the RFRA or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is an example of this work moving forward.

Capacity Building and Collective Impact
We continue to explore what it means for Spirit & Place to fulfill its mission via a collective impact approach, or bringing our “A-game” to support community capacity building around civic engagement. In this approach, weaving together new relationships and collaborations leads to exciting opportunities for unseen voices to emerge and new ways of seeing and doing. It may also mean that we use our work in community and in program design to support our community partners as they move forward to looking at new ways of working in the community.

Three events in this year’s festival that reflect this new approach include, Dreaming of Justice Through Song, Jitterbug on Fleek and Voices Project. While our community engagement work with SAVI to support their public conversation, SAVI Talks Crime: Does Perception Match Reality?” is another example.

As our community engagement work continues to evolve into new and exciting directions, we eagerly embrace and remain open to the unknown. It is in these uncharted waters that the opportunity, “new connections and new directions” can emerge, further honing the richness and beauty of civic engagement that is at the heart of the Spirit & Place Festival.


About the author



LaShawnda Crowe Storm is the community engagement director for the Spirit & Place Festival.

Say I’m a Dreamer, the Dream and I Are One

By Dan Carpenter

If we’re the stuff of dreams, as Shakespeare’s Prospero put it, then let’s turn the deal around and suggest our dreams are every bit as substantial as we are.

When I was very young, my dreams were solid enough. Boringly so. I loved writing stories of mystery and monsters that basically ripped off the fantastic yarns of comic books and B movies, but my career “visions” were about as exotic as the blue-collar world I inhabited a mile in the wrong direction (south) from Downtown Indy.

“From the Spanish gold-seekers to the Henry Fords to the dot.com kids to the Rio Grande swimmer with his string of restaurants, we know what dreams are made of: Making it.”

I would be what I saw. A fireman, an auto mechanic (envy there; we had no car), a telephone repairman (if I could work a deal to avoid climbing poles). Leave the jet fighter piloting and World Series heroics to the greedy adventurers, the guys who would jump off garage roofs to impress girls (roofs, girls, both terrifying).

But if my revelries were mundane, they weren’t entirely foreign to the American Dream. Think of my timorous aspirations as junior versions of the pragmatic ambition that’s immortalized so many guys who made America not the republic of imagination so much as the place where anybody can get ahead and get stuff. From the Spanish gold-seekers to the Henry Fords to the dot.com kids to the Rio Grande swimmer with his string of restaurants, we know what dreams are made of: Making it.

We also know better. But the higher meaning of human self-actualization tends to slip minds that are bent on acquisition. Henry David Thoreau instructed us that “success unexpected in common hours” would come to one who “who advances confidently in the direction of his dreams.” An insurance company appropriated that nugget for a TV commercial selling retirement plans. At least we can advance confidently in the expectation Thoreau’s words will outlive the mercenary uses to which they were subjected. Right?

Every day, variations upon the dream-serving-substance theme play out in a society driven by utility and competition. What I’ve come to realize, after a lucky life of seeing modest adult hopes of fulfilling work and enriching experience come to fruition, is that genuine dreams suffocate when they’re bundled into self-advancement. Nor can they be sold or donated to us. I went to college rather than becoming a grease monkey because they told me that’s what dreams were made of. What I’ve learned, for larger or smaller, is that I’m the stuff.


About the author

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Dan Carpenter is an Indy-based and Indy-born freelance writer and former Indianapolis Star columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @IndyStarDanC

Water Heater to Wall Art

By Casey Maish

My water heater leaked.  It was just a tiny bit of water on the hallway rug.  Being optimists, my husband and I thought it was a fluke – nothing to worry about.

“I have a Green Dream! And I am excited about it! It started in 2008 as a learning opportunity at my local library.”

It happened again!  This time it produced a larger amount of water and soaked the hallway floor, as if telling us that we needed to wake up from our unrealistic dream and pay attention.  The water heater was speaking to us and we listened.  The linen closet was quickly emptied.  Towels of all colors were thrown on the floor like a rainbow in distress.  The insurance company was called and one thing led to another — drying fans, dust, questions, estimators, contractors, quotes.  My head was spinning.  It was a moment of disbelief, yet a hint of enlightenment.  We were about to get a new floor!

My husband started pulling up the parquet floor with a crowbar, hammer and chisel, the shopvac was brought into the project and our cat was annoyed!  Blankets became carpets and black tape marked sections.  I wanted to save the floor!  For repurposing, of course!  That’s what I do.

I have a Green Dream! And I am excited about it!  It started in 2008 as a learning opportunity at my local library.  Then it became something I was more aware of…and started to live…and then promote to others. I had a newly informed desire that I was looking to explore.

Come, join me at the Spirit & Place Festival this November and Dream Green at the Do It Again Recycled Art Market on Sat., Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This interactive event will offer an educational art fair experience to encourage conservation of natural resources and use of sustainable materials in creative art-making.

Not sure how YOU can DREAM GREEN with me at the event? Here are THREE fun ways:

  1. Be inspired and spark your creativity to design a personal “masterpiece” using my actual parquet floor! (and many other random household items.)
  2. Admire and bid on DREAM-themed rain barrels creatively hand painted by local artists.
  3. Shop for unique, one-of-a-kind gifts made from reused, repurposed or recycled materials.

Maybe you’ll become inspired to turn your water heater into wall art!  I’m going to start dreaming about what to do with my cabinets.

To learn more about the event and to register, click here.


Casey is a community volunteer with the Zionsville Cultural District.  In her free time she enjoys organizing parties and events, unwinding with her husband and cat “Pokey”, staying up to date with friends and family on Facebook and watching sports.

President Peters

This morning, I was perusing an article on LinkedIn by Jeff Haden, which declared that irrational optimism is the key to success. As much as I identify as a pragmatist, I have one dream that is the epitome of irrational. I will run for president in 2052.

Running for president is not a new or fleeting passion for me; it is a position of public Senior Headshot [37674]service that I have been pursuing since childhood. Growing up, I was inundated with various political views from my divorced parents, who shared their radically opposite ideologies with me. My mother is extremely liberal and married to an extraordinarily active union member and my father is a small business owning conservative. Starting in middle school, I would often debate my teachers on pressing political issues from entitlement reform to American foreign policy. For me, problem solving through a complex and multi-faceted political issue is an incredible and rewarding challenge.

When I began high school, my grandmother, who is also politically active, began taking me to political functions and I also paged every year at the Indiana State House. These were eye-opening experiences that transformed my ideological views into real places where such change and reform “could” be accomplished. Through those years, my political views evolved significantly. In my senior year of high school, I received an internship with the Libertarian Party of Indiana that again helped expand my view of real life policy making.

Whether I run for president in 2052 or not is irrelevant. I strongly believe I will be rewarded in full by simply having a lofty and idealistic dream for the next 37 years. My personal goal will help guide me through tough decisions. It will help inspire me to pursue difficult paths, and it will help define me as a person and a professional. Regardless of what your dream is or where it may take you, persist and pursue it as though it is not only a possibility, but a likelihood. We often naively underestimate the power of a dream. Walt Disney understood the power and implications of dreams when he declared, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Austin will matriculate at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in the fall to study Finance, International Business, and Spanish.

My Boom-Boom

Tristan Tzara, founding member of the Zurich Dada movement, wrote in his 1918 Dada Manifesto that he was against systems, logic, and conforming to traditions; he instead implored everyone to dance to their own boom-boom. I had just started my new journey of studying art history, and I hung onto every word as I read Tzara’s explanation of Dada: “Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment…Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE” (1918 Manifesto).

I was hooked. Dada seemed to speak beyond its wisdom of protesting the atrocities of World War I and asked humanity for all times and epochs to find truth in individual thoughts, not blindly follow traditional practices and customs. It was an art movement that was more than just the art produced, or in a paradoxical twist, the anti-art not created. I wrote my thesis on these paradoxes, of traditional art practices being cast aside to make room for new ideas but, in the most illogical fashion, using older models from modern art to inform their work, because there should be no system, no boundaries and limits and everything was fair game.

It was from these ideas that Surrealism was born. While the artists no longer needed the harsh anti-art aesthetics of Dada and moved towards the more artistic dreamscapes of Surrealism, they didn’t lose the essence of Dada: the importance of the new, the individual, and the limitless boundaries when it came to searching for inspiration. Following the war, Tzara and fellow Dadaists transitioned to the new art movement, finding inspiration from their own limitless subconscious. Surrealists, motivated by the emerging Freudian theories about repressed ideas and thoughts, looked to cultivate these nascent ideas into innovative creations and unique juxtapositions.

When I first heard the Spirit and Place theme DREAM, I could not stop thinking about the oneiric art of the Surrealists and the automatic practices utilized to discover buried views. I wanted to create an evening for people to search their individual thoughts, look deep into their subconscious and uncover what new ideas might be lurking below the surface. What if we all did this for Indianapolis? What if this was more than just an art movement, but a way of life? How could our community benefit from seeing things from new points of views and juxtaposing what may seem to be dissimilar thoughts? This all inspired my plans as I brought my ideas to Spirit and Place for a Surrealist night.

And while I am currently working with Spirit and Place, Big Car, and Indy Reads to plan the best Surrealist night this city has seen, it is Tristan Tzara that haunts my thoughts. More than the Surrealist ideas, I am motivated to dance to my own boom-boom and I have an innate desire to have others do the same. The Dada spirit that was initially sparked in grad school is alive and well while planning this event. My boom-boom is unapologetically art. This night for me is a way to have others explore these art movements to understand the importance of these ideas and images and to create connections between our own community and art of the past. My boom-boom is explaining to others how art is a reflection of humanity: it’s not only a mirror that demonstrates and displays our current culture and politics, but it is a roadmap. Through images and visual representations, artists offer us ideas that lead towards progress, change, and transformation.FullSizeRender-1

Spirit and Place has given me the opportunity to cast aside conformity to how to plan a community program and bring my individual passion to the forefront. I have the platform to share Art. Yes, capital letter for emphasis. I am able to share with others how art can inform our ideas for community, culture, LIFE. And if that isn’t other people’s boom-boom, in a twist, I hope the art can inspire others to have the freedom to find their own individual passion, thoughts, and dreams. Break traditional boundaries, conform to no system, and use contradiction to keep finding new ways of doing things.

And just dance to your own personal boom-boom. No matter what.

Thank you, Tzara.

Susan Davis, a proud Butler University graduate, earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and received her M.A. in Art History from Indiana University. As the Adult Program Specialist for the Indianapolis Public Library, Susan plans and implements literary, cultural, and community-building programs and exhibits.   Susan is active in the local arts scene as a board member for Primary Colours and assists in organizing gallery shows and local art events. In her spare time, Susan enjoys playing outdoor sports, reading, and cheering for the Butler Bulldogs.



From the Archives – Exploring Imagination: Catching the Big Fish

It’s really fun to ask children about something they have created. They deliver amazing stories and explanations about what they see in a drawing or a lump of clay. They effortlessly craft fantastic stories. Children see things differently and often see things the way they want them to be. They love activities that allow them to pretend. Ask a child to be a tree, a house, an animal, or an inanimate object. Without a second thought, they just do it.

As a young child, I remember coming home from school with a three-dimensional creation from art class. I thought my creation was spectacular. It was a dog with an intense yellow body, green spots, and three legs. I also remember laughter as I presented the dog to my mother. I told her rather indignantly that it was a surrealistic dog. My mother was  more impressed with my vocabulary than the fantastic creation.

Even though my mother didn’t appear to appreciate it, that dog sat on top of a metal  cabinet in our basement for years. Other things were tossed but somehow the dog survived. I wonder if in some way it stood out from all the other crafts my sister and I brought home.

For the last 30 years, I have collected art from professional artists, but I continue to display many of the pieces my children created years ago. Each piece reflects their curiosity, perception, and imagination when they were young enough to be unencumbered by the fear of lacking skill. That’s what makes the pieces interesting, and at times, humorous.

Why has the work of so many modern artists suggested the expressive freedom of children? In 1945, painter Jean Dubuffet, incensed by public outrage at his work, responded by saying “I own a portrait done by an eight-year-old, one eye is red, the other is yellow, and the cheeks are royal blue. People praise the painting for its whimsy and enchantment but if I add a whim of my own, I am told: ‘You have no right, you are no longer a child.’”

JoEllen Florio Rossebo, president and CEO of Young Audiences Indiana. Photo by Mark Lee

JoEllen Florio Rossebo, president and CEO of Young Audiences Indiana. Photo by Mark Lee

Do we lose the ability to imagine and disregard its value as we mature? It’s interesting that after relegating the power of imagination to “artists,” more and more people understand that it’s one of the most valuable abilities that we can possess at work and in everyday life.

Sought-after authors and futurists such as Daniel Pink and Sir Ken Robinson focus on the importance of creativity, innovation, and imagination to prepare us for a globally competitive future. Even a recent Shell Oil Company television commercial touted the company’s employment of creative researchers who can envision new products for improved efficiency and air quality.

There’s a growing body of evidence in the fields of art and education that recognizes the importance of building the capacity for imagination through the curriculum. A new study by Lake Research Partners titled “Imagination Nation” shows growing public support for such programs. Imagination is an inextricable part of a good education.

I don’t think of imagination as something I can pull out when I need it. It’s more about the absence of all the junk that clutters my thought process. Imagination is the ability to clear away the junk and allow natural connections to surface. Connections from my life experience: walking in a forest, reading a book, listening to music, or manipulating cold, wet clay.

I often think about a wonderful poet and teacher, Sandy Lyne, who presented at a Young Audiences Institute for Artful Teaching in 2005. Sandy was talking about teaching children to write poetry. He used the metaphor of fishing to describe the creative process. Words and ideas are always there. We have to fish for them. Sometimes we catch a boot, but more often than not, we catch the words and phrases that capture our meaning—big fish!

What do I imagine now? How does the very kernel of an idea begin to grow? What will the garden look like this year? How do I solve a problem at work? A new system, a new thought, a new way of behaving, a new way to envision the world: anything I work toward is a product of my imagination.

JoEllen Florio Rossebo is president and CEO of Young Audiences of Indiana.