Signature Events & Award of Awesomeness Highlights

The 2016 festival included five Signature Events including an opening night celebration, The Dog Ate My Homework, which included the debut of “Dear Indy”– a Spirit  & Place commission written and performed by poet and spoken word artist Tony Styxx.

A collaboration with the Butler University Visiting Writing Series brought Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout to Indy to share with a crowd of 400+ why she writes: To get to know what it is like to be someone else. To know empathy.

The ambitious Side-by-Side programming with Roberts Park United Methodist Church displayed, for the first time ever, Timothy Schmalz’s six “Matthew 25” sculptures in one place, including Homeless JesusProgramming also included the debut performance of Matthew’s Voices, a community choir welcoming to Indianapolis’s homeless population.

Spirit & Place’s year-long partnership with the Kheprw Institute on “Gentrify: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly,” culminated in the workshop From the Ground Up and the 21st Annual Public Conversation featured Matt Desmond, Allison Luthe, and Timothy Schmalz.

Nine community-created events were nominated for exemplifying the values that make the Spirit & Place Festival special. The Award of Awesomeness winner was Riverside Speaks! (lead partner, Ebenezer Baptist Church) who received a $1,000 prize. As one judge stated, “When I think about Spirit & Place, I think about this kind of event . . . people coming together from the heart.”


What did HOME teach you?

Did you know that over 40 events took place during our 2016 Spirit and Place festival? We were also proud to present five Signature Events: The Dog Ate My Homework featuring a newly commissioned spoken word piece by Tony Styxx, An Evening with Elizabeth Strout  in partnership with the Butler University Visiting Writers Series, the ambitious Side-by-Side programming with Roberts Park UMC, and the 21st Annual Public Conversation hosted by our official 2016 venue partner, Indiana Landmarks.

Even more, nine additional events have been recognized this year for exemplifying the values that make the Spirit & Place Festival special!

Spirit & Place represents a collaboration of congregations, cultural institutions, universities and colleges, schools, civic groups, museums, etc. We’re always seeking to improve, and your feedback at our events is sincerely appreciated.

Take a look at what you had to say about this year’s Festival on Storify:
[View the story “Spirit & Place 2016” on Storify]

Looking back toward “HOME.” A Visual Recap of our 2016 Festival:

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
— Maya Angelou

We had an incredible time with you as we celebrated ‘HOME’ and learning more about our city, our neighbors, and our world. Thank you for everyone who participated in events and shared photos and comments online! We greatly enjoyed seeing things from your perspective.

Another special thanks goes out to our generous sponsors and donors.



Here’s a look at some photos shared from our 2016 Festival. Do you have one to add? Be sure to share with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!


In the midst of our Slow Saunter/Indiana Humanities Next Indiana campfire as part of Spirit & Place Festival — beautiful day at Morgan-Monroe State Forest, discussing the history and value of species diversity here: “Are we planning to bequeath something to the people of the next century?” –Charles C. Deam. #SPIndy #talkandtrek



As part of this year’s Spirit & Place Festival, IndyGo (Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation) asked riders to share their stories about what “home” means to them. Take a moment to read some of these great responses and share what “home” means to you!


From Indy School on Wheels: A huge shoutout to our friends from @CHIPIndy for a fantastic @spiritandplace event yesterday featuring @HomestretchDoc! #SPIndy


From Storytelling Arts: We’re collaborating 4 @spiritandplace First up: Bless This Mess, 7 p.m. 11/9, Theatre at the Fort, Lawrence


Did you know that the #Indy Athenaeum was designated as National Historic Landmark? It’s serving as our beautiful venue for Haus Music


From Sapphire Theater: Signs + Symptoms of #MoralInjury & #PTSD. Find out more today at REBUILDING HOME @AtTheA … #HelpIndyVets #SPIndy


Especially poignant given the time of year. We should think about all of the veterans away from home this holiday season. #spindy


Congratulations to the Veterans who shared their personal stories, the DK dancers who choreography pieces to match each story, and to the dancers who performed in our Spirit & Place show, Writing Home: Stories of American Veterans. We are, as always, extremely proud of you. Photos by Chris Crawl

WFYI Essay: “Indiana and Israel: Home and Homeland.”

Indiana and Israel: Home and Homeland
Lindsey Mintz
Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council

Did you know that when a plane touches down in Israel, people on board clap and cheer? And yes, some actually kiss the tarmac. Each time I land in Israel, tears of gratitude well in my eyes as I exhale and feel, home.

During the summer before my third grade year, my family lived and worked on a kibbutz in northern Israel, just minutes from the Sea of Galilee. We were paired with a family similar to our own, with feisty daughters, loving moms, and fathers who oozed both wit and wisdom. My dad worked as the kibbutz dentist, my older sisters picked oranges in the grove, my mom priced items in the grocery store, and I got to play in the summer camp. At the age of nine, I picked up quite a bit of Hebrew and quickly made friends. Everyone on the kibbutz had a bike, so we were given one too. Each day, members of my family would come back together to share meals in the communal dining room. And on Friday night the entire kibbutz gathered to sing the ancient prayers and songs of Shabbat – words and melodies that I knew, but was hearing for the first time sung by Israelis, whose Hebrew was like silk.

When we weren’t on the kibbutz, we travelled throughout Israel alongside our host family. Scenes from that summer are etched in my mind: clinging to the toe-path walking cautiously down Masada; feeling a cut on my skin sting in the salty waters of the Dead Sea; shivering in our car looking up at the snow-capped Mount Hermon; playing endless paddle-ball on the beach in Tel Aviv, and holding tight to my father’s hand through the bustling corridors of Jerusalem’s Old City; somehow appreciating the magnitude of touching the same stones placed by the earliest Jews nearly 3,000 years ago.

That summer was over 30 years ago, and since then I have been to Israel more than a dozen times, including a year living in Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University. After graduate school, I spent another summer living once again on that kibbutz from my childhood – this time as an adult on my own. I was issued a bike, and remembered exactly how to navigate to the small apartment home of my host family, where they were waiting to welcome me with open arms! I was home.

And yet, I love to boast that I’m a third generation Jewish Hoosier, whose great-grandparents fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe to find safety in, of all places, South Bend, Indiana. I’m proud to share that my grandfather is one of only a handful of umpires inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, and that for over 40 years my father provided dental care to Hoosier children most in need. I’m grateful to have graduated from IU and IUPUI with degrees in Jewish Studies and Public History, having focused my research on Indiana Jewish history. And I cherish the 10 summers I spent at a Jewish camp in Zionsville, the place where I would meet my future husband and where we send our children today.

When I look back now, I can see clearly how all of these experiences, and all of these people – both in Israel and in Indiana – imprinted me, shaped my identity as a Jew and as a Hoosier, and influenced the direction my life would take, both personally and professionally.

As the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, I have the privilege of conveying the interests and concerns of the Indiana Jewish community to Hoosiers throughout the state. If I do my job well, I help people understand how – and why – the Jewish community is so committed to improving and protecting the lives of people living in two places that many call home: Indiana and Israel.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.

WFYI Essay: “Coming Back from War.”

Coming Back From War
Ken Barger
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, IUPUI

I came back from war, but didn’t really come home. While serving in Vietnam, a bullet once clipped my ear, and I thought, “Why are they trying to kill me? Don’t they know that I’m here to help them get freedom and democracy?” Another time in a helicopter, I looked out and saw death and destruction everywhere, and I thought, “You know, if I was a Vietnamese peasant I’d be out with the Viet Cong fighting the Americans.” I was shocked … what the hell had I just thought? Eventually I realized that they were not evil “communists,” but people fighting us foreign invaders who were destroying their lives and homes … just like we would do. I realized that this war had nothing to do with freedom and democracy. After that, it was tough to get through each day.

When I came back, I was a very different person, alone, isolated … a stranger to what had once been “home.” I had discovered that the worst of human nature could exist in me. I was angry at myself for what I had done, and at my government who had misled me. My homeland seemed strange, and for the first time I really saw racism, corporate greed, and political manipulation. Life didn’t make sense any more, and I didn’t know how to resolve the core ideals of my upbringing with the new realities I now saw.

It takes a lifetime to resolve this conflict. I cannot change the past, but I can try to change the future. I got involved with many social causes. When we were preparing to invade Iraq, I started sharing my Vietnam story. After one rally, I talked with a small group of high school students who had just enlisted, and asked them to not let what happened to me happen to them. Afterwards I was depressed, because I knew that there was nothing that could be done … it would happen anyway.

A few years ago, I went back to Vietnam. Former Viet Cong and NVA soldiers came up to me, shook my hand, said that we were friends now, and bought me a drink. Vietnam is now a thriving society, and I kept thinking that if we had just left them alone they would have reached this point many years sooner. I also thought that we are doing the same damn thing all over again in Iraq.

Today, when I hear voices of fear and hate and military force, I ask what kind of Americans will we be? Will we seek to be the best we can be as a people, and search for mutually constructive options to resolve the underlying causes of conflicts? Will we question who really benefits from our policies, and who really pays the costs? It is my hope that Americans will live up to the core values which we hold for ourselves and all human beings … the home that would never send us off to a meaningless war.




WFYI Essay: “Making a Place into a Home.”

Making a Place into a Home
Jim Walker
CEO of Big Car Collaborative

Placemaking is a relatively new term — even a buzzword — and one more and more people are using, sometimes incorrectly. As an artist who works to help make places for people, I was searching for a good metaphor that helps explain what placemaking really is. I found it thanks to David Engwicht, an Australian artist, writer, and placemaker. In his book, Street Reclaiming, David explains that placemaking is like homemaking — but for public places.

We understand the difference between a house and a home. An empty house— maybe abandoned or just between residents — isn’t anybody’s home. Once people are in the building, once they begin bringing in beds, sofa, lamps, kitchen table, desk, knickknacks for the shelves, art for the walls, it starts feeling like a home.

But the house isn’t there yet. Homemaking takes more than stuff. Home only happens when people are there in the kitchen eating breakfast, reading a book on the porch, talking with each other over dinner, dancing to music in the living room during a party. Home is a place where people share affection, where we feel connected with each other. Home is where we — hopefully — feel welcome and safe, where we play and have fun, where we feel comfortable putting our feet up and staying a while. Home is a place we’re in no hurry to leave.

In thinking about it this way, placemaking is really about bringing these warm, safe, and social feelings into public places. And, just as we know a house isn’t made a home without people, places aren’t made by nicely designed landscapes with plopped-in public art and shiny stone benches. The key ingredient to a made place is people being there. This takes amenities and activities — often associated with home — that invite us to stay, to linger and connect with each other. These might be comfortable seats for taking a break, tables and for eating lunch, games to play with new friends, music to enjoy, opportunities for conversations and for people of all ages to get creative.

Today, our society struggles with people living in isolation, with families and real-life social networks frayed as we spend more time with technology than each other. Too often, we’re in such a hurry — imagined or otherwise — that we rarely spend time on neighborhood sidewalks or in our public places where we might mingle and spontaneously connect with our fellow citizens. And that’s why making and sustaining places that bring people together is so important. We all need and deserve that feeling of home, of knowing we’re in a place where we belong.

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Each year Spirit & Place partners with WFYI on a series of essays on the annual theme. Listen to them here.