Indianapolis selected to pilot first Community Innovation Lab of its kind

National EmcArts’ program to focus on creating inclusive economies for Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS – After a rigorous national search process, Indianapolis has been selected as the first U.S. city to pilot EmcArts’ first Community Innovation Lab focused on economic inclusion. The winning proposal, submitted by Spirit & Place, Groundwork Indy, and Kheprw Institute, is aimed at creating inclusive and sustainable economies for formerly incarcerated individuals, youth aging out of the foster care system, and others who are too frequently pushed aside by traditional economic systems. Core funding is being provided by MetLife Foundation. A minimum of $100,000 in matching funds will need to be raised by June 30 to finalize Indianapolis’s eligibility.

“In the midst of growing poverty and inequity in Indianapolis, we hope that our involvement with this project can contribute to creative ideas and solutions,” said Imhotep Adisa, executive director of Kheprw Institute. “The current social and economic crisis requires cross-sector communication, collaboration, and engaging the community in ‘from-the-ground-up’ solutions and decision-making.”

The Community Innovation Lab’s 20-month process represents an unconventional approach that brings cross-sector viewpoints together to address complex social challenges in new ways. The Lab will use artistic processes to build trust, curiosity and persistence; to explore new possibilities; to test experimental approaches; to build local capacity to address self-determined challenges, and to prompt systemic change. Other local project partners currently include the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Edna Martin Christian Center, IUPUI Office of Community Engagement, New Life Development Ministries, Marian University, and Recycle Force, among others.

“We are deeply honored to be selected by EmcArts for this amazing initiative,” said Pam Blevins Hinkle, director of Spirit & Place. “It’s a testament to Indianapolis’s successful history of private-public partnerships, collective impact projects, and creative place-making efforts, as well as the ingenuity and tenacity of community-centric organizations such as Groundwork Indy, Kheprw Institute, and Spirit & Place. We look forward to working together to make a tangible difference in the lives of people who face challenges that are, quite frankly, unimaginable and invisible to many of us.”

For more information about this initiative or to contribute by the June 30 deadline, visit spiritandplace.org or contact Spirit & Place Director Pam Blevins Hinkle at pbhinkle@iupui.edu. To learn more about the EmcArts Community Innovation Lab, visit http://www.EmcArts.org.

ABOUT SPIRIT & PLACE
Celebrating the theme of POWER in 2017, Spirit & Place honors the role the arts, humanities, and religion play in shaping individual and community life. Through its November festival, people-centered community engagement, trainings, and year-round activities, Spirit & Place encourages radical collaboration, catalyzes civic innovation, and reveals invisible stories. Spirit & Place is a legacy project The Polis Center, part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Major partners include Lilly Endowment Inc.; Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc.; Bohlsen Group; The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate; IUPUI; IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; The Polis Center at IUPUI; WFYI Public Media; and more than 200 other community partners and donors. For more information, call The Polis Center at (317) 274-2455 or visit http://www.spiritandplace.org.

ABOUT KHEPRW INSTITUTE
Kheprw Institute is a community organization run by a diverse staff of young adults and seniors who are innovative, passionate and dedicated to creating a more just, equitable, human-centered, environmentally sustainable world. They are community members, artist, engineers, activists, entrepreneurs, critical thinkers, leaders, students, parents, and youth. They believe in community empowerment through self-mastery. Self-Mastery — a commitment to self to continually develop attitudes and behaviors that allow one to positively impact self and community. KI and Spirit & Place are in their third year of collaborative programming.

ABOUT GROUNDWORK INDY
Groundwork Indy’s mission is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships which empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being. Groundwork Indy engages in community-based strategies for revitalizing neighborhoods with initiatives in youth development, greenways and parks, brownfields and vacant land, and healthy communities.

ABOUT EMCARTS
Inspired by the arts, driven by a world in transition, EmcArts works alongside people, organizations, and communities as they take on their most complex challenges. Through advancing practices of innovation and adaptive change, EmcArts strengthens the resilience of individuals and organizations in the arts and social sectors. Through rigorously designed and facilitated workshops, coaching, and labs, we create space and conditions to navigate uncertainty, test innovative strategies, and build adaptive cultures. Our current programs are: Community Innovation Labs, New Pathways, Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators (ALACI), tailored Services for Single Organizations, and our resource-sharing and storytelling web platform, ArtsFwd. To learn more, visit http://www.EmcArts.org.

ABOUT METLIFE FOUNDATION
MetLife was founded on a simple, powerful insight: Everyone needs access to the right financial tools to achieve their goals. In 2013, this understanding inspired MetLife Foundation to refocus its grantmaking toward financial inclusion. To support its vision and mission, the Foundation has committed $200 million over five years to help low-income individuals and families get access to safe and affordable financial products and services. As we enter the second half of our five-year strategic plan, MetLife Foundation is right on track, disbursing more than $100 million against that goal. Since its creation in 1976, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $700 million in grants to make a positive difference for the people, families and communities we serve.

 

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Connecting with the Earth

by Benjamin Leslie

When we talk about taking care of the earth, we often refer to our connection to the basic elements and to basic natural processes, including the seasons and the natural cycles of life and death. The ways that this connection often looks in our society are familiar to us: We strive to be ‘in touch’ with nature by way of spending more minutes outdoors, planting more trees, or composting the kitchen scraps. Or we may have a more wholesale approach, that involves giving up certain comforts, learning how to camp, or hiking the Appalachian Trail. We find value in these activities, but at times they don’t seem to do the trick. They leave us wondering how to connect more – how to recycle more or to spend more time camping in isolation. The ‘Survivor’ method of giving up our comforts can end up being quite aggressive, yet the contrary – racking up points for being ‘green’ – somehow doesn’t go far enough.

In the Buddhist tradition, taking care of the earth starts with ourselves – our own persons and bodies. The ways we handle our waste as a society and the ways we connect (or don’t) to the elements are a direct result of our very personal and intimate habitual patterns. And our habitual patterns are based on, what we call in the Buddhist tradition, ‘mind.’

Working with one’s mind is one of the most direct ways to take responsibility for caring for the earth. Our ideas about how to care for the earth may be grounded in good logic or good morals, but if we don’t work with them personally, they might become a hollow crusade. Consider the common example of committing to a special diet. Many become vegan or vegetarian due to legitimate environmental concerns. Yet often those who have attempted a special diet will express that success is based far more on working with everyday habitual patterns than on moral, ethical, or logical consideration of the environment.

In Buddhism, the sitting practice of meditation is used to work with our minds. Rather than being a technique for contemplating a certain concept or improving one’s concentration, the unique approach of sitting meditation involves acknowledging our thoughts simply and precisely. The meditator identifies with the outbreath and has their eyes open so that gentleness and awareness are cultivated toward themselves and their situations. The gentleness that can develop from consistently and precisely touching-in with our thoughts without manipulation is often referred to as ‘making friends with oneself.’ Gradually, the practice, including that gentleness, is extended toward our everyday situations – our habitual patterns, our relationships, our households, and maybe even our compost piles.

Relating to our world with gentleness can be vulnerable. Courage is the result of our willingness to remain soft and gentle in the midst of this vulnerability. When we apply this type of courage and awareness to our situations directly, it becomes possible to see them more directly. There is no need to turn away from the intensity of challenging everyday situations, or hotspots. When our garden fails, we might not see it as a reflection of ourselves, but as fertile ground. When we decide to compost or raise chickens, we can commit to working directly with our habitual patterns in a gentler way. When we are confronted by the natural processes of life and death, of the seasons, and of the elements, we may recognize the opportunity to connect with that situation and through that gentleness, to care for the earth.

Benjamin Leslie is currently on staff at Center for Interfaith Cooperation as Program Director for the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps.

STEM and the Humanities – a look at Quantum Leap

As Spirit & Place examines the subject of Power in 2017, one of the things we can explore is the force that helps us turn on lights or heat our homes. That scientific aspect of power touches our lives daily, and our partner Indiana Humanities is helping bridge the gap between science and the humanities through its Quantum Leap initiative.

Quantum Leap explores the spirit of possibility and problem-solving when we bridge the humanities with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). One piece of the initiative is Sound Bites, a weekly series of five-minute-long audio stories that share moments of scientific discovery, creation and innovation in Indiana’s past and present. The episodes are professionally produced by Sandra Bertin and will run on select Indiana radio stations. Listeners can download episodes through iTunes and Android podcast software or through SoundCloud.

New episodes of Sound Bites will be available every Tuesday. The first episodes have covered engaging stories about how Hoosiers have contributed to science. They explore topics like the beginning of molecular biology in Bloomington, Ind., and the first African-American doctor in Indianapolis. Upcoming episodes will tell stories of the world’s first electrically-lighted city, lunar vehicles and how jails can be more humane, among others.

Spirit & Place believes in the impact the humanities can have in bringing people together. It’s part of why we do what we do. Through telling stories like those included in Sound Bites, we can learn how science and technology have informed Indiana’s past and how it will continue to shape our state in the future.

For more information on Indiana Humanities’ Quantum Leap initiative, visit their website. From listening to Sound Bites to joining the statewide read of Frankenstein or attending an event, there are plenty of ways for you to join the conversation.

 

2017 Theme: Power. November 3-12, 2017!

POWER can be disquieting, discomforting, and oppressive; it can also be illuminating, inspiring, and hopeful. How do our social, political, cultural, and spiritual perspectives shape notions of power? How do the arts, humanities, and religion fuel our inner life and empower communities? How has the use, misuse, and abuse of power shaped our individual and collective lives? What new sources of energy can power our lives together? How can we give voice to communities that have historically lacked power? How can we bring diverse groups together to examine power structures in our own communities?

How do you want to explore POWER in 2017?

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Cultural, faith-based, educational, health and human service organizations, libraries, community centers, civic institutions, artists, musicians, and others are invited to create innovative events for upcoming festivals. Application guidelines are posted at the beginning of the year.

Contact Program Director Erin Kelley at 317-274-2462 or ekkelley@iupui.edu or click here to learn more.   

What Does the Festival Want?

By Erin Kelley

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The question I hear the most when individuals and organizations begin planning their Spirit & Place Festival application is, “What does the festival want?”

We want unique events that engage as broad of a swath of the public as possible in reflection and discussion of the yearly theme. We want you to partner with others so that multiple perspectives inform the content of your event as well as its format and design. We want you to help bridge new understandings between people so that they might feel more connected to Central Indiana—our shared “place.” We want you to use the festival as an opportunity to stretch yourselves creatively, collaboratively, intellectually, and spiritually. We want your best.

And, yeah, we know that’s a lot!

After digesting all those festival “wants,” I think it is also useful for community partners to step back and ask themselves what they want.

  • What do you want to give?
  • What do you want to get?
  • Who do you want to reach through this event?
  • Why do you want to reach this audience?
  • What is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you want to achieve by being in the Spirit & Place Festival?

Taking the time to think about and discuss these questions is an important first step in identifying how you and your partners might positively impact the community, as well as your own organizations or creative endeavors, through the festival.

As you begin your planning process, please make use of the partner resources we have available on the Spirit & Place website that can help you dig into these questions. And never hesitate to contact us for assistance at festival@iupui.edu.

LINKS:

Ask themselves what they want: http://www.spiritandplace.org/spwebresources/2016/PART%202%20Audience%20&%20Achievements.pdf

Partner Resources: http://www.spiritandplace.org/Festival.aspx?access=Partners

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.

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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.