GENTRIFY: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly wraps up

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-10-20-13-amWhat do Fountain Square, Downtown, Mapleton Fall Creek and Fall Creek Place have in common? Change: new trails, freshly paved roads, newly renovated homes, and new breweries and restaurants have recently popped up in these corners of the city. Neighborhoods may be wondering: How has this happened and who will reap the benefits of these amenities? Are our communities being gentrified block by block?

Gentrification is a real economic and cultural force acting on Indianapolis’ urban neighborhoods, which are predominantly low-income and many predominantly African- American. According to Indianapolis census data compiled by, the number of census tracts gentrifying quadrupled from 1990-2000 to 2000-2010 (defined by percentage increases in home value, education attainment and median income).

It can be difficult to have honest conversations about the “G word” because of how mired it is with issues of class, politics, race, and human impact. With this in mind, Spirit & Place and the Kheprw Institute partnered to launch Gentrify: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, a series of community discussions that explored the impact and ramifications of gentrification above and beyond displacement.

Further supporting Spirit & Place’s 2016 exploration of the word HOME, this 8-part series kicked off Sunday, February 28th at Kheprw Institute with the first discussion: “Can it Happen Here? The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis.” Attendees explored gentrification through health and environmental issues in the community.

Each event in the series encouraged discussions of engaging topics from various angles, including but not limited to: education, culture, race, class and power, food, and global perspectives.

Kheprw Institute is a community organization that empowers youth through mentorship, leadership and critical thinking through after-school programming, internship and community forums. Learn more:

[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.

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.

5 Reasons to Come to the Vonnegut Library’s Veteran’s Reclaim Armistice Day Event

By Julia Whitehead

Coming off the heals of our exciting Banned Books Week in September, the Vonnegut Library is ready to turn its attention to the special events that are part of our annual VonnegutFest, November 6th and 7th.  In case you are not familiar with the Vonnegut Library, let me share a little background. Located at 340 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis, the Vonnegut Library is a museum, art gallery, reading room, education and research facility. Our award-winning tours are free to the public. We feature programs for the general public but also programs for various groups who are part of our base of support. We host teacher workshops and events/programs/scholarships for students in high school as well as college.

Did you know the very first Spirit & Place Festival Public Conversation in 1996 featured Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield and John Updike?

One of these special events happens to be part of the Spirit & Place Festival… our Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day panel discussion and arts resources fair for veterans and their families. I offer you five reasons why you should attend this event.

Reason #5: Spirit & Place Festival Partners

The Vonnegut Library is honored to be chosen again this year for inclusion in the Spirit & Place Festival. Did you know the very first Spirit & Place Festival Public Conversation in 1996 featured Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield and John Updike? Like the Spirit & Place Festival, the Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day event relies on key community partners to participate in our arts resource fair, our panel discussion, the creation of our literary magazine, and the special art exhibits we feature at this event. You will see multiple arts and veterans organizations gathered in one place for this special, free event. The arts resource fair will be held in the area just outside of the auditorium at Central Library. Come by to check it all out before joining us in the auditorium for our very special discussion.

Reason #4: So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Veterans will receive free copies of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.  Our literary journal features the work of veterans and those who have never served covering this year the theme of social justice. We receive praise on the national level for this annual anthology of the best short stories, poetry, photographs, and art work that comes our way.

Reason #3: The Boots Exhibit

In partnership with Veterans for Peace, we are bringing in a very special exhibit: a boots exhibit. There are 61 boots representing those Hoosier 21 and younger who did not come back from their war experiences.

Reason #2: Steve Inskeep

You love him! Now, register to hear him lead our panel discussion of veterans talking about their experiences. Steve Inskeep, a native of Carmel, IN, is one of the hosts of NPR’s Morning Edition. A regular host of our annual veterans’ panel discussion, Steve cares about veterans. He is also the author of  Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, and more recently, Jacksonland, a history of President Andrew Jackson’s long-running conflict with John Ross, a Cherokee chief who resisted the removal of Indians from the eastern United States. (And be sure to go to, to get information about other events with Steve Inskeep as part of VonnegutFest.

Reason #1: On the 25th anniversary year of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Vonnegut Library celebrates this important legislation by hearing from veterans and others who have stories to tell. Where else in the festival will you hear New York Times bestselling author Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan with his therapy dog “Tuesday”; a kickass female Army combat veteran, Alfreda Chandler; veteran and writer Kit Andis; and Indy’s very own Dan Wakefield

With a special shout-out to Ken Barger of our local chapter of Veterans for Peace, Keira Amstutz of Indiana Humanities, Juliet King of Herron’s Art Therapy program, and Susan Davis of Central Library, it takes the whole community to help us put together this annual event. Come on out to Central Library on November 7th, and make sure to check out to see a list of all of the events we have going on that weekend. If you don’t come for the panel discussion, come for the arts resource fair, art show, and your free copy of our literary journal (free to veterans, available for purchase by all others). Panel participants will have their books available for purchase and signing following the event.

Register here for the panel discussion.

About the Author



Julia Whitehead is the CEO and founder of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.


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 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 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

DanMug4215 (2)


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