[2015 DREAM Essay] Fresh and bold vision for Indianapolis Public Schools

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

By Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools

lewI was in the Indianapolis airport TSA line after my second interview and public meeting for the IPS superintendency heading back to North Carolina, and two compelling thoughts were confirmed. There was a thirst in the community for a restoration of hope for IPS and a yearning for something different for public education in the city.  A security agent checked my identification as I handed over my airline ticket.  With a unique grin, he asked:

“Are you the new superintendent for IPS?”

“I remember seeing your face on the news.”

“You’re the guy with the bowtie.”

I replied, “You are mostly correct, but I’m hoping to become the next superintendent for IPS, and the Board of School Commissioners has not yet named the finalist. I’m sure they will make an announcement soon.”  He replied with great confidence:

The gentleman’s encouraging words were confirmation that we should all dream big for IPS and cultivate a captivating and bold vision for the district.

“Well I hope you get the job, I have a good feeling about you.”

“You are our guy, we need you. IPS has struggled for a longtime and our children need a quality education.”

“You can do it.”

“It’s a real fixer-upper but with bold leadership, we get better, right?”

“Safe travels, enjoy your flight.”

I will never forget that conversation, and it rings in my ears often when I face strong opposition to change. The gentleman’s encouraging words were confirmation that we should all dream big for IPS and cultivate a captivating and bold vision for the district. It also signaled that Indianapolis would make a great home for my family and me. This is “myIPS.”

Since then, IPS has made significant strides toward becoming different and better. We have pockets of achievement. More importantly, we now have that bold and innovative vision for our future. IPS Strategic Plan 2015 sets a vision for a high-quality education for every student in every school.

“Envision one of the largest employers in the City of Indianapolis with the most talented educators earning competitive pay. IPS students have attractive elementary, middle and high school options that inspire them, cultivate their talents and meet their needs. All students graduate on time and enter college, career or the military well-prepared for success. Innovation drives our approach to offering a high-quality educational experience to all students” (IPS Strategic Plan 2015, p6, www.myips.org).

Along with my friend in TSA, I too have a good feeling. This is indeed an exciting time for our students, families and staff, and our entire community.

To listen to this essay click here!

5 Reasons to Attend Spirit & Place’s Opening Event: This is NOT a Program

By Erin Kelley

  1. Mustaches
  2. Lobsters
  3. Dadaist poetry
  4. Experimental Music
  5. Inflatable Aliens

When I first learned Spirit & Place’s 2015 theme would be DREAM my thoughts went in two separate directions—one scientific and one surreal.

Dreams are mysterious and amazing things. My practical and inquisitive side is fascinated by why and how our brains process data and turn them into dreams. But my playful and occasionally impish side is even more fascinated by the bizarre and contradictory images of our dreams.

Even people who think they lack creativity have at some point dreamt of outlandish worlds. They’ve defied the laws of physics and flown like birds, raced cars upside down, and even danced through time and space in their dreams. We are all bubbling with creativity—the surrealism of our dreams proves it!

To kick-off this year’s festival we wanted to host an event that would welcome your dreamy and creative side to come out and play. Using games created by surrealist artists of the 1920s, we hope you’ll let go, get creatively weird, and simply enjoy the process of allowing the surreal to be real for a night.

Besides, you know you want to know how mustaches, lobsters, poetry, music, and inflatable aliens (not to mention Yats, Bazbeaux, and Sun King) will figure into this kick-off event!

Register here for our kick off event.

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.

[2015 DREAM Essay] Leaving it better than we found it

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

By John E. Waters

John E WatersJesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He also said “loving God” and “loving people” were the greatest commands found in the Bible. My dream is to love people, love God, and bless the nations on this earth.

Throughout history, humans have developed various means to extract, store, and release forms of energy that power our lives. Since the industrial age, we have extracted limited resources out of the earth, like oil, coal, natural gas, and have converted into useable forms of energy, like the electron.

Unfortunately, the energy extraction and conversion process is massive, inefficient, requires billions of dollars; produces harmful emissions, energy de-pendence, and homeland in-security.

Since its discovery, the electron has become the most efficient form of energy available as it can easily power our homes and cars. But, only large, developed countries have capabilities to extract, transport, and convert our planet’s resources into useable forms of energy.

By leaving our planet better than we found it, I believe I can fulfill my dream of loving people, loving God, blessing our neighborhoods, and nations, on the earth.

Let’s meet some of our neighbors, Mathios and Fatimah. Mathios would love to have clean power to farm for his family and light his nights. Fatimah could use electrons to power a water pump or an electric cart to transport goods. Mathios and Fatimah, and over a billion like them, currently spend their money on non-sustainable energy, like wood and kerosene.

Over the past 20 years, several billion dollars have been invested into Lithium-ion batteries by the automotive industry. Lithium batteries are now being safely used in cars worldwide and I have been privileged to be one of the pioneers in this electron-storage technology.

My invention can effortlessly store electrons converted from a solar panel, and clean energy be readily used by Mathios and Fatimah to power all their home and mobility needs. And they can independently power their lives anywhere the sun shines on planet earth (for God’s infrastructure has no restriction!).

Mathios and Fatimah can now purchase clean, quiet electrical energy instead of dirty and noisy fuels burdened with endless maintenance expenses. Isn’t it time we truly “loved our neighbors”, like Mathios and Fatimah, and the 1.5 billion like them?

By leaving our planet better than we found it, I believe I can fulfill my dream of loving people, loving God, blessing our neighborhoods, and nations, on the earth.

To listen to this essay click here!

About the author

John E. Waters is the president of Leave It Better Than We Found It, LLC.

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.

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.

Dreams Delayed…and Denied

Dan Gosling with productWhat happens when dreams are deferred, delayed or simply never come true?

Dreams are just that – dreams. They are ethereal, wispy and hard to grasp. Ironically, dreams of the nocturnal variety seem so real. When we are free of the bondage of reality, anything can happen in our nighttime dreams. In our supposedly awakened daytime state, they have a wholly different quality and sometimes seem unobtainable. Think of how we use the word.

”dream home”
“dream vacation”
”dream job”
“only in my dreams”
“woman/man of my dreams”

The list is endless. Do dreams excite you or do they depress you because the very word is a synonym for “not gonna happen?” Dreams are often the spark of creation but to will them into reality takes effort, planning, faith, hope, grit, and yes, good old blood, sweat, and tears, often in that order.

And, then, sometimes they still don’t happen or they take a lot longer and much more effort than we ever “dreamed” they would. So why do some dreams take so long or, in many cases, never happen, despite someone’s best effort? I believe two things can be at play. One – God/Universe is trying to protect you from something and has something better in store, if you are but open to it and are patient. Or, two, the dreamer started “doing” and got tired of all the doing and not seeing any results. You might call it “dream fatigue.”

In my professional life, I have experienced both dreams deferred and dreams denied. I once had a “dream job” for three years only to have it taken away from me. There was nothing evil or nefarious about the way it came about. Simply put, I was a “substitute” member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for three seasons as one of their trumpet players. When the long-delayed “official” audition for the job was held, I was beaten fair and square by a young, up and coming musician. (In fact, he was so “up and coming,” he has since “come and gone” as is now the Principal Trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic!) As I swallowed that bitter pill, I tried to convince myself things would be “OK” and I knew that was true on some level, but just being “OK” was a depressing proposition at the time.

It was after that extreme disappointment that a new dream took hold. It was a dream so outlandish, so completely out of my area of expertise and yet so perfect for me, that I had to chase it. Soon after that audition, one of my old students told me how he treated a lip injury from a marching band accident with an herb called Arnica. A random conversation changed my life forever. I was so taken by his story that I set out to create the best lip balm ever made, using arnica as one of the main ingredients. And that dream has pushed, prodded and poked me mercilessly for over a decade now. And yes, my “dream” has taken just too damn long at times. But after chasing my new dream for so long and considering giving up on an almost daily basis, a major breakthrough has occurred, one that could only come true with more grit, hustle, prayer, determination and hard work than I could have ever imagined necessary before I started out. In just a few short weeks from now, ChopSaver Lip Care, after many years of limited, niche distribution, will be sold in every CVS drug store in the country – over 7,000 stores. I know this adventure will take on new twists and turns, but this is a major leap, indeed.

At times my dream seemed to have turned into a nightmare and my “dark nights of the soul” were too numerous to remember. But there is a reason we grab onto clichés at times like that. For it truly was one of those “When God closes a door, he opens a window” moments. Actually, I have a different version of that one. Mine says, “When God closes a door, stop staring at the door because there may be a whole new world behind you…and not just a tiny window.”

So when a dream is long in coming or otherwise denied completely, you might want to choose another dream – or let it choose you.

Dan Gosling – professional trumpet player. Also known as The ChopSaver Guy.

Plan for Miracles

Win Blevins is an award-winning writer and dedicated follower of his dreams. He’s also my Dad, and in 1994, he said three words to me that changed everything.

Twenty years ago, my family was living in an old dairy farm that had been transformed into a church just north of Pittsburgh, PA. We lived in the old milk house, spent hours swinging on the porch, petting bunnies and discovering fairy rings in the woods. But while the environment appeared peaceful, my insides were roiling with the mismatch between who I was and who I wanted to become.

Win's shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Win’s shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Enter Dad.

Shortly after arriving for a visit, he took a walk and returned with a perfectly straight stick as thick as my index finger and about a foot long. Without explaining why, he asked me to write down one-line prayers on a sheet of paper. (And though I’m comfortable with such a task now, back then it felt, um, weird.)

Without reading it, he tore each line from the sheet, curled it around the stick, and wound richly colored yarn around my prayers. At the end of the day, he solemnly handed me a beautiful prayer stick covered in red, blue, green, and golden yarn, and said, “Plan for miracles.”

Plan for miracles? That was a head-scratcher. Can you plan for a miracle? A miracle is something inexplicably wonderful and surprising, perhaps even divine. But you can’t count on them; you can’t build them into your plan. Or can you?

Many of my prayers on that stick were about making music. That simple intention started a steady stream of answered prayers. It got me directing and producing, improvising and chanting, composing and arranging, and it introduced me to countless artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and people of faith whose creativity and spirituality are inseparable. Miraculous? Oh, yeah.

Naming and claiming your dream—whether you call it a prayer, a vision, or an intention—is a powerful and prophetic act. Twenty-one years later, that prayer stick still calls me to make music and calls me out when I don’t. And it reminds me, again and again, to plan for miracles.

Thanks, Dad.

Pam Blevins Hinkle is a musician and director of Spirit & Place, which celebrates the theme of DREAM during it’s annual festival from November 6-15, 2015. Pam recently received the IUPUI Inspirational Woman Award in the staff category. Pam’s father Win Blevins is an award-winning author of more than 30 books and is the 2015 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America as its highest honor.