Noblesse Oblige

By Matt VanScoik


I recently had the opportunity to go to Rome. Gary Krupp, an author I work with through the author publicity division at my company, Bohlsen Group, used to build medical facilities in New York, but his life has taken a more esoteric turn. For the last few years, Gary and his wife, Meredith, have been running a non-profit called Pave the Way Foundation, whose main goal is to build relationships between religions. They helped the Vatican digitize its archives, are helping to re-open the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey and regularly help arrange interfaith tours to Israel, among numerous other things.

One of the projects they are working on now, be it by providence or happenstance, ended up being assigned to me. “Pope Pius XII and World War II: The Documented Truth” is a compilation of primary-source international evidence that reveals the wartime acts of the Vatican.

“The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself.”

The Vatican has had more than its share of public relations problems, and I had always heard, as many have, that Pope Pius XII was either silent during the Holocaust or even complicit. As I began to review the evidence for myself, cracks began to form in what I thought I knew to be true.  Although it still seems to me that the Vatican supported Fascist governments to an extent, it is abundantly clear to me that the papal household and the Nazis had a deep gut-wrenching hatred for each other.

Among the interesting things t4295-06928hat you can read on Pave the Way Foundation’s well-organized library of 76,000 pages of documentation are: Nazi intelligence documents that name Pope Pius XII as a collaborator in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, Nazi plans for the invasion of the Vatican and the assassination of Pius XII, and documents that show how Pius XII used his own life as leverage to halt the arrest of the Roman Jews.

Every day of this trip to Rome got more and more exciting to me as someone who is interested in military affairs, history and religion. At one point I told Gary that I needed to find a basement, because these jaw dropping experiences required me to find something deeper than floor level to facilitate the further extension of my dentition.

The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself during a public audience where we presented him with a coin to commemorate a trip he had made to Israel.  I spoke some broken Spanish to him and he shook my hand with the tired but bright eyes of a man carrying the burdens of being both a political and spiritual leader who is trying his best to make a difference in a chaotic world.

“Noblesse oblige,” is a phrase I kept hearing during my trip. It means with nobility and station, comes great obligation.

In The Beginning


It is said that the journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step.

My first step was an experience of awe.

At the ripe old age of 15, I was playing football with some friends one autumn afternoon. It was a normal day of cool temperatures, deep long shadows and fading light.

At one point the ball bounced out of play. I went to retrieve it. As I picked it up and turned around to go back to the field I was confronted with and struck by a moment of universal reflection. In simpler terms, it was if the sky cracked open and I became aware of being aware and in commune with the greater consciousness of life. Martin Buber’s Ich und Du, (I and Thou)

I returned to the game and asked my friends, “Do you not feel that something is missing?” “Throw the ball and play,” was the response.

“My practice is my journey and my art is the expression and revelation of its moments, lessons, deeper experiences of contact, and intimacies.”

This experience transformed my life and set me on the path of “searching.”

That day has strengthened me by giving me perspective. This has affected my entire life and set the tone for what I value in myself, and others. It guides me in knowing that we are all on our journeys, our paths of unfolding and awakening. We are often (and naturally so) unaware of the lessons and layers we are learning and being grown by. Seeing towards the universal allows me to have a sense of compassion and empathy for everyone.

My life has been one of searching, contacting, and expressing. I am not here for the mere pleasure of it all, we learn, we grow, we care, we transform. I am not here merely for the role of “survivor.” The story, the journey, the river are stories and opportunities for intimacy. Intimacy with self, others, place and experience. The practice of making art is my place in the human community and this sets the vector of my offerings, whether they are creative or reflective. My practice is my journey and my art is the expression and revelation of its moments, lessons, deeper experiences of contact, and intimacies. For me it is this path of acknowledging and being open to the continual experience of “unity” with the whole that guides and fuels my living.


John Domont is an award-winning visual artist who has exhibited worldwide. He is the recipient of a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis and has served as United States Artist Ambassador to Thailand and Peru.


Matt, Leo, Laura Mays, Summer 2014

Matt, Leo, Laura Mays, Summer 2014

By Matt Mays

The first question that most people are reluctant to ask us is, “Did you know?” The answer is no, we didn’t. Throughout the entire pregnancy we had no indication that there were any issues whatsoever. So, like so many others, we were shocked when our son, Leo, was born with Down Syndrome.

Leo Mays, one week old

Leo Mays, one week old

Immediately, there were health issues associated with Leo’s condition. He was five weeks early and was having trouble breathing. The hospital staff took him away to the ICU and thus began our new lives. For the last four years our journey as parents of a child with special needs has included countless hospital stays, doctor visits, therapies, sleepless nights, tubes, wires, medical devices and big bills.

“Since the beginning, no matter how scary and tough things were, Leo has been an amazing source of strength and character.”

But while we live with some of these difficulties and the reality that our child might be a little different than others, the most important part we tend to focus on is all of the tremendous upside. Since the beginning, no matter how scary and tough things were, Leo has been an amazing source of strength and character in our lives. He has made it through all that has been thrown his way with a smile and an amazing sense of calm.

Early on, we were fortunate enough to recognize these traits in our son and it helped guide us through every decision we made for him. Believe me, as parents it is easy to get caught up in an extreme circumstance like ours where emotion can take over and cloud judgment. As long as we remembered to make choices that were about Leo and Leo only, we could feel some comfort in those difficult moments.

“The most important part of this journey has been reinvention.”

For my wife, Laura, and I, the most important part of this journey has been reinvention. Reinvention of ourselves, our relationship, our professional lives. We are more patient. We have learned to tell our story. We are quieter, too, as this new level of understanding we gained leads us to be more thoughtful in our interactions with others, no matter their situation in life.

Eloise and Leo Mays, August 2014 Photo credit: Matt Mays

Eloise and Leo Mays, August 2014
Photo credit: Matt Mays

Leo turned four a few weeks ago. He’s starting to walk, talk and is the most amazing person we know. He started school last week and has been described as a “model student.” He is a fantastic older brother and is on his way to do great things. We just know it.

This is the 19th year of the Spirit & Place Festival and the festival will explore JOURNEY.  The festival takes place Nov. 7-16, 2014 all around Indianapolis.


Author Bio:

Matt Mays is a three-time Emmy award winning television producer and filmmaker from Indianapolis. His passions are raising his family, making music and film. More at @MattMays1


It’s all about Indy

Photo Credit: Eric Learned

Photo Credit: Eric Learned

By Amanda Dorman

Indianapolis has received no shortage of national attention in the past few months. The Chicago Tribune wrote that Indianapolis feels “progressive – some might even say hip.” In an article about affordable American travel, the Wall St. Cheat Sheet wrote, “it’s all about Indiana.”

Comings and goings on The Circle.  Photo Credit: Conrad Piccirillo.

Comings and goings on The Circle.
Photo Credit: Conrad Piccirillo.

Having lived in Indianapolis all my life, I feel this change too. Last summer my professional journey led me from Carmel to Downtown Indy. Although only 30 minutes apart, my lifestyle Downtown is quite different: I walk to work every day, I can visit the farmers market on my lunch break, I have access to the Cultural Trail within steps of my apartment and I no longer have to stress about UBER-ing it home on the weekends (I live within four blocks of Mass Ave).

“If I could give Downtown Indy a slogan, I would defer to a t-shirt I have that has a map of Indy and the words: We Like You Here.”

Much has been written about the changes that have swept through Downtown Indy in the last few years and the attractions that we can now brag about: the International Orangutan Center, the gorgeous Alexander Hotel, the sports teams. But I never doubted Indy could attract, retain and support these attractions and events.

photo (2).fwIf I could give Downtown Indy a slogan, I would defer to a t-shirt I have from Sunday Afternoon Housewife that has a map of Indy and the words: We Like You Here. If you want to start a fashion magazine (Pattern), you can do that. If you want to open up a juice bar (Natural Born Juicers), you can do that too.

A few months ago I had the honor to be a judge at a 5×5: a partnership between Central Indiana Community Foundation, Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and the Efroymson Family Fund, among others, to give anyone with a great idea the opportunity to pitch it to the public and a panel of judges in five minutes using five PowerPoint slides. At the end of each event, the winner walks away with $10,000 to activate his/her idea.

5×5 is what Downtown Indy is all about: if you have an idea, and the drive to see it through, you will likely find support from someone in our community. You may not get $10K to make it happen, but you’ll get somewhere. And that somewhere can lead to something. After all, we like you here.


Amanda Dorman is the Communications Manager at Downtown Indy. She enjoys teaching indoor cycling, yoga, live music and exploring Downtown Indy (especially through food!). Find out why “it’s all about Indy” by following her on Twitter: @amandajdorman.


Plan 2020: Charting a Vision for the Future of Indianapolis

GIPC_Indy-2020-Logo_2-ColorBy Alex Miser

Journey is a very prevalent theme in Plan 2020, the Bicentennial plan for Indianapolis. The plan defines a new approach to planning in Indianapolis, meshing community vision, values and strategy with an unprecedented, coordinated update to core city government plans. Plan 2020’s mission is to make Indianapolis a better place to live, work and visit.

While Plan 2020 is focused on the future of Indy, it’s important to understand the journey that got our city to this point. One of the defining stops on our journey was UniGov, the merging of many aspects of City and County government in recognition of the need to coordinate growth and insure long-term prosperity for the region. UniGov was done at a time when cities nationally were struggling with population and economic losses. Subsequently, Indy grew while many of its peer cities declined. This was a result of Indianapolis converting areas that might have been suburbs in other cities to part of the City of Indianapolis.

UniGov bought Indy 40 years of growth by expanding the city’s borders. We have finally caught up to that growth and we can no longer expand by adding land. We have to grow by adding people. Plan 2020 will be our roadmap for attracting new residents and improving the city to reflect the values of current residents.

“The home for Plan 2020 has undergone a unique journey of its own. Plan 2020 is based in old City Hall, which has been brought back to life as The Hall.”

At the heart of Plan 2020’s mission is understanding what type of city residents want Indianapolis to become. To answer this question we have asked the community two primary questions: “What do you value?” and “What do you wish Indianapolis valued?” These questions are check points along our planning journey to ensure that we are crafting a future that aligns with the needs and values of residents. You can join the conversation by visiting our MindMixer page, which helps inform our team about ways to forge a compelling future for Indianapolis.

The home for Plan 2020 has undergone a unique journey of its own. Plan 2020 is based in old City Hall, which has been brought back to life as The Hall.

The Hall is the planning hub for Plan 2020. It’s where ideas connect. The Hall serves as an urban think tank and hub for the city’s new strategic plan and other community-based planning in the City. The Hall is one of Plan 2020’s engagement vehicles, helping to produce collaboration and discussion among Indianapolis residents. The Hall hosts non-traditional public meetings, forums, events and activities to spur innovative thinking about the future of Indianapolis.

Alex Miser helps the Plan 2020 team craft and share their story with the community, and is in charge of operating and programming for The Hall, the home for the Plan 2020 initiative. He is a life-long Hoosier and is passionate about helping Indianapolis develop neighborhoods and communities that people are proud to call home.

Join us in 2014 as we celebrate the theme of “JOURNEY” during the annual Spirit & Place Festival, November 7-16.

Why Do We Keep Going?

There was a time in my life when, if I was asked, I would have likely said that the reason we move forward is because of some inner brokenness that we are longing to escape. It looks like that sometimes, I think. If we stick our finger with a needle while we’re sewing it seems that the reason we would want to avoid that is because, well, it hurts. Brokenness and what seems to break us brings pain. We don’t want pain, so we move forward to escape.

“In a labyrinth, like life, there is only one destination. We simply have to keep moving forward in order to find it.”

This is the 19th year of the Spirit & Place Festival and the festival will explore JOURNEY. This year’s festival will kick off with the building of a labyrinth in historic Fountain Square. The church I serve as Senior Pastor, The Church Within, will join with other churches, spiritual organizations, and a number of local businesses to collect cans from which this labyrinth will be built.

A labyrinth is a sort of physical metaphor for the journey we walk in life. A labyrinth isn’t a maze. In a maze there are dead ends. You can get lost. In a labyrinth, like life, there is only one destination. We simply have to keep moving forward in order to find it.

My own spiritual journey has felt, at times, more like a maze than a labyrinth. I am sure I am not alone. What began for me in a small-town, Presbyterian church continued through years of atheism to a broad understanding that there are many paths to the divine and that every one of those paths is unfolding within the divine.

The motivation to move forward, if you were to ask me now, isn’t about escaping pain; it is about accepting the invitation home. It is about being drawn forward, not running from. It is about embracing the gorgeousness that we create together. We aren’t escaping brokenness. Brokenness is a temporary understanding of a false idea. We’re remembering that we are already whole.

From November 7th through 16th, 2014, Spirit & Place events all over the city will invite us to reflect on the many facets of personal and collective journey as well as the what, how, when, where and why of our moving and growing through life. Who among us couldn’t benefit from a few steps forward next to other journeyers?



IMG_0653Reverend Darren Chittick is the Senior Pastor of The Church Within in Fountain Square. He is an Indiana native, a country boy moved to the city, and he regularly enjoys growing food, knitting, martial arts and an interfaith understanding that finds a seat at the table for everyone. No one left out. If you want to know more about his work, check out

RISK RECAP- $20K: A Competition About Race

We polled our festival attendees for their feedback on our ‘risky’ events and here’s what one of our fans had to say about Spirit & Place Festival’s Opening Night event – $20K: A Competition About Race

f40ae3ad-f3ea-46b1-aac7-e067df826df0In one sentence, describe the event: Four finalists vying for a $20k prize as they present their daring idea on changing notions of race in Central Indiana.

How would you describe your risk-taking personality or lack thereof?: My risk-taking personality — as of late — has been quite palpable. Traditionally I identify as someone whose risk-taking personality ebbs and flows with the people I’m surrounded by, current life and work situations, or the desire to try new things versus remain at a temporary standstill.

What was the most memorable and/or meaningful aspect of the event?: The most memorable aspect of this event was definitely the announcement of the winner. It was so neat to see these four finalists present something they’re so passionate about pursuing and furthering, but it was so impactful to see Javier Barrera achieve this and hear the cheers from the crowd as he took home the prize. It was particularly awesome to be involved with the final selection from an audience perspective.

What’s one thing you learned about risk that surprised you?: I learned that risk comes in all different colors, from all different backgrounds, and at all different times of life. Essentially, the risk is packaged differently for everyone.

Each year’s Spirit & Place Festival’s theme influences the next year’s theme. Through the lens of this year’s theme of “Risk,” what types of events do you anticipate for next year’s theme of “Journey”?: In this case I foresee a follow-up event that focuses on where the winning organization is with the development of their proposed project, and the journey they have been able to take through the prize they earned from the risk they took.