Do’s & Don’ts of a Successful Spirit & Place Application

It’s time to submit that application! What exactly might the Selection Committee give you props for and what might they ding you on? Here are some key “do’s and don’ts.”


  • Be inventive and collaborative. For example, in 2015 the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice created an event (“Dare to Dream”) featuring a lecture by anti-apartheid leader Allen Boesak—a pretty tried and true event format. But, they partnered with the Kheprw Institute [LINK] to create a short documentary that was shown before the lecture and featured local youth sharing their dreams. This provided a fresh design twist and demonstrated the creative power of collaboration.
  • Put the theme front and center. Be clear on how your event drew inspiration from the theme and how the audience will experience/reflect upon the theme during the event. Here’s an example from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s 2015 application for “Suite Dreams are Made of These”:

Theme: The Nutcracker, one of the most well-known and beloved ballets, is closely linked with dreams of dancing. In the Nutcracker story, Clara’s journey through the Land of Sweets in Act II is often interpreted as a fantastic dream. Many dance students, including those in the preview performance, began dancing after seeing a production of The Nutcracker. Children in the audience may have dreamt about dancing but never had the occasion to try. This program is about encouraging children to follow their dreams, including children who have hearing impairment, with its visual emphasis, participation and interaction.

  • Demonstrate your capacity. Some applications read like a whirlwind of activity and leave the Selection Committee wondering how on earth the event partners will pull everything off. We want you to challenge yourself by creating something unique and never-seen-before, but still keep it focused on what can actually be accomplished. Your application should be  more than a wish list.


  • Force what isn’t there. You might have an awesome idea for an event . . . that doesn’t really connect to the theme or invite wide community participation. The festival isn’t the right venue for all events. Trying to force a connection to the theme or back-engineering a design component that encourages wide participation is usually pretty transparent and “dinged” by the Selection Committee.
  • Ignore your audience. Invest the time in really talking about the needs, wants, and values of the audience you hope to attract and serve. In particular, if you want to attract a new audience, make sure you are working with a partner who can help you understand and serve that audience.
  • Get lost in language. The application questions have word limits for a reason: To force succinct explanations. Be descriptive, but direct. Compelling, but concise. You don’t need to be Tolstoy.

What are you waiting for? Apply today!


Four Ways Spirit & Place Nourishes Relationships

By Pam Blevins Hinkle

“Great places are built on great relationships.”

This wonderful bit of truth came from my boss, Dr. David Bodenhamer, executive director of The Polis Center at IUPUI, when we were discussing how Spirit & Place makes an important difference in Central Indiana.

We nourish great relationships by helping you …

  1. Meet new people. Building a more just, connected, and productive society must grow organically from real-time interactions that cultivate civility and invite both reflection and conversation. Spirit & Place helps you meet diverse people with diverse points of view. (Check out Gentrify: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, for a great opportunity to do this monthly through October 2016).
  1. Discover interesting places. The rhythm of your life is dictated largely by the places you go: where you work, live, and shop; where your family and friends live; and where you hangout regularly, such your neighborhood bar or place of worship. Spirit & Place helps you counter the potential trap of this rhythm, inviting you to stop in places you drive past, places that have historic or cultural meaning, and places that are hidden gems. (Did you know that The Indiana Medical History Museum houses the oldest surviving pathology facility in the nation?)
  1. Encounter cool stuff. Spirit & Place is your opportunity to experiment, test, and learn about all manner of ideas, productions, beliefs, and interpretations that result from creative collisions between people, disciplines, and organizations. (Check out the upcoming Before I Die Festival in April that includes cemetery tours, music, discussions, art, and more).
  1. Appreciate institutional vitality. Each year we introduce you to the talents within and contributions of nearly 100 community organizations—cultural and historical, educational and congregational, civic and human service—that are working with each other to make Central Indiana a great place to live, work, and play. Significantly, 85.2% of our 2015 partner organizations reported that participating in Spirit & Place helped them develop new or expanded community partnerships.

Got that? Meet new people, discover interesting places, encounter cool stuff, appreciate institutional vitality. No wonder I love my job.

To learn how you or your organization can be a presenter in the 2016 Spirit & Place Festival, which celebrates the theme of HOME, visit or contact us at 317-274-2455 or The application deadline is April 22.

About the author

PAm BH by Polina Osherov-cropped

Pam Blevins Hinkle has served as director of Spirit & Place since 1996. She has received the IUPUI Inspirational Woman Award from the IUPUI Office of Women (2015), an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission (2013), and a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis (2003). Learn more about her work as a composer and song-leader at

Photo credit: Polina Osherov