LOU'S VIEWS: Art centers focus more on creating than on creation

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Lou Harry

Most of my attention in this column focuses on individual productions—music, theater, dance and visual art by professionals striving for excellence.

But in this week of Thanksgiving, I’d like to focus instead on arts places more centered on the creating than the creations and more about community than about artistic results. Visited all on a single Saturday, I ended the day both impressed with the work being done and convinced of the essential nature of such centers.

ae-garfieldlivethegame-1col.jpg Garfield Park Arts Center offers a wide range of interactive programs. (Photo courtesy of Garfield Park Arts Center)

First stop, Garfield Park Arts Center, which was hosting a Spirit & Place Festival event called “Live the Game” that promised to use “the park itself as a giant game table.” That wasn’t quite the case. Activity was focused inside the center itself rather than spread throughout the park. But what was there reflected a strong sense of community spirit from both the organizers and the players. Visitors—families, young couples, teens, seniors—tried biggie-size memory games, raced balloons, and rolled oversized dice to move throughout the building. Coming off like a particularly creative church basement festival, it freed all ages to think playfully (and cheaply).

Such special events certainly help get newcomers in the door. But GPAC offers affordable

art classes and gallery shows all year, introducing art to people who might not have ever set foot in a gallery or museum. You can find more information at www.gpacarts.wordpress.com, but as is so often the case with struggling arts organizations, the site isn’t always up to date. Better to just stop in, before or after a stroll around the park and a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory.

And, before I move on, allow me a reminder that Garfield Park is just a few easily made turns off Interstate 65. Many in Indy have a confused belief that anything south of South Street might as well be Louisville. Come on, folks, it’s a small town. Embrace that. Go.

ae-crescendo-15col.jpg Indianapolis Art Center’s “Crescendo,” by Beth Nybeck, adds a personal touch to its ArtsPark. (Photos courtesy of Indianapolis Art Center)

Next stop: the Indianapolis Art Center, better known thanks to its top-notch art classes and the high-profile Broad Ripple Art Fair.

The IAC should be a mandatory stop for anyone strolling on the neighboring Monon Trail if, for no other reason, than to visit the ArtsPark. My Saturday stop was to see its latest addition, “Crescendo” by Beth Nybeck.

For months, the Kansas City artist and IAC staff have been connecting with the community, asking the question, “What have you discovered?” Those thoughts have been paint-markered onto UV-resistant, blue-tinted Plexiglas squares and artfully sculpted by Nybeck into a 19-foot-wide, 12-foot-tall, 6-foot-deep sculpture. The piece could be read as a sideways teardrop, an arching whale, or an abstract horn of plenty. Whatever your interpretation, it’s a beautiful work that’s compulsively readable, offering insight into the thoughts and dreams of about 6,000 participants. Somewhere on it is my tile, which says, “Be Here Now.” I’m glad I was.

For more information on the Indianapolis Art Center, visit www.indplsartcenter.org/.

My last stop on my art center Saturday was the Service Center for Culture and Community, a new edition to the transitioning Lafayette Square landscape.

Big Car, an arts collective formerly anchored in Fountain Square, moved here in 2011, converting a former tire dealership in the Lafayette Square Mall parking lot into a multi-use home for classes, talks, theater and art. For more information on the Service Center, visit www.bigcar.org.

By Saturday evening, activity was focused on a production by NoExit Performance, which often uses the former repair bays as a theater space. But there were signs of other activity, including group fitness classes, art workshops and writing programs.

A wall from the previous weekend’s “Found” show featured scraps of serendipitously discovered letters, notes and lists, each accidentally opening up a new world. The big windows indicate a desire to embrace rather than hide from the surroundings. And a DIY, open-to-ideas sensibility pervades the place, effectively stripping the intimidation factor away from art. As home to events ranging from a Halloween game of zombie tag to the cultivation of a community garden, the Service Center’s presence borders on the miraculous. It’s a beautiful green shoot, rising up through the concrete.

Here’s hoping all three of these important centers continue to grow.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.



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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.