Indianapolis Foundation plans new downtown festival

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More than 20 light installations on downtown's Central Canal and along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will be part of a free, two-day festival Aug. 26-27 staged in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Foundation, organizers announced Thursday night.

With a budget of $900,000 to $1 million, the first-time IN Light IN festival is being presented by the Central Indiana Community Foundation in partnership with Northern, a Twin Cities-based collaborative that created Minneapolis’ dusk-to-dawn Northern Spark festival.

Unlike that festival, IN Light IN will run from 9 pm.-1 am.

“We wanted to do something that was a gift to the community,” Brian Payne, CEO of CICF, told IBJ. “We asked, ‘What can we do that celebrated the future of Indianapolis from an art, culture and innovation perspective?’”

The concept was a festival that uses technology in ways that wouldn’t have been possible—or would have been debilitatively expensive—just a few years ago.

Anchoring projects will include a site-specific creation by New York collective YesYesNo, which will turn a façade of the Scottish Rite Cathedral into a projection wall; an illuminated pergola at the Marriott Residence Inn by Muncie-based Projectione; and a roving, light-based fashion showcase from Indianapolis-based Pattern collective.

The pieces—many of them interactive—will be placed along a 2.5-mile loop from the north end of the canal to the Indiana Government Center.

Festival sponsors include the Indianapolis Foundation and Efroymson Family Fund, which each put up $250,000 for the event. Indianapolis Power & Light Co., Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and Lilly Endowment are also involved to the tune of $100,000 each.

“People have rallied to make this happen on a timeline that was fairly outrageous,” said Payne, who made his first request for help in March. “This kind of thing, you usually work on for two years both from production and fundraising.”

Joanna Nixon, a fund manager for CICF and one of the local producers of the festival, acknowledges that there are uncertainties. “Because we’ve never done this—and because it’s free—it’s very difficult to predict how many people will be there.”

She’s hoping for a minimum of 15,000 visitors per night, boosted by spillover from other downtown events that weekend, including a wine festival on American Legion Mall, a street festival at the Madame Walker Theatre and a preseason Colts game.

Parking arrangements are being made for lots on the north end of the canal and biking will be encouraged—including use of a bicycle valet for security and ease. A food truck village will be created for refreshment, and restaurants along the canal will be encouraged to offer abbreviated menus for festival patrons.

“We obviously hope there won’t be rain,” said Nixon, adding that such a risk in one of the reasons the festival will occur over two evenings. The artists, she said, will have rain-contingency plans.

One of the first community foundations in America, the Indianapolis Foundation was founded in 1916 by a committee that included former U.S. Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks and Eli Lilly and Co. President Josiah K. Lilly. It has been a key supporter for such organizations as Second Helpings, The Mind Trust, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the United Way of Central Indiana.


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