Speak Easy targets artists with Tube Factory venture

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The Speak Easy, a not-for-profit co-working space operator, is expanding its reach by adding another location that will cater to artists.

The organization on Tuesday announced that it received a $17,000 grant from Central Indiana Community Foundation, which it will use to create a new "Art and Entrepreneurship" program. In conjunction with the funding announcement, The Speak Easy said it is establishing an outpost at the Tube Factory Artspace on the city's south side, not far from Garfield Park.

When it first started in 2011, the Speak Easy was widely viewed as a co-working entity for tech entrepreneurs, but its leaders have worked to broaden its member base to entrepreneurs of all stripes, including those in law, marketing and not-for-profits. The new grant is meant to further its diversification efforts, and it's partnered with Tube Factory owner Big Car Collaborative to help.

The new program, which will commence in July, will fund three creative workshops and two art installments over the following year, officials said. Those workshops will involve pairing artists and entrepreneurs for exercises, Speak Easy Executive Director Danielle McDowell said, with the overarching goal of increasing “cross-pollination” between the two groups.

“We want logical and methodical business people to get exposure to artists who think more abstractly,” McDowell said. Citing former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ emphasis on art and design, she added: “It’s not just a business; there’s a very artistic element. Those are the kinds of businesses that have the off-the-charts trajectory, and that’s what we want to help inspire.”

The Tube Factory marks the fifth location for The Speak Easy, the third one that's partnership-based. Today, its members have access to zWorks in Zionsville, Platform 24 in Carmel, Tube Factory, and two true Speak Easy hubs in South Broad Ripple and downtown Indianapolis.

But the CICF grant and the nature of Tube Factory's art-focused space distinguish this partnership from the others. Besides co-working, Tube Factory has flexible gallery space for temporary exhibitions, a reference library and a film-screening video room. It also touts a large garage and ample outdoor space for festivals and other activities.

The tube factory is about 10,000 square feet, with about 3,000 dedicated to co-working.

Through the grant, the Speak Easy said it’s commissioning two art installments in its two main locations, and it tapped local artist Maureen Knoble for the first project. A group of community stakeholders and Speak Easy members will direct the themes and motifs in each installment, it said.

"Big Car and The Speak Easy are among the most daring non-profit organizations in central Indiana," Brian Payne, president and CEO of CICF, said in written remarks. "They will bring the artistic and entrepreneurial communities together to dream big and tackle problems in truly innovative ways."

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