City Gallery

Harrison Center for the Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Indianapolis, IN
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 27, 2013

The Neighborhood Ballad Project at the City Gallery

The large billboard that welcomes 85,000 people to this neighborhood every day has featured the face of an injury attorney for the past several years. This week, we stood outside in the below freezing weather while a crew took down that image and installed the work of one of our artists. We reclaimed this billboard in the heart of our target neighborhood and repurposed it as a frame for place-based art. We commissioned a beautiful place-based painting to celebrate King Park in multiple ways, from the artist who created it (Kyle Ragsdale) to the children who were featured in it and the historic school campus that inspired the piece. Artwork that specifically celebrates our story now hangs in the center of where the story is being lived out.

This month’s City Gallery exhibition features new work by Aaron Thornburg, an artist who attended art school in our neighborhood (before the art school relocated). Thornburg spent weeks walking King Park gathering both natural and manmade materials, which made their way into his work. Sanborn maps from 1941; scraps of wood from abandoned neighborhood homes and old church pews; roots; branches, and catalpa pods are layered with geometric concrete molds and acrylic Plexiglas to reflect the juxtaposition of nature and development, old and new in this transitional neighborhood.


The art-filled City Gallery sponsored many creative neighborhood-building events in our space and in other places in the neighborhood this month. The Young Songwriters Guild continues to work with high school students, performing at neighborhood eatery, Foundry Provisions, and hosting critiques and professional development sessions at the Harrison Center and other locations around the City. Two of these students applied to our Venture Fund for tickets to attend our city’s TEDx convention and wound up as performers for the event! Neighborhood restaurant and home chefs competed in a Top Chef-style competition in the annual Best Bite of King Park. We welcomed City Write, “a city-wide memoir writing initiative designed to encourage writing and capture experiences” in which “people across the city are encouraged to come together, explore written memories and reflections associated with their community, and join in an effort to document and share these experiences.” We gave a tour of repurposed historic churches in the neighborhood for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference that convened in Indianapolis, culminating in a reception and tour of our arts center just before our monthly First Friday opening.


In the neighborhood, we are partnering with the King Park Area Development Corporation in gathering the community to envision a Bicycle Boulevard in the neighborhood Kennedy-King Park. The diverse audience of community members organically and beautifully brought the discussion of need back to the idea of creative placemaking. In telling the neighborhood story, residents wanted to build from assets-- including our Neighborhood Ballad Project, the spoken word project that celebrates historic neighborhood heroes, and an interactive public art installation inviting participants to record their homage to contemporary neighborhood heroes.

Our local artists also created inspiring art celebrating people and places around the neighborhood which now blesses the residents of 16 Park, a new model for low-income housing in our neighborhood. On November 14, this project won citywide recognition, receiving top Monumental Awards for “Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture” and “Neighborhood Revitalization.”

Recent Wins
Our neighborhood association raised money internally for 16 new artistic neighborhood identification signs. When neighbors wanted more signs, a local real estate agent offered to match funds raised by the neighborhood to add 5 more signs.

Our placed-based art is appearing all over our neighborhood, from the lobby of a low-income housing unit, to an under-used park, to a prominent billboard. These artists are being identified with this neighborhood in a positive way, as they both practice in and feature King Park in their work.

16 Park’s winning of the Monumental Awards. According to the Chamber of Commerce, “the Monumental Award represents the most significant visual and physical enhancements in Marion County. We recognize the significant achievements in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering and construction, public art and development as well as honor and encourage those who have contributed to the quality of life through the enhancement and beautification of Marion County’s visual and physical environment. The program has been going strong for 33 years and is widely regarded as the premiere design awards event in Indianapolis.”

Our neighborhood problems seem so big, and creative placemaking seems so simple, but it really works. Little identity-building events and place-based art really are transformative. We are starting to notice other groups we collaborate with seeing creative placemaking as central to accomplishing their missions. How can we continue to be ambassadors for creative placemaking in the broader community?