UIndy master’s program builds community leadership through public art

It’s early on a Friday evening in May – before the crowds arrive at the Tube Factory in the Garfield Park neighborhood – and Big Car CEO and co-founder Jim Walker is talking about the powerful role the arts have in transforming and building communities.

Art is not just something you see in a gallery or museum, said Walker, whose expertise lies in social practice and placemaking, a type of art that leverages community assets to create public spaces that promote health, happiness and well-being.

“Instead of making a piece of art that’s an object, we’re making things happen,” explained Walker, who brings that vision to a new, one-year intensive program at the University of Indianapolis. The new master’s program in Social Practice Art, which is unique for Indiana, prepares students to become community leaders by leveraging the power of the arts. 

Jim Walker, co-founder of Big Car, will teach courses in Social Practice Art at UIndy starting in the fall of 2017.

Jim Walker, co-founder of Big Car, will teach courses in Social Practice Art at UIndy starting in the fall of 2017.

Developed by Jim Walker and Kevin McKelvey, associate professor of English, the program connects students with degrees in art & design, theatre, dance, music or creative writing with community stakeholders to engage in social practice and creative placemaking. The result is a participatory art form that empowers and transforms communities, and one which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Walker and McKelvey will oversee the program, which is still accepting applications for the fall of 2017.

The vibrant atmosphere of the Tube Factory provides the perfect backdrop to talk about the University’s MA in Social Practice Art program, as it represents an example of social practice art in action. The formerly vacant 12,000-square-foot building on Cruft St. has been renovated into a welcoming space where the Big Car arts collective, founded by Walker in 2004, hosts cultural events and partnership-based community meetings.

Related: Big Car launches affordable home ownership program for artists

Walker pointed out the value of bringing art to underserved neighborhoods and giving residents an outlet to voice their opinions. The program will also focus on grant writing, social entrepreneurship and community sociology.

The Tube Factory on Cruft St. Photo courtesy Big Car.

The Tube Factory. Photo courtesy Big Car.

“Art and culture are important elements of everybody’s lives, so the kind of art that we’re working on here actually seeks out input from community members. When they’re invited to participate, it’s a way to show people that art isn’t some kind of exclusive thing. In that way it can help make a difference for the community,” Walker said.

In many ways, Walker’s new role at the University is a logical extension of Big Car’s south side success story. Walker, who lives in the Garfield Park neighborhood, is a well-known community builder on the Indianapolis arts scene. He has taught art history at the University of Indianapolis and art and writing at other area universities. Big Car held its ten-year anniversary exhibition at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center in 2014.

The Social Practice Arts program builds on several of the University’s community-partnership initiatives, including the Quality of Life plan for the Indianapolis south side, and the Gene and Mary Ann Zink Poverty Institute, a University initiative to end poverty driven by an evidence-based and outcome-oriented strategy.

Making a difference in local neighborhoods will be a key focus of the program. Students will have the opportunity to work at Big Car’s Tube Factory, where they can learn to manage arts-related events and encourage community involvement. “This is a really good laboratory for students to learn in, get off campus and get involved. The connection between UIndy and our space is a pretty important one,” Walker added.

McKelvey explained that the multidisciplinary approach of the program combines with the University’s service-learning focus to attract artists who want to give back to the community. The program will embrace community involvement and prepare students to effectively lead and engage community leaders in projects that have a broad impact on the quality of life.

“From cities to smaller communities, these ideas around placemaking and social practice are really starting to take hold,” McKelvey said.

Learn more about UIndy’s Social Practice Arts Program here.

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@UIndy.edu with your campus news.

Gerburg Garmann, Paul Levesque elected to HERA Board

Gerburg Garmann, assistant dean of Interdisciplinary Studies & Service Learning, and Paul Levesque, assistant professor of Global Languages & Cross-Cultural Studies, were elected to the Humanities Education and Research Association (HERA) Board in March 2017. 

Paul Levesque

Paul Levesque

Gerburg Garmann

Gerburg Garmann

HERA, which holds an annual conference in the United States and publishes a refereed scholarly journal three times per year, promotes the worldwide study, teaching and understanding of the humanities across a range of disciplines. Its mission includes supporting the application of the humanities to the human environment in a way that reflects the country’s diverse heritage, traditions, history and current conditions.
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UIndy students present award-winning vision for Circle Centre Mall

A group of University of Indianapolis students earned a regional award for its innovative redevelopment plan for the circle Centre Mall.

The group represents the first cohort of the University’s new Master’s in Professional Studies in Real Estate Development Program. Their presentation, which outlined a plan for the future use of the downtown mall, won first place in the 6th Annual NAIOP/ULI University Challenge Award.

Left to right: Scott Nally, Logan Brougher, Ken Martin, Justin Williams, Anne McKinley

Left to right: Scott Nally, Logan Brougher, Ken Martin, Justin Williams, Anne McKinley

The students competed against teams from Butler, IUPUI, ISU and Ball State. UIndy’s redevelopment concept won out over IUPUI in a head-to-head final round to take home $5,000 in scholarship money from the OPUS Foundation, one of the competition’s sponsors, along with Holladay Properties.

The group noted the challenges of traditional “bricks and mortar” retail competing against the rise of online shopping. They proposed a revitalization plan for the mall, which serves as an anchor for downtown Indianapolis, including targeting the space to a high-end tech company, an urban Target store as well as other updates.
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MBA students dedicate semester to analyzing Trump’s first 100 days

For only the second time in the past decade, a group of MBA students from the University of Indianapolis spent nearly an entire semester analyzing the transition of power to a new U.S. president. terryschindlerbackground

Terry Schindler, assistant professor of management in the School of Business, first launched the project in 2008 as former President Barack Obama campaigned heavily under the idea of fundamentally changing the role of the federal government. The Leading Organizational Change course allowed MBA students to critically analyze the success and tactics of the Obama administration in its first 100 days. The final analysis was even sent to the White House for review.

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UIndy students present research for Scholars Day

From biology to media studies, undergraduate students from disciplines across campus shared their research projects for Scholars Day, presented by the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences and the Ron & Laura Strain Honors College. Activities included a Shakespeare marathon reading session in honor of Bill Dynes, professor of English, and Shakespeare’s birthday.

Junior Karli LaGrotte, psychology, was one of several students who presented posters for Scholars Day.

Junior Karli LaGrotte, psychology, was one of several students who presented posters for Scholars Day.

Brad Neal, assistant professor of chemistry, and Jim Williams, assistant professor and interim executive director of the Honors College, organized the event. Students moderated conference sessions on topics ranging from the sciences to arts performance, while others held poster presentations of their academic research.

Neal said Scholars Day highlights the University of Indianapolis’ emphasis on student-focused learning as well as student-faculty collaboration.

“It’s great to see how many projects were started based off a lecture in class, where a student got excited and their instructor then helped the student grow and foster the project into what we have today. This kind of individual support for our student projects helps make the lessons in the classroom connect to the world at large in a practical way,” Neal said.

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UIndy students present bold vision for Indiana’s energy future

After a year of research, a group of 11 students from the University of Indianapolis and IUPUI have drafted a strategic plan for the future of energy in Indiana.

The group, led by former Indianapolis Mayor and Visiting Fellow Greg Ballard, held a series of forums in early 2017 to gather public feedback to incorporate into their proposal. The Indiana Advanced Energy Plan creates  an energy policy for Indiana that “strives for a safe, sustainable and economically secure future.”

Students from the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University are working to answer the question of how Indiana's economy compares in the way of sustainable energy production. (Photo by D. Todd Moore)

Students from the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University are working to answer the question of how Indiana’s economy compares in the way of sustainable energy production. (Photo by D. Todd Moore)

The students were hired as interns on the project and brought a diverse mix of backgrounds to the discussion, with majors ranging from accounting to biology to art education. Ballard said the group bonded quickly as the students dedicated themselves to the project and understood its importance.

“I told them from the very beginning, this is not my plan. I wanted the state and government officials to understand this was the students’ plan,” Ballard said.

The Indiana Advanced Energy Plan will be shared with Indiana lawmakers to raise  awareness of how the state can continue its tradition of self-sufficiency by moving toward a more economically and environmentally sustainable energy model.

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International guitar festival provides music students with world-class experience

Two University of Indianapolis guitar students embarked on a life-changing trip in March to the XVIII Guitar Art Festival in Belgrade, Serbia. Their instructor, Nemanja Ostojić, University of Indianapolis professor of guitar and world-renowned classical guitarist, was a featured artist at the festival. 


Evan Hawk (second row, second from left) and Jamie Johnson (third from left) performed in the World Guitar Orchestra with 100 guitarists.

A grant from the U.S. Embassy funded travel and accommodations for sophomores Jamie Johnson (music and psychology) and Evan Hawk (jazz studies), who also received lessons with some of the world’s leading guitarists. They also attended concerts and performed in an international guitar orchestra.
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Partnership with central Indiana schools creates win-win for UIndy School of Education

University of Indianapolis School of Education students traded their spring break for the chance to give back and gain valuable experience in the process.

Teaching majors Mizraim Aguilar and Heather Wignot taught at Cathedral High School during spring break. Both will graduate in May 2017.

Mizraim Lorenzo-Aguilar, left, and Heather Wignot

Mizraim Lorenzo-Aguilar, left, and Heather Wignot

Aguilar, who specializes in Spanish teaching, taught two classes. He appreciates the real-life experience in the classroom, as well as the preparation that is incorporated into the School of Education’s curriculum for student teachers.

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Dollars and $ense teaches teens new perspective on finances

A financial literacy program at the University of Indianapolis aims to teach young adults not just how to manage their money, but how to understand its value. Dollars and $ense, a partnership between UIndy and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, has educated hundreds of students since its debut in 2002.


Andre Givens, left, with this year’s winners of the Dollars and $ense financial literacy competition. Jaden May, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory (left) and Jalen Williams, Charles Tinley High School (right)

Andre Givens, who is the chairman of Dollars and $ense, has been volunteering with the program since 2005. That’s when he joined 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, a youth development organization that serves Indianapolis youth annually through mentoring-based educational programs.

The organization held its 15th Annual Financial Literacy Investment Competition on March 25, when students competed for first-place rankings and scholarship awards. The UIndy Dollars and $ense first place team won $6,000 in scholarships to any accredited college institution.

It was the culmination of months of training to boost students’ knowledge in investment strategies, asset allocation and diversification through the selection of stocks, bonds and real estate investment trusts.

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