When I think of the eastside of Indy I think of poverty, crime and less than excellent school systems. Art is the farthest thing from my mind, excluding a few new murals installed for Superbowl XLVI. Others with the same notion, and maybe even eastside residents, might wonder why an art gallery is the best solution for this poverty-stricken area. Among a better education and access to resources, is art going to help? Big Car, a local arts collective, seems to think so.
Big Car draws together people of all backgrounds to promote and perpetuate creativity, invigorate public places and support better neighborhoods. Jarrod Dortch, an Indy native and professor at Ivy Tech Muncie, began his work with Big Car less than a year ago and immediately began organizing the 46235 Project. It is an effort to provide cultural and creative activities to the youth within that zip code. According to the Indianapolis Star, the eastside of Indy ranks highest in its top 10 crime-troubled areas. Jarrod is using art to combat trouble and to offer the children a different outlet.
Studies prove, and the history of graffiti shows, that underserved youth are looking for ways to express themselves; they want to be noticed. When they aren't cared for properly, aren't educated and are treated less than mediocre - they feel ignored. Kids can turn to violence and crime to get attention, or maybe there are opportunities like the 46235 project to offer other options.
Last summer, one of those alternatives was the Fun Fleet. In partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, Big Car was able to reach young people (and adults) in six different apartment communities. The Fun Fleet provided art-based projects as well as healthy food options to the Far Eastside residents. They also worked with the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside to host after-school programs that allowed children the chance to write, paint, draw and build. "We don't believe that art is the only solution for the eastside, but if anything can bring attention to the area and is a benefit to the youth population, it's definitely a step in the right direction," explained Dortch.
The team's most recent accomplishment was the opening of Galeria Magnifica - a student gallery located inside colorful Superior Market on Mitthoefer Rd. On Monday, Jan. 20, people gathered to check out the dreams, wishes and playful art of the kids in 46235. Purposefully located inside a Hispanic supermarket, the students reached in this area are wonderfully diverse.
The eastside and 46235 in general have a number of "problems," but via the introduction of organized art projects, we'll be able to see the area's assets as well. Big Car is putting tools into the hands of talented people. We'll see pianists emerge and fine painters, ceramists and spoken word artists all from having a dedicated presence and the encouragement of creativity. Sometimes it does start with art to change communities. And lots of times it starts with art to change personal lives.