Something new is in the air in Indy. Obviously we want it to be spring, but something else feels like it's on the horizon. Last Friday Mayor Ballard gave his state of the city address and reinforced a project that city leaders have tagged "Live Indy." There's this big effort to get people to live in Marion County, to move closer in and to revitalize the old. One of those "old" items is City Hall. The building that sits on Alabama and Ohio streets is now this cool, trendy place that hipsters vie to work inside. Five years ago it was like no one knew it was there.
I saw a post on Facebook from someone who works in our local arts community that mentioned that we started paying attention to old City Hall when artists planned "Turf" for the space during Superbowl XLVI. Even now, artists are the reason it's cool again. People for Urban Progress have made "The Hall" the place to be by repurposing furniture, material, electronics and more to create a hip space in which to hold meetings. What's interesting about the project is that when things like this happen, the general public and even the engaged population, gives kudos to the city or some invisible leadership team. But, artists started this. This is an opportunity to talk about who artists are, what they can do and how they should be at the table from the very start.
In a weird way, some of us think about artists like we think about God. We put them in a box and limit what we think they can or should do. Artists are more than fine painters or poets or ceramicists; they're creative problem solvers. They're thinkers and makers. When you think about what it takes to be an artist and not simply what many of them create, it seems we'd include them on many more projects and in many more plans. It is because of artists the old City Hall is vibrant, that it's being used and that it is the hub for planning the future of our city. If when we think about artists, perhaps we should take away merely the thoughts of their end product or a particular object they make. Maybe instead we should consider what it takes for them to create and how we might be better able to use artists in Indy. We should ponder the new roles they could fill outside of being "just" an artist. Don't you think?
Maybe that's why art is so difficult to grasp for some; because we focus mostly on the product. Architects are artists. And people who make lamps are artists. And people who produce beats are artists. But also, we love our favorite coffee shop because an artist altered the environment. And Indy is awarded for being "green" because an artist thought to save Hoosier Dome material to make wallets and duffle bags. Our favorite restaurants are our favorite because an artist thought to make the menus more creative. My point is that artists already have a much further reach that we give them credit for. They have the creative problem-solving skills to come up with solutions that change cities, that impact the economy and that change neighborhoods. It's more than pricey objects, making your own schedule and being able to go to work in paint splattered jeans. Artists make the word more enjoyable. Kudos to them all.