It takes an artist to make us see, not the bewildering details of the world around us, but the great universals that give significance to our human experiences. Learn from the artist to see the daring in that face, the gaiety in that figure, the grief in that old person, the unbending, wind-swept ruggedness of that tree, the upward sweep of that cathedral spire; to see the brooding warmth of the sunlight, the somberness of the shadow, the ecstasy of starlight. The same ideas hold with regard to sculpture, design, architecture, furniture – beauty in all its forms. – Eli Lilly, 1934, unpublished personal essay ‘Plan for Developing a Proper Outlook on Life.’

For nearly 80 years, Lilly Endowment Inc. has supported arts and cultural efforts throughout Indianapolis, including funding for major projects with the potential to significantly advance the city’s cultural vitality. Through its interest in community development, grants are given to help enhance quality of life in Indianapolis, ensure a safe, livable and humane city for all of it residents, and expand economic, cultural and recreational opportunities.

Arts and culture – which the Endowment defines to include visual, performing, literary and media arts as well as amenities such as parks and festivals – play a unique and important role in building and strengthening communities. Arts and culture add joy and meaning to our individual and collective lives. They educate, enlighten and broaden our perspectives. They connect people through shared experiences, foster better understanding and bridge divisions in society. They provide a unique and necessary voice and outlet for expression. They inspire new and innovative ideas. And as such, play a key role in distinguishing Indianapolis and elevating its reputation both nationally and abroad. Furthermore, they have a significant economic impact, driving new jobs, attracting new talent, generating substantial local and state revenue, and bolstering a healthy and vibrant industry in the city.

Arts and culture add joy and meaning to our individual and collective lives. They educate, enlighten and broaden our perspectives.

In January 2018, inspired by the community’s tremendous creativity and collaborative spirit, Lilly Endowment announced the Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative. This highly collaborative grantmaking effort was designed to help foster a creative, energized and forward-thinking city.

The Endowment began by inviting all Indiana-based charitable organizations to propose ideas that would use the arts to encourage community building. They sought to provide grants totaling up to $25 million, allowing each organization to submit ideas ranging from $7500 to $10 million. The Endowment encouraged collaboration across sectors but required at least one partnering organization to have a primary focus on arts and cultural endeavors and at least one partnering organization to be based within Marion County. It was also stipulated that all projects be implemented within Marion County to fit the aim of strengthening the city of Indianapolis.

Within the three-month application period, 226 ideas were submitted for consideration requesting more than $354 million in funding. The applications exemplified the intended collaborative spirit and reflected an energetic desire to work toward making Indianapolis a more vibrant and engaging community for all those who live, work, play and visit here.

From that group, 25 applications advanced, totaling approximately $91 million. Many proposed projects were deeply rooted in improving the quality of life for residents and demonstrated a strong understanding of how arts and cultural experiences can be powerful tools for community development.

In early December 2018, 17 projects, undertaken by 18 grantees, were awarded funding. These projects, which range from $49,000 to $9.2 million and total nearly $49 million, include a broad spectrum of arts and culture, highlighting a museum, schools, parks and cultural institutions, neighborhood community centers, social service organizations and government agencies. The outlined efforts will strive to:

  • Use the arts to rejuvenate historic landmarks and beautify other public places.
  • Support artists by strengthening the spaces where they work and live.
  • Incorporate the arts into neighborhood revitalization activities.
  • Create dynamic cultural programs and experiences that bring people together.
  • Provide more arts experiences to children through innovative school-based endeavors.
  • Infuse art into the development of new nature trails that are accessible to people with physical disabilities.


Projects began taking shape in early 2019 and will include more than three dozen collaborating organizations. To follow along the development of these projects, explore #leiarts on social media and check back here for story updates.

UPDATE: July 2021

Article by IndyStar
What was once a crumbling monument engulfed by the expansive Riverside Regional Park is now the centerpiece of the city’s newest stage. The Taggart Memorial Mainstage Amphitheatre is launching its first season Thursday, bringing to fruition a project that has cost more than $9 million. Read the full article.


UPDATE: May 2020

Over the course of the 2019-2020 school year, Arts for Learning worked with six Indianapolis metropolitan area public schools for its Third Space project, which temporarily disrupted the school environment through the installation of museum-quality works of art created by established local artists.

The first four exhibitions were successfully launched, but the two programs scheduled for April and May were delayed due to school closures. Visit their website to watch videos and learn more about the artists and their work.


UPDATE: January 2020

The No Limits Arts Series project aims to strengthen inclusiveness in the arts for individuals with disabilities. High school students from Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) are working with several Indianapolis-based arts organizations to increase their accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Watch below about their recent work with The Eiteljorg.


UPDATE: December 2019

The inaugural festival Harvest, which took place October 3-5, 2019, kicked off Newfields’ project under this initiative. It explored the bounty of autumn through outdoor installations, large-scale performances and multi-sensory experiences. Funding will continue to support new festival infrastructure and programming that aims to expand Newfields’ capacity to host large, public festivals that appeal to broad audiences.

Read news coverage at Fox 59 and IndyStar.


UPDATE: October 2019

Third Space, a project by Arts for Learning, launched this month with an installation by Indiana artist Jackie Head at West Newton Elementary. Third Space aims to bring museum-quality art installations to six public schools in Indianapolis. The program is designed to disrupt the traditional school environment and learning experience. At each school, transformative artwork created by an established local artist will be temporarily installed. Through integrated curricula and workshops, students and teachers will be challenged to reflect on their individual perspectives as well as the differing views of their peers.


UPDATE: September 2019

On Monday, September 9, officials from the city of Indianapolis, Indy Parks and Recreation and Indy Parks Foundation broke ground at the Taggart Memorial Restoration & Amphitheater Groundbreaking Ceremony at Riverside Park. Grounded in the visionary master plan of Riverside Regional Park, the Taggart Memorial Mainstage Amphitheatre project aims to restore the Taggart Memorial – named for former Indianapolis mayor Thomas Taggart – and use it as a neoclassical backdrop for a multipurpose, outdoor amphitheater.

Watch video of highlights from the groundbreaking.

Read related article at Inside Indiana Business.


UPDATE: August 2019

Fringe on Wheels is a mobile theater project by IndyFringe which aims to provide access to a variety of arts and cultural offerings for people of all ages. Fringe on Wheels debuted this year at the Indy Pride Parade in downtown Indianapolis and partnered for several other summer events in the city. At Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration, the vehicle was able to provide a new performance stage for live music, performer showcases and a production of Josephine. More plans are in progress for Fringe on Wheels to be used for traveling theater classes, performance art, film screenings and live events in Marion County and across Indiana, including under-resourced neighborhoods and rural areas.


UPDATE: July 2019

Indiana Black Expo’s (IBE) 2019 Summer Celebration, was held from July 11 – 21, and featured networking and educational opportunities, as well as arts, entertainment, culture and community. As part of this year’s celebration, IBE partnered with Movin’ Legacy to create the Dance Heritage Programs project. This programming brought nationally-recognized choreographers to Indianapolis for four days of workshops highlighting the legacy of African American dance and storytelling through movement.


UPDATE: June 2019

The Fort Harrison Cultural Campus is a collaboration between the City of Lawrence and Arts for Lawrence, which aims to create a vibrant arts district in the northwestern part of Marion County. The project was launched in May 2019 with Musical Swings, an art installation designed by the Canadian-based Daily tous les jours as an interactive exercise in community collaboration. The Musical Swings will be open to the community through Sunday, June 9, 2019.

“The Musical Swings art installation is the perfect experience to get folks excited about what to expect at the Fort Harrison Cultural Campus,” says Judy Byron, executive director for Arts for Lawrence.

You can watch a video on the opening celebration here.


UPDATE: May 2019

On May 1, Cat Head Press held a grand opening event at its new location on East 10th Street in Indianapolis as part of the John Boner Neighborhood Centers’ 10 East Art + Design District project. The project aims to develop a one-mile corridor of East 10th Street by using arts-based economic development strategies. One focus of the project is the reclamation of vacant buildings so the structures can be used for arts programming and other creative activity. Cat Head Press is collaborating with Boner Centers on this project, furthering its mission to enrich and increase the well-being of the near eastside community through investments in creativity and artistic expression.

Learn more about John Boner Neighborhood Centers and Cat Head Press.


UPDATE: March 2019

On March 16, RosieCon Book Festival took place at Ben Davis High School for a day celebrating the books and authors on the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School book list. Guests were able to meet authors, join in panel discussions, have books signed, enter give-a-ways and more. RosieCon was a project of the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.


UPDATE: February 2019

As part of their project Convertible, Harrison Center has illuminated their seven entryways with unique light installations by Indianapolis-based artists Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley. The installations provide a brighter entrance for visitors, particularly at those doors which previously had minimal lighting, making it easier for people to see while also creating a visually dynamic experience right as they enter the building.

The Convertible project aims to lower barriers to the arts by transforming the Harrison Center and its programs to more broadly accommodate community needs. Fun and welcoming elements include a rooftop outdoor kitchen with LED tetherball and a karaoke elevator that provides access for people with disabilities to all areas of the building. Harrison Center will also start an (Ad)venture Fund to provide small grants to artists and neighbors with ideas to lower barriers to the arts. You can learn more about their work at

More updates coming soon.