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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 – Eli Lilly, 1934, unpublished personal essay ‘Plan for Developing a Proper Outlook on Life.’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 will begin 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: 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 harrisoncenter.org.

More updates coming soon.