Ideas, connections and innovation are the ultimate resources in today’s world. Figuring out how we can facilitate these very things to bolster the cultural and creative capital of a city is critical. At our upcoming National Meeting in Grand Rapids, we will hear firsthand examples of creative solutions that utilize art and artists to engage citizens in creative dialogue:Jim Walker will discuss how Big Car utilizes socially engaged art in Indianapolis, Phil Cooleywill discuss the 30,000 square-foot warehouse, Ponyride, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Kemi Ilesanmi will share how The Laundromat Project offers arts-education in underserved communities.Read more about these fascinating organizations.
What: Big Car is a grassroots nonprofit arts organization with a collective of artists, writers, musicians, and active citizens who work together on projects and programs in the Indianapolis community. . . . Their mission is to “bring art to people and people to art” by facilitating artistic ideas, and simultaneously increasing livability and creativity in communities. . . .
How: Through cultural organization and engagement-based arts programming, including performances, games, exhibitions, and events, Big Car brings together people of all backgrounds in local Indiana communities to inspire creativity and activate public spaces. . . . Big Car collaborates with local residents and stakeholders by forming partnerships in order to build social capital and encourage civically engaged communities. . . .
Why you should know about Big Car:Big Car utilizes “social practice art,” or socially engaged art. . . . Social practice art is unique; individuals that may not necessarily define themselves as artists become directly involved in the process of art, building connections and empathy among participants. . . . The organization focuses on people and process rather than products. . . . Their events begin with identifying particular issues and concerns; artists then connect with participants by brainstorming creative approaches and solutions to address the issues and concerns. . . . Their projects engage whole communities in planning and creating community-building projects, bridging the gap between art institutions and residents. They opened the Service Center, a “grassroots hub for art, culture, education, and health,” in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in 2011. . . . Local arts and community groups use the space for performances and activities. . . .
What:Ponyride is a multiple-use space in a 30,000 square-foot warehouse in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. . . . This space houses around 40 small companies and community projects and serves as a study to see the potential positive impact the foreclosure crisis can have. . . .
How:Ponyride provides cheap space, $0.10-$0.20 per square-foot, for “socially-conscious” artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks. . . . This space remains cheap because of the consistent flow of community support and resources. . . . Tenants have the opportunity and resources to produce, create, and educate community members in creative and innovative ways.
Why you should know about Ponyride:Artists and entrepreneurs that find home in Ponyride serve members of Detroit communities through various activities and workshops. . . . Living in a collaborative space allows for shared resources and knowledge, which helps to build a creative community in spite of Detroit’s struggles. . . . The opportunities Ponyride’s tenants offer are referred to as “education;” Community members can partake in weekly activities including figure drawing, dance workshops, sewing tutorials, yoga, and even a class to learn about the process of cultivating coffee. . . .
Who: The Laundromat Project
What:The Laundromat Project is a community-based, non-profit arts organization in New York City that offers arts-education in underserved communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity due to income, age, or background. . . .
How: The organization is committed to remedying social inequities, raising the quality of life, and fostering vibrant communities and vibrant economies through art and creativity. . . . To do so, the organization brings art workshops and program to the local Laundromat, where the community members already are. . . .
Why you should know about the Laundromat Project: The communities that the Laundromat Project focuses on are communities that do not have access to art and cultural facilities, so the organization’s workshops and programs focus on increasing the accessibility of art and culture for everyone. . . . The Laundromat Project also offers professional development opportunities for artists within these communities, encouraging artists to develop public art in their neighborhoods. . . . One of the Laundromat Project’s public art programs is Works in Progress (WiP), which brings free, hands-on workshops and programs to local Laundromats and community spaces during summers. . . . In the long-run, the Laundromat Project envisions owning and operating an art center attached to a Laundromat with space for artists to create and foster collaborative public art practices for whole communities. . . .
Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors. She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.