10-day collaborative event focuses on theme of power

On the grounds of the Garfield Park Art Center, slingshots, catapults and trebuchets will whip paint-soaked pom-poms onto a massive piece of paper, creating an abstract work of art similar to the style of Jackson Pollock.

Video, audio and tactile artwork helps impart the realities faced by the homeless on a daily basis. Local hip-hop artists will explain how the musical style has been used to break free of oppression.

All of these seemingly disparate events are tied together by a single concept — power.

The idea of power has many different meanings for every type of person. To explore what it means to the community, more than 100 organizations and presenters have put together a series of activities, discussions, performances and exhibitions for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival.

“All of the organizations planning these different events express power very differently, according to what they want to explore,” said Pam Blevins Hinkle, Franklin native and executive director of Spirit & Place. “What’s cool about the festival every year is it really becomes an expression of what our community wants to talk about and what they’re interested in and what they’re wrestling with.”

Spirit & Place is a community project managed by the Polis Center, part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The goal is to be a catalyst for civic engagement through collaborations in the arts, humanities and religion.

Every year, the festival organizers pick a one-word topic to serve as the theme. Past themes have included Home, Journey and Play.

Though this year’s central idea of Power was chosen three years ago, it comes at a time of extreme relevance in our community, Blevins Hinkle said.

“We want something that’s relevant to the community right now, if it is going to embrace issues or ideas that are currently buzzing or shaping our communities, and power is certainly expressed as a theme in many dimensions,” she said.

Taking that concept, partner organizations have adapted their own spin on what power means to them.

“Welcoming Strangers, Finding Brothers & Sisters” is a short film about Burmese refugees who have settled in central Indiana, including a large number on the southside of Indianapolis. After a screening of the film, filmmakers will share how they created the movie while allowing the Burmese community to have power over their own story.

Violinist Colette Abel tackled some of the most powerful music in history, the masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach, and will perform it in the stunning Gothic chapel at Crown Hill Cemetery.

One of the most unique projects on the lineup is the Almighty Pollock Paint Launch Affair, hosted by the Garfield Park Arts Center. Using launched devices built by Ivy Tech Community College students, people will be able to create a large-scale Jackson Pollock painting from afar.

“We wanted to talk about the literal translation of power and how it applies to people who exert power to do things,” said Sarah Norman, assistant manager of the Garfield Park Arts Center. “Being able to pull the lever on a catapult and hurling something through the air, feeling the gravity of that and seeing how much of an impact you can make if you build something.

The different programs of the festival will not only celebrate powerful aspects of living in central Indiana, but provoke people into thinking about concepts and realities that they may not have faced.

The centerpiece always is the Public Conversation, a round-table event conducted every year to close out the festival. This year’s focus will be on “Reflections of Race.”

Indiana historian James Madison, poet Maria Hamilton Abegunde, call-and-response singing group SongSquad and actors from the Indiana Historical Society’s museum theater program tackle the past and present of race relations.

“We provide the community with this platform, and out of that comes some radical collaborations. There are experimental solutions that get tried and tested in the community, and out of that, we present stories that haven’t been told in the city,” Blevins Hinkle said.

If you go

Spirit & Place Festival

What: Indianapolis’s largest collaborative festival featuring 10 days of experiences using the arts, religion and humanities as a vehicle for shaping individual and community life.

When: Today through Nov. 12

Full schedule: spiritandplace.org

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.