What makes a community unique, a place we want to visit time and again or come to live? It’s certainly not free wifi. Or endless rows of chain restaurants. It’s not the presence of Walmart. No, what draws us to communities is the quirky, the memorable, the different, the things that make us smile. It can be architecture, sculpture, local shops, diners, or the lady down the road who names her chickens after the characters in Gone With The Wind. (True story)
Santa Fe, N.M. is one such quirky and beloved community. Known as “The City Different,” Santa Fe draws me like a magnet because of its individualism, beauty, eclectic population – lots of artists, scientists, cowboys, Native Americans, and Hispanic folks whose ancestry dates back to Spain’s original land grants – and, of course, its art. Everywhere you look you’ll find paintings, sculpture, live (and free) concerts, dances. Pretty much everyone you meet is happy to open up. One Saturday I was enjoying a breakfast burrito at the Farmer’s Market community table with an astrophysicist on one side and a sculptor on the other, each happily discussing what they did. This does not happen at McDonald’s. I was fortunate to be a part of the Santa Fe community for six years before moving to Indiana, a place I had not lived in decades, to oversee my aging parents.
Indiana is not known as a hot bed for the arts, so I was curious what I would find. Determined not to leave behind my love of all things quirky and art related, I had a funky metal sculpture installed in my yard as if to say. “Art lives here.” (Monster or viking, you be the judge.) The response has been interesting. Neighbors are curious. (One is annoyed.) Cars slow to a crawl to catch a look. Some people have even snuck into my yard to take selfies. One dog walker asked, “What’s its purpose?”
To make you smile.
It didn’t take long for me to discover some amazing places, organizations, and people using art to create the unique communities we all crave. Indianapolis is home to the Eiteljorg Museum, which has one of the best collections of Western art east of the Mississippi. It also hosts fun events that are open to all, including Western movie nights and an annual Indian market.
Just north of Indy is Lafayette, best known for Purdue University. It’s also home to the Tippecanoe Arts Federation, a nonprofit that supports and promotes visual and performing arts in 14 Indiana counties. TAF, as it’s known, does amazing things to grow the arts like providing band instruments to children who otherwise would be unable to participate in school bands and orchestras. It awards grants to artists and organizations and hosts an incredible music and food festival called “Taste of Tippecanoe.” One of the coolest things TAF has done is encourage the creation of murals throughout the region, including a visionary project called “Wabash Walls,” which is revitalizing a lower income community through art. This video tells you more.
The Eiteljog and TAF are major community builders and, wanting to give back to the arts, I’ve gotten involved with both. I joined the Friends of the Eiteljorg. Perhaps more exciting, I was recently named to the Board of Directors of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation. This is the first board I’ve ever served on and I’m eager to roll up my sleeves wherever I can to help. One thing I’ve proposed is a social media photo essay entitled, “This is my art” to encourage people from all walks of life to send in photos of their art. Tattoos. Ceramics. A song. A garden. Art is everywhere. Art builds communities.
My monster approves.
Lux-Writes is a proud supporter of the arts. Buy original art. Encourage a child to play an instrument or to paint. Share an art project with a senior. Encourage. Appreciate. And smile.