Garfield Park Arts Center Sneak Peek

Our neighborhood association met at the newly renovated Garfield Park Arts Center last night. We toured the building and met the new manager, Robin Williams-Hawks. The building is very impressive. It features a large multi-purpose performing arts space, gallery, classrooms, and recording studio.

While I'm thrilled to have an asset like the Arts Center in my own backyard, Mel and I are worried whether the Center will be accessible. We envisioned a drop-in facility that adds to the sense of community by providing space for groups such as knitting circles. The facility seems to be more focused on visual and performing arts, or any "art" that attracts corporate sponsorships.

The side of the building that opens to the park – where you can find the playground and a soccer field where Mexicans play – doesn't have an entrance. The entrance to the building is in the rear lower level by a large parking lot. My concern is that this facility will be a destination. Folks will use the highway that takes them over all the rotting neighborhoods of the near Southside and deposits them at the door of the Arts Center. After enjoying the Arts Center, they'll get back in their cars and drive away to their suburban utopias. How is that good for the Garfield Park area?

The Arts Center officially opens the weekend of May 5, when they'll feature an exhibit from the Smithsonian. You can catch a preview event this Friday evening from 6pm to 9pm. If you decide to come, be sure to take a walk in the park.

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2 Comments

Filed under Southside Rocks!, The way the world works

2 responses to “Garfield Park Arts Center Sneak Peek

  1. Melody

    It looks like it could be a great space for weekly/monthly discussion groups, knitting circles, yoga classes, or just relaxing with neighbors and fellow park goers on a Summer evening on the terrace, but judging from our neighborhood association meeting last night, that’s not a priority or even a desirable side benefit for the folks responsible for managing the center.

    It just seemed like there was a lot of lip service given to encouraging diversity. The art work on the walls tells the story of welcome diversity, but the fact that there is no welcoming entrance accessible from the park side (the side not facing the parking lot) seems to tell a different story. Something tells me that the Hispanic soccer players and working class families visiting the nearby playground are not all that welcome to wander through just to use the bathroom and maybe stay to enjoy the art– particularly not when there’s a high-priced, corporate-sponsored “gala” going on, such as a private concert with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra at $20-$40/ticket. It’s supposedly the city’s first and only community-owned art center, but it appears to be a corporate $$ magnet.

    I hope we’ll be proven wrong. It’s not that the corporate $$ wouldn’t be good for the park and for the neighborhood. It’s just less than we expected of a city-owned facility.

  2. Robin Williams Hawks

    I am very disappointed that you have the wrong impression of the new Arts Center. What you call lip-service about diversity has been put into practice on a very grass-roots level at the Arts Center. If you had walked into the Center since its opening on May 5th, you would have seen many members of the Hispanic and Filipino community enjoying and discussing the photographs of immigrants from the 1940’s and 50’s from the Smithsonian’s Alavarado exhibit.

    We also missed you for the simultaneous opening of the Garage Artists Society, which features work by our verry own Garfield Park neighborhood artists from Hervey Street.

    The Arts Center has been offering many free community classes in Brazilian dance/martial art called Capoeira and African Drumming every Tuesday and Sunday, where students from University of Indianapolis, Hispanic soccer players, and folks from the parks have participated.

    The 20 children who currently attend the free Summer Arts Academy largely reflect the working class, Hispanic community you speak of in your blog. Grant support from the Lilly Endowment and Christel DeHaan Family Foundation are making the dream of attending such a special program a reality for these children.

    There will be many more community outreach activities in the future, but only with the underwriting and support of sponsorships, grants, and contibutions from the community.

    I would invite you to take a second look at the Arts Center, and give it a fair assessment. The leadership of this organization is known for addressing the needs of the underserved through the arts, and for creating quality arts education programs.

    And if you want to see certain types of actvities, then those suggestions should be made directly………….we are open….. and as we have demonstrated, responding to our community.

    Thanks———–Robin Williams Hawks, Manager, Garfield Park Arts Center

  3. We were there for the Alvarado Exhibit. At the time we toured the facility and the post to which you replied was written (April 2006), none of the activities you mentioned in your reply were on the radar as far as we knew. At least if they were, they weren’t shared. I’m glad to hear that there are activities that are drawing the community in.

    I’m curious to know how we’re supposed to know about these activities. Every time I try to use the parks department’s Web site to look for events, the calendar page blows up.

    When we’re over at the park, the Arts Center always appears to be sealed up tight. The last time we tried to use the space for our neighborhood association, the doors were locked. The neighborhood association to the north had a similar experience.

    As far as making suggestions directly, Mel did make the suggestions she put in her post directly to you the night we toured the facility. You didn’t engage with her in a dialog about what kind of programs she wanted to see. Rather, you told her she could call to schedule a room if one was available. I’ll suggest to her that she try again.

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