The House Life Project (HLP) is a neighborhood initiative that facilitates art-based collaborations between artists and local residents in the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. We use chronically vacant and abandoned houses as centers for creative engagement to foster neighbor to neighbor relationships and celebrate local strengths. By activating vacant properties, we address some of the challenges associated with high vacancy rates, including resident disengagement, vandalism and a lack of resources. Now in our second season, we continue to develop programming to further our goals of 1) transforming an abandoned property into a creative hub for arts and culture; and 2) strengthening collective knowledge at the local level.
1) A CREATIVE HUB FOR ARTS AND CULTURE Located in a part of the city where residents have limited access to art and cultural events, we work with artists, neighbors, local youth, independent business owners and local organizations to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the community. The project is intentionally embedded within a residential neighborhood so that participants can easily walk to the site and contribute their ideas and skills. Examples of public projects and activities include polaroid camera workshops, a filmmaking series and storytelling sessions based on the imagined history of the house.
2) STRENGTHENING COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE To encourage community engagement and civic awareness, we work with neighbors and local organizations to build collective knowledge about the neighborhood, specifically about the impact of vacant and abandoned houses. For example, the HLP has recently launched a participatory mapping project to document information from various sources including residents' experiential knowledge, ecological observations and housing data. Through activities such as asset mapping, collecting oral histories, soil testing and neighborhood walking tours, we encourage local residents to participate in a dialogue about urban redevelopment in their community.
WHAT WE NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Help us meet at least $5000 of a $20,000 matching grant from the Efroymson Family Fund by the end of this Kickstarter campaign. Your contributions will be doubled! Every dollar you contribute will be matched by the Efroymson Family Fund up to $20K. In addition to this amazing opportunity, we have support from DePauw University, Eskenazi Health and the Penrod Society. We are asking for your help raising money for these aspects of the project:
The House: $1000
Based in the St. Clair Place neighborhood, we work with local residents to transform a community burden (vacant housing) into a vibrant community asset (hub for art and culture). By inviting neighbors to gather at the site and contribute their ideas and energy to the project, we create a welcoming space for building and maintaining community relationships. In order to make a house safe and functional for our purposes, we make minor repairs and provide furnishings such as folding chairs and tables.
Our Community: $2000
The HLP is all about people. We invite community members of all ages, backgrounds and experiences to contribute their ideas and leadership to the project. This collaborative approach supports and celebrates the creativity and resourcefulness of people who live, work and play in this part of the city. The HLP acknowledges the time and expertise of these engaged artists, team members and local residents by providing modest stipends for various leadership roles. More info about the 2016 HLP team.
Creative Programming: $1500
In a neighborhood with no established art agencies, we offer free art-based workshops and events. Participants explore new perspectives, engage in imaginative play and challenge conventional narratives. The HLP ensures that neighbors can participate in cultural activities free of charge by providing art materials such as paint, polaroid film, clay, field notebooks and mapping software. More info about 2016 events.
Community Outreach: $500
We are an inclusive and non-hierarchical initiative that welcomes participants from all backgrounds, ethnicities, income levels and interests. By involving a diverse group of people in creative projects about the neighborhood, the HLP encourages community engagement and civic awareness. To ensure that we reach a broad audience, we rely on a wide range of communication methods including flyers, yard signs, site signage, door to door interactions, social media, and email announcements.
PROJECT HISTORY The HLP was founded in 2015 by artist and Near Eastside resident Meredith Brickell with support from Renew Indianapolis, iMOCA and a grant from the Efroymson Family Fund. Beginning in June of last year, the HLP began hosting Tuesday evening Porch Parties as a way to get to know the community. These weekly events included activities such as art making, tours of the house, book lending and garden vegetable exchange. In September, the HLP hosted an Open House for over 200 people to celebrate the creative work generated at the site and the neighborhood. More info about 2015 events and projects.
WE ARE MOVING! After working from 804 Eastern Avenue since last June, the HLP is pleased to announce that the property will be sold to a new homeowner who will rehab the house and move into the community. We are looking forward to meeting our new neighbor! We will relocate to another house just two blocks away to maintain our relationships with the community.
THE COLLABORATIVE ADVANTAGE The HLP works closely with a number of organizations that provide expertise and outreach for the project:
- Renew Indianapolis (HLP partner) is a nonprofit land bank which exists to bring abandoned and blighted properties to productive use by selling them to individuals, non‐profit and for‐profit buyers. Identifying “interim uses” through creative resident engagement is something Renew Indianapolis hopes to learn from working with the HLP.
- The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) (HLP partner) provides insight and expertise about how to use creativity as an entry point to engage the community and activate an otherwise overlooked space.
- DePauw University has awarded Meredith Brickell a grant to make improvements to the HLP site and a Fulton Family Faculty Fellowship for her role as Project Leader.
- The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute (IAHI) works with the HLP to effectively measure project outcomes, with the goal of developing reliable reporting data for each year that allows funders and project participants to see how community building activities develop over time.
- Local Agencies The HLP aims to complement the work of other Near Eastside organizations such as the John H. Boner Community Center and Near Eastside Area Renewal (NEAR), which provide services to existing residents, redevelop abandoned houses and encourage repopulation of the area.
- NUVO Arts Trailblazer Award for 2016
- DePauw University Fulton Family Faculty Fellowship awarded to Meredith Brickell, HLP Project Leader
- "Rehoming Hope" by Jennifer Delgadillo, Sky Blue Window
- "Creative Placemaking Project in Near Eastside" by Scarlett Martin, IndyHub
- "The House Life Project" by Maya Drodz, Visualingual Blog
- "Beyond Blight: the Indy artists working in abandoned houses" by Emily Taylor, Nuvo
- "Vacant Property Gets New Life" by Dan McGowan, Inside Indiana Business
Risks and challenges
The House Life Project team has successfully navigated the many challenges of using an abandoned house as a site for art-based activities and programs. Now in our second year, we are well practiced at dealing with the unexpected! However, as we move to our new location, we may run into surprises that require additional resources. When this occurs, the HLP community will apply creative problem solving skills to develop innovative and community minded solutions. If any such challenges strain our financial resources, we will revisit our priorities and temporarily scale back on some programming, while remaining engaged at the site.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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