Thursday's kickoff to the second season of the ideas competition 5x5 will also function as a farewell to Big Car Collaborative's Service Center space, which the non-profit arts organization will hand over to an auto body shop next month. And that's okay, says Big Car founder Jim Walker, because the Lafayette Square outpost for the city-wide organization was always intended as a temporary home.
More on Big Car's move in a minute. First to 5x5, the ideas competition that awards a winning idea-pitcher $10,000 to realize a project. The game remains the same: Five finalists have five minutes and five slides to present ideas. The winner is selected by a jury assembled by the host organization with audience feedback playing a part in the decision. Each event has a theme and invites entrants to tailor their ideas to that theme.
Big Car Collaborative's theme is Re:Connect, and it's partnering on the event with Reconnecting to Our Waterways, a grassroots organization working to reclaim Indy waterways, notably Little Eagle Creek in the Service Center's Lafayette Square neighborhood. Big Car and ROW solicited ideas that, from the news release, "reconnect people with the environment, especially our waterways, and each other." Subsequent events are also "Re" themed; the season continues with Re:Purpose (hosted by People for Urban Progress, June 27), Re:Mix (Harrison Center for the Arts, August 1) and Re:Populate (IndyHub, Oct. 30).
Walker says that aside from the obvious monetary benefit to winners, he thinks 5x5 is beneficial because it challenges people, regardless if they win, to "articulate ideas that they have, to write them out, to pitch them. It's not just an exercise they go through; the ideas that are generated can lead to some kind of action." He praises the social aspect of the event, how it "connects individuals to a larger group through idea sharing," how it "takes something abstract and makes it into a real-life event."
Slideshow: 5X5 at Big Car
Craig Mince and Indy Film Fest won a $10,000 grant for their Roving Cinema pop-up screening at the first 5X5, a new idea-pitching event along the lines of Pecha Kucha.
Now back to the future of Big Car Collaborative. The non-profit was paying ten percent of market rate to Lafayette Square Mall on the Service Center space on the condition it would move out as soon as a tenant willing to pay full price indicated interest. Such a tenant emerged, and Big Car was given two months to vacate the space, per contract. It's in the process of relocating its urban farm/garden, with quality dirt and infrastructure headed to other such setups around the city. Moving parties are being held on Saturdays through May.
Walker says he's looking at the move as an "opportunity," fitting in with the organization's desire to stay "spontaneous, organic, going with the flow of things and seeing where they lead." Big Car is looking around Lafayette Square for a similar space — there are plenty of empty storefronts — but he says "it's a challenge for people to see that having something activate within one retail is going to fill adjacent spaces." And, as Walker notes, Big Car did help attract a tenant back to the Service Center space, improving the building through such measures as removing the "labelscar" left by a former Firestone shop. He stresses that Big Car isn't abandoning the Lafayette Square neighborhood "because we're invested there" and that Service Center was one of many projects the organization is working on.
And Walker emphasizes that Big Car didn't really move to Lafayette Square, such that it's moving out now, because it's active in three key Indianapolis neighborhoods — the Far East Side, a swath of the Southeast side including Garfield Park and Fountain Square, and the Lafayette Square neighborhood — in addition to city-wide projects. Community-based programming planned this year includes a Better Blocks event (a temporary re-envisioning of a downbeat urban block with sustainable design in mind); visits from a bookmobile that also offers art projects to the near Eastside; the launch of a recreational, co-ed soccer league, Indy City Futbol; and a public art and performance festival, Art in Odd Places, slated for mid-October.
In all, Walker counts Service Center as a successful project, saying that Big Car "helped change the reality and the story" in an "impersonal, hardscrabble area when all you give people is pavement and buildings and cars." While what happened inside the building was important to him — and the Service Center was essential to Big Car as a workshop for all manner of projects — he thinks the garden in front of the building was the project's biggest legacy, a case study in "taking over pavement and making a space for people."