Hoppe on the Arts: Circle rally 

Our local police estimate that 2,000 people showed up for the arts rally on the Circle today -- not a bad turnout, given the raw weather.

Frank Basile, one of this city's most dedicated arts patrons, served as master-of-ceremonies. Several people from outside the arts community spoke, including Eugene White, Superintendent of IPS, Mark Miles, the man who led the effort to bring the Super Bowl here, and Mayor Greg Ballard.

Everyone who spoke had friendly things to say about the arts and the role they play in the city. But, being good Hoosiers, everyone was also too shy to bring up the subject of money. Wouldn't have been polite.

I happened to be standing near Darlene Delbecq, the photographer and Deborah Delbecq, the painter. Darlene said that next time we need to come prepared with some cheers. I thought the one she came up with was perfect, a call-and-response number guaranteed to set someone back on their heels:

Call: You took it away!

Response: Give it back!

Call: You took it away!

Response: Give it back!

And so on...

This refers, of course, to the funding that's been systematically stripped from public arts funds over the past few months. At the risk of being tiresome, it needs to be repeated: while arts funding is being cut, state and local politicians are twisting themselves in knots to find tens of millions of dollars to bail out our pro sports facilities.

That's what's called a bottom line.

The Mayor described himself as low-key. He wore an Indy Culture Matters t-shirt. He reminded everyone that there were a lot of people in Indianapolis who didn't know as much as they should about local arts -- and he told the assembled crowd that they should do more to get the word out.


This is what the arts community's been told for 20 years or more. Yes, yes, it's our fault that our leaders continue to miss the point that a strong arts scene, an arts scene that makes news, is a community driver. That it's up to us to persuade people who could care less about the arts that the arts matter.

As if anybody asked me -- or you, for that matter, whether or not we wanted to pay higher taxes for a new football stadium. Or whether or not we wanted a new basketball stadium.

I guess the intrinsic value of these buildings speaks for itself. In this, you might say they're rather like great works of art -- a Rembrandt, say, and a Da Vinci.

In any event, it was heartening to see such an enthusiastic turn-out. Tim Harmon made like Abby Hoffman and came with a prop -- a picture frame that he used to turn himself into a walking masterpiece. This drew the local TV new crews like catnip.

What happens next is the question. Let's hope it's not another funding cut. And if it is, to cop a line (with apologies to Sharon and Travis), what'll we do?

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David Hoppe

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