Indytalks tackles the future of Indiana 

New efforts at community dialogue

Indytalks, a social think tank formed by collaboration between the Athenaeum foundation, the Indiana Humanities Council, the Indiana Historical society and several other local organizations, begins its first in a year-long series of events aimed at getting Hoosiers involved in state issues. Its purpose is to stimulate intelligent and thoughtful conversation on topical social issues in an effort to support a sense of community among the people of Indiana.

Indytalks' creators seek to bridge the gaps between major social, economic and artistic communities. "The notion was how do we bring intellectual conversation to the community," says Cassie Stockamp, President of the Athenaeum Foundation and one of the principal players behind Indytalks. "We realized that they're already going on in the city, but they're being done in islands." The solution, they figured, was to formulate a series of forums where civic dialogue could thrive and average Hoosiers could get direct answers about issues facing them for the future.

"As we talk about the career professional out there, how do we get them engaged, how do we get them involved in Indianapolis? [We want] to make the city feel more contemporary, consistent to what's happening on the East and West coasts,"says Stockamp.

Indytalks' creators are not alone in feeling that a city like Indianapolis, right in the center of the Midwest, could stand a stark look at itself in comparison with its coastal neighbors. Richard Longworth, former Chicago Tribune writer and author of Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism, makes supporting arguments in his recent book.

Longworth's book focuses on many issues, but one theme keeps coming up - the need for the Midwest, a traditionally small-town-family-farm area, to adapt in order to fit the stringent realities of our economic and social future. Indytalks' organizers feel the book's principles could help guide Indianapolis' future and inspire participation in many of the series' events. This is most clearly shown in the first event - a Jan. 13 WFYI interview with Longworth to kick off the conversation and set a tone.

The next event, on Feb. 24, is perhaps the most intriguing concept Indytalks has planned in order to attract a wider variety of participants. "7 Simultaneous Lectures" is exactly what its name says. Seven well-known members of Indy's art community lecture on the state of the arts in Indiana in the age of globalization, all at the same time - but audiences are able to adjust the speakers' volume during the talk. "I'm looking forward to seeing something that most of us will never have sat through before," says Stockamp. "It's going to be interesting to see the speakers respond when someone gets up in the middle of their lecture."

Other events spanning the year include "What the Arts Mean to Indianapolis", "Is it Good to be a Hoosier?" and an evening presentation by television chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. The last event is scheduled for Oct. 7, but Stockamp does not think Indytalks will necessarily end there. "Our goal is, if it works, if people are responsive to us, sure; if not, let's tweak it and see what we can do to make this even more meaningful."

Indytalks' events in 2010

WFYI Radio Interview with Richard Longworth author of Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism

Richard Longworth, former Chicago Tribune reporter and Author of Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism, will be interviewed on the air about the themes of his book and how it relates to Indiana. Indytalks' goals are largely influenced by Longworth's book, and this interview is a direct start to the series' events.

When: Jan. 13, noon.

Organized by: WFYI

Contact: Gail Thomas Strong (Outreach Director),, (317) 636-2020

7 Simultaneous Lectures: Art and Globalization

Seven prominent members of Indianapolis' Arts community give lectures on the state of the city's art scene in the face of globalization. All of the lectures occur at the same time, with the audience able to control the volume of individual speakers, creating a changing, shifting bombardment of sounds and ideas.

When: Feb. 24, 7 p.m.

Where: Clowes Auditorium at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis

Organized by: Indianapolis-Marian County Public Library and Big Car Collective

Contact: Melissa Pederson (Adult Program Specialist), 317-275-408; Jim Walker (Big Car Collective), 317-408-1366

Backyard Pundits: Public Leadership & Ethical Questions for Indiana's Future

This discussion raises the importance of Ethics and guidance and public leadership, encouraging the people of Indiana to think about what is important in their public leaders. Backyard pundits, "public intellectuals" in Indiana try to inform people on the realities of public life.

When: March 18, 7 p.m.

Where: Allison Mansion, Marian University, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis

Organized by: Marian University

Contact: James Norton, Ph.D. (Dean, Liberal Arts) or Vickie Carson (Administrative Assistant) or 317-955-6132

When Did I Get Old?

The screening of the documentary When Did I Get Old?, following a series of local, retired people coping with the realities of aging in the age of globalization. A portion of the DVD will be shown at the event, followed by an audience discussion.

When: April 21, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Athenaeum/Rathskeller, 401 E. Michigan St, Indianapolis

Organized by: University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community

Contact: Ellen W. Miller, Ph.D. (Executive Director) or 317-791-5932

Food for Thought

A social-networking/discussion event designed to bring people together during dinner at various restaurants to talk about local social issues. A focus will be placed on discussion related to Richard Longworth's book Caught in the Middle.

When: May 4, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Various restaurants around Indianapolis, including locations in Broad Ripple, Irvington, Fountain Square, etc. The Indiana Humanities Council will also host an event at 1500 N. Delaware Street, Indianapolis.

Organized by: Indiana Humanities Council

Contact: Nancy Conner (Director of Grants) or 317-638-1500, ext. 128

Is It Good to Be a Hoosier?

This discussion, facilitated by Indiana historian James Madison, will focus on conceptions of and implications drawn from "Hoosier" traits and viewpoints. Will conventional Hoosier outlooks help or hurt us for the 21st century?

When: June 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis

Organized by: Indiana Historical Society

Contact: Erin Kelley (Public Programs Coordinator) or 234-3161

What the Arts Mean to Indianapolis

Have a conversation about the future of the arts in Indianapolis and its importance to the city.

When: July 22, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Indianapolis Arts Center, 820 East 67th St., Indianapolis

Contact: Janet Boston (Director of Regional Services & Community Relations) janetb@indyarts.orgor 317-631-3301, ext. 214

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert

Celebrity television chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert share stories and talk about the place of food in our lives today.

When: Sept. 30, 7 p.m.

Where: Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler University, 4600 Sunset Avenue

Contact: Pam Blevins-Hinkle (Director, Spirit and Place) or 317-274-2455

Hoosier Values: Can we reconcile independence and the common good?

Where do self-reliance and community intersect in Indiana? This panel challenges participants to think about what sorts of interactions might be needed for the state to thrive in the coming century.

When and where: Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. — Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 W. 42nd St.; Oct. 14 at 12 noon — IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd., Indianapolis

Organized by: Christian Theological Seminary and IUPUI Common Theme Project and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Contact: Carol Johnston (Director of Lifelong Theological Education) or 931-2344

David Craig (Faculty Leader, IUPUI Common Theme) or 317-274-3689


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