Before people in Indianapolis were talking abut the importance of attracting a ‘creative class’ of professionals to help make the city a national destination, David Young was demonstrating just what that meant. For over 20 years, Young, with a variety of collaborators, most notably Jeff Laramore, has been living proof that art and commerce can cohabitate in Indianapolis. In the process, Young has built a nationally recognized advertising agency, Young & Laramore, spun that into a creative company specializing in public art work, 2nd Globe, amassed a significant body of work as a visual artist and made important contributions as a board member with the Indianapolis Art Center.
“I never tried to be innovative,” says Young, whose portfolio would, on the surface, appear to make more sense in Seattle or L.A. than Indianapolis. “I never tried to just be different. What I’ve tried to do is look objectively at what’s there.”
Throughout the course of his professional life, Young has fielded questions from people about why he sticks to his Indianapolis roots when he could conceivably have sold himself in a larger market. “But you’d be in a place where it’s been done,” he says. “You’d be in a place where it was relatively easy to do well. And you’d be in a place where they expected everyone to be very specialized.”
That last point is perhaps most important. Young calls Indianapolis a “creative frontier,” a place where it’s possible to stretch one’s talents and avoid being pigeon-holed. In larger markets, he observes, “There are so many people competing, you have to narrow your vocabulary and repeat it for people to remember what you do.”
Young is very conscious about being a Midwesterner and this informs his work. “People who collaborate with me,” we just disappear and then the thing happens. I think that approach is true to the Midwest.”
When Young and Jeff Laramore were getting into the ad business, they were often told by well-meaning folks that their approach to the work wouldn’t fly around here. “But people here have innate intelligence comparable to people anywhere else,” insists Young, whose firm billed $67.5 million in 2004. “They rise to intelligent insights from honest expressions. In advertising, and in art.”
Young would like to see local leaders view the world in terms of what we can do as opposed to let’s not make any mistakes. The investment in art in Florence was so profound, and it’s still working. Just because it was done a long time ago, doesn’t mean it can’t be done now.
“What I think is so helpful about being here, and what I’d like to see more people do, is embrace the reality of the world they’re in and let it tell them what to do so that people around the world, and people in the future, will know what it’s like to be here. To be alive here now. That seems to be the best assignment you can give yourself as an artist.”
- David Hoppe