Big Car Collaborative turns 10

Jim Walker in 2010 at Saraga, which played host to one of Big Car's Made for Each Other public art projects.

Big Car started as a tiny nonprofit organization, but from the outset, there were big ideas in its engine. Inspired by an essay called “Can Poetry Matter?” by Dana Gioia, who argued that the only way poetry could survive was to combine it with music and performance and merge audiences, Big Car founder Jim Walker conceived of a nonprofit that would do just that.

And it’s been enormously successful in this regard; just look at the attendance at the Big Car Gallery on any given First Friday.

But Big Car has done much more than combining various art genres into a single venue. It has connected formerly disparate parts of the arts community, helped spur an economic revival in Fountain Square during an economic recession, and is now partnering with like-minded nonprofits to make inroads into communities underserved by arts organizations.

With all that Big Car has accomplished, it’s hard to believe that this nonprofit is only five years old. Back in 2004, the office of this fledgling nonprofit was a former bathroom on the 2nd floor of Fountain Square’s Murphy Building. But Big Car was soon growing by leaps and bounds with the help of like-minded individuals that Walker brought into the organization.

The first Big Car show in the spring of 2005 may not have been a blockbuster—a memorable moment for Big Car was the Russian guests they had dancing to Prince songs in a borrowed, vacant space but it was so exciting to them that they decided to rent out the space where they held this show. This space was morphed into the current Big Car Gallery.

From the beginning, the connections Walker made on the job (he was working as a reporter for NUVO at the time) proved crucial in developing the young Big Car organization. “I think Jim saw out there, meeting all these other artists, that there was kind of a disconnect,” says founding Big Car member John Clark. “And early on it was like we could be the hub for these things.” Acting in this capacity, Big Car steadily increased the number of its nonprofit and local government partners as well as creating Made for Each Other (www.made4.org), a program that engages amateur artists in community building.

Reaching out beyond what Walker terms “the hipster crowd” that it serves (and will continue to serve) so well to engage new communities of people in the arts, without compromising the values that power their engine; this is where Big Car sees itself driving in this new decade.

For more info: www.bigcar.org

—Dan Grossman

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Arts Editor

Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.