The once-struggling area surrounding the Lafayette Square Mall has been spectacularly reborn as the International Marketplace. Most Central Indiana residents probably recognize this area for its vast assortment of global cuisine. But as readers of this column know, the International Marketplace also features an equally impressive live music scene.
This Saturday the International Marketplace Coalition will debut a new event designed to merge both those worlds. The first edition of International Marketplace Cultural Saturdays takes places from 10 a.m. To 10 p.m. on July 25.
I spoke with International Marketplace Coalition's executive director Mary Clark to find out more. Listen the radio edition of Cultural Manifesto on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. on WFYI to hear the full interview with Clark, along with music and words from musician David "Moose" Adamson.
NUVO: Define what International Marketplace Cultural Saturdays are all about.
Mary Clark: It's about showcasing the richness of what Indianapolis is today and showcasing the new Americans. Many of the restaurants in the area will be featuring live music that connects with the cuisine they specialize in. So if you went to Abyssinia, you would see live Ethiopian entertainment, or if you went to Inkas, you'd hear Peruvian music, or at Szechwan Garden, you'd have Chinese music. We wanted to grow this concept outside the restaurants so we decided to take it to the streets. We'll have live entertainment and events at three different locations in the area.
The Indiana Discount Mall will be having a car show and they'll be giving out free barbecue. There will be vendors along the sidewalk. Across the street there will be a health fair at Shalom Health Center, and they'll also have live entertainment from 10 a.m. To 2 p.m..
At the Lafayette Square Mall, there will be sports mania. We have the Pacers, the Fever, and the Indy Eleven. We'll have rugby, cricket, wrestling, and hockey too. The Indy Fuel will be there. The sports component is happening from noon to 4 p.m. in front of the Lafayette Square Mall.
NUVO: One issue I've noticed when trying to encourage people to experience all the cultural offerings in this neighborhood is a misconception that the neighborhood is unsafe, which has not been my experience.
Clark: As of the first of the year, overall crime in the area was down 37 percent. Last Tuesday I was at a meeting where IMPD announced that again crime was going down in the International Marketplace neighborhood. So we've been seeing crime going down consistently. We are a new community. We're an international community. We're finding ways to shrink the globe and create a true village. So whatever might be going outside the International Marketplace is not going on inside the International Marketplace.
NUVO: You mentioned to me earlier that there are over 700 independent ethnic businesses in the International Marketplace and over 70 different languages spoken there. Tell us about some of the unique things shoppers will find in the International Marketplace neighborhood.
Clark: You'll find everything from an Indian butcher to a Mexican cobbler. There are so many hidden jewels in this area. We have Indian dress shops and African dress shops. You name it, we have it. It's amazing all that has landed and grown in the International Marketplace here in Indianapolis.
Within this neighborhood there is nothing but richness. We've been featured in the New York Times and many other publications. Just recently we were featured in a national culinary magazine. People outside Indiana are discovering that there's something special happening in this area called the International Marketplace.