Jim Walker, Big Car & Tube Factory artspace
NUVO photographer/photo editor, 1994–2006
What do you remember most about your time at NUVO?
I really loved the feeling of the Broad Ripple location and how it reminded me of my college newspaper days (which were only a couple of years before I started freelancing for NUVO). I started as a full-time staffer in the new building, so I remember being part of NUVO growing up and getting a little more serious. I was lucky to work with so many talented people who remain some of my best friends. Andy Fry, who was a graphic designer at NUVO at the time, is one example. He went on to great things in music and then helped make Big Car a success and remains such an important part of everything with Big Car and a great friend.
Is there one story in particular that best encapsulates that era for you?
Andy and I teamed up on a cover story I wrote and shot about how Wal-Mart was a devastating force. His design was and is always so generous and quiet and beautiful. He doesn’t have an ego about it and makes things work right for the reader and the user and the viewer. When we teamed up on that project, I knew I always wanted to work with Andy forever.
Is there a particular NUVO story or issue that you remember working on?
My most memorable story experience was one I wrote as a freelancer where I walked across the city from 465 to 465 on Washington Street with my friend Greg Weber, who is a police officer and a poet. We wrote and I took pictures (I was still using a film camera). And we started noticing we were following a guy in a security guard uniform. We saw him come out of the plasma center and then go to the check-cashing place and then go to the tobacco store. We talked to him, and he walked out there from the RCA Dome after his shift, sold his blood, cashed the check, bought cigarettes, and then walked back to rest up a little before his next shift. Walking the city in this way, talking with people, and really getting to know this place firsthand really set me on a direction of loving cities and realizing a little more about what life is like for people.
How did working at NUVO influence the work you are doing today?
Working at NUVO set many things in motion for my work with Big Car — getting to know artists of all kinds, such as writers, visual artists, theater folks, musicians, designers — as well as city leaders, nonprofit leaders, civic leaders, activists. As the photographer, I was able to get to know people in a really nice, comfortable, and personal way (without having to do all of the work of writing). Many of those connections — as well as connections with other staff members, folks who freelanced and interned with us (such as Zach Shields) — have been such important people in my life since the very beginning when I started cold calling the office and ended up talking to Steve Hammer and getting assigned some things.
One of my favorite things as staff photographer was doing all of the portraits for the arts guides. I made a lot of connections and friends visiting all kinds of artists in their spaces. I really enjoyed that, and it helped make possible Big Car and other projects I worked on since leaving journalism.
Got kids, dogs, life partners, or work projects you wanna brag about?
Things have turned out great for Shauta, and me, and our family. Our two wonderful kids attend Herron High. We love working and living in Garfield Park. My commute to work at Tube Factory is literally a walk in the park. Hard to beat that. And we have an awesome team of 15 artists working with us on our Big Car Collaborative projects and an incredible board that is really committed to what we’re doing. And I’m excited that Big Car now has an FM radio station — 99.1 WQRT. And we have all kinds of things going on in our neighborhood and, now, around the state.
I’m excited about where our city is going. And I’m hopeful that people will get past competitiveness and pettiness that sometimes holds us back and continue to try to work together more and do what’s best for the people of Indianapolis and Indiana. We need to work hard to do what we can here at home because the bigger picture for America is certainly one with many challenges.
Thank you to NUVO — and to Kevin as its leader over all of these years — for its vital contributions to journalism, localism, activism, community organizing, the environment, and art and culture in our community!