Public Conversation History 

Did you know the first Public Conversation in 1996 featured Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, and Dan Wakefield in a conversation at Clowes Memorial Hall about the relationship between "spirit" and "place?" 

BIG thanks to the visionary partners who helped to launch this first event and 20 more wonderful years!
The Polis Center's Project on Religion and Urban Culture
Butler University's Writer's Studio
Christian Theological Seminary
Indiana Historical Society
Indiana Humanities
Indianapolis Public Library
Madame Walker Theatre Center
Marian University
Martin University
University of Indianapolis
2nd Globe

2016 Public Conversation  

Sunday, November 13, 4-5:30pm
Indiana Landmarks Center
FREE, RSVPs strongly encouraged.

A sculptor, sociologist, community activist, and political scientist reflect on poverty, homelessness, public policy, and the human spirit. 

What if “home” is an unaffordable place? What if we’re unwelcome in the spaces we try to claim as “home?” How do we make the idea of “home” a reality for those without?

For more than 20 years, the Public Conversation has provided a neutral space where audience members can be a "fly on the wall" to a spontaneous and thoughtful dialogue between individuals of differing arts, humanities, and religious backgrounds. This year’s Public Conversation is no different, but examines the nuances of home through a tighter social justice and policy lens to understand the opportunities and challenges we face as a society when it comes to creating just communities.

Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Genius Matthew Desmond’s New York Times bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in an American City paints a vivid and heartbreaking story of life on the edge for America’s poor. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz’s "Homeless Jesus" piece outside Roberts Park UMC downtown has caused many people to stop and stare over the past several months. Schmalz, a Catholic, describes his work as visual translations of the Gospels. He believes the more powerful—and truthful—the art, the more powerful the questions of the viewer become and the more likely they are too see marginalized people as God sees them.

Allison Luthe serves as the Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Community Center (MLK Center) located in Butler-Tarkington. Allison represents the MLK Center in community collaborations to bring about comprehensive social and economic advancement for families in the area surrounding 38th and Illinois and the mid-north area. In her 15+ year career, she has tackled a wide range of social justice issues working for or volunteering with organizations such as Central Indiana Jobs for Justice, Greater Indianapolis NAACP, Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, and the United Way of Central Indiana.

Terri Jett, Associate Professor of Political Science and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity at Butler University, will moderate. Jett is the board president of the ACLU of Indiana and also serves on the Indiana Debate Commission. 

Presented by Spirit & Place, Roberts Park United Methodist Church, Eskenazi Health, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, and IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI as part of the John D. Barlow Lecture in Humanities.

Special thanks to our sponsors!

IU School of Public Affairs

Indiana Humanities

Fair Housing Center


Indiana Landmarks