What Else is Spirit & Place Doing?

Beginning in 2015 Spirit & Place made a strategic shift to thoughtfully and intentionally expand its impact beyond the November festival. While still firmly committed to the annual Spirit & Place Festival, the organization Spirit & Place is busy making a difference in Central Indiana in a myriad of ways. Our tools—arts, humanities, and religion—are always with us in these endeavors. You can also stay in the know by signing up for our enewsletter (signing up is easy!). 

You can also keep up on our Powerful Conversations on Race series at
racedialogues.org and read past Civic Saturday sermons and watch video by scrolling down. 

Living Stories: An Evening with Elaine Pagels (Virtual Event)
This event will be interpreted by ASL.
Friday, April 16
Register Here

 **Spirit & Place, St. Luke's UMC, and the IUPUI Senior Academy also invite you to participate in a pre-event community conversation on April 8 from 6:30-7:45pm where we will gather in small groups to explore what 'living stories' mean to us personally. Register separately using this link.**

Nothing about religion, its meaning, or purpose is static. With every generation, the stories, traditions, and practices held dear by many, change in some way. New discoveries, questions, and perspectives open a world of possibility on how we understand the nature of religion.

Religious studies scholar and best-selling author Dr. Elaine Pagels has spent her career examining not only the origins of (Western) religious traditions and how they shape our understanding of ourselves, but also the necessity of re-interpreting these sacred stories so that they might continue to help us in challenging times.

Presented by Spirit & Place; Community for Contemplation and Justice of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church; IUPUI Senior Academy; and Religious Studies Department, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. 

This event is made possible through the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc. 

Civic Saturday
Saturday, February 27
Our first Civic Saturday of 2021 focused on “Making Meaning.” After a year of radical change that has upended old habits and created suffering, we grappled with what it means to put our civic values into practice to make meaning together as citizens. 

Unpacking for "The Hill We Climb"
Sunday, March 21
Indy spoken word poets Manon Voice and Tatjana Rebelle; pastor of The Church Within Darren Chittick; and public historian Erin Kelley unpacked Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb" as a civic call to action.

Presented by The Church Within in partnership with Spirit & Place.

Building New Worlds: Corona Dialogues Phase III
Wednesday, March 24, 6-8pm
Sunday, March 28, 2-4pm
These concluding Corona Dialogue gatherings utilized the arts and humanities as a springboard to brainstorm around "Building New Worlds" by reimagining the future after COVID-19. 

The Corona Dialogues was made possible with support from our partners: Community Action of Greater Indianapolis; Asante Children’s Theatre; Medical Humanities & Health Program in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate; and Indiana Humanities, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


“Growing up Black and White in America” Told by Charlotte Blake Alston and Bill Mettler
Presented by Storytelling Arts of Indiana in partnership with Spirit & Place and the Madam Walker Legacy Center. Set largely against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War and the militancy of the 1960s, Charlotte Blake Alston and Bill Mettler – black and white storytellers respectively – shared an exploration of their respective journeys in America. 

Corona Dialogues (Phase I & II)
Corona Dialogues was a virtual discussion series that explored the impact and ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic using an excerpt of FDR's "Four Freedoms" speech. In follow-up workshops led by speculative fiction writer Maurice Broaddus, we pivoted to tap into our imaginative "world-building" powers. Working from the ground-up to discover innovative solutions across silos, Spirit & Place will reconvene these sessions in 2021 to build a "Pandemic Plan of Action." 

Learn more by visiting our
Community Engagement page.

Civic Saturday
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spirit & Place was forced to cancel its planned Civic Revival gathering and had to scale back on its regular Civic Saturday gatherings. Fortunately, through a partnership with Big Car's radio station -
WQRT 99.1FM - we were able to record and broadcast a limited run of past Civic Saturday sermons. Listen below!

What Ought We Do Next?
A Good Citizen
Becoming US 
The Myths We Tell 
Optimism as Rebellion

What is Civic Saturday? Civic Saturday is a civic ritual – an analogue to a faith gathering.  It does not aim to replace faith traditions, instead, these gatherings serve as a time for us to nurture a spirit of shared purpose, wrestle with moral questions, and develop a sense of civic character. Using poetry, song, civic readings, and a civic “sermon,” all who believe in the power of showing up for each other in civic life are welcome!

Watch original Civic Saturday gatherings or read the sermons: 

April 28, 2018 -- A Good Citizen  
July 28, 2018 -- Promises (+ video)
February 23, 2019 -- Becoming US (+ video)
April 16, 2019 -- The Myths We Tell Ourselves
July 20, 2019 -- Optimism as Rebellion (+ video
February 27, 2021 -- Making Meaning (video)

Unspoken History with Anne Shimojima and Dovie Thomason
Presented by
Storytelling Arts of Indiana and in partnership with Spirit & Place, this event featured a pair of nationally acclaimed storytellers, Anne Shimojima & Dovie Thomason. Even though the war may be over and the wild west tamed, the damage done to oppressed groups cannot be undone, and should not be understated. Anne & Dovie shared personal stories about reconciling with the past in the hope that it may lead to a better future.

Civic Saturday
Civic Saturday is a civic ritual – an analogue to a faith gathering.  It does not aim to replace faith traditions, instead, these gatherings serve as a time for us to nurture a spirit of shared purpose, wrestle with moral questions, and develop a sense of civic character. Using poetry, song, civic readings, and a civic “sermon,” all who believe in the power of showing up for each other in civic life are welcome!


Powerful Conversations on Race
Thanks to an INCommon grant from Indiana Humanities with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as support from The Indianapolis Foundation (a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation), MLK Community Center, IndyParks, and Duos Indy, Spirit & Place trained 24 community advocates during the summer of 2017 in the “civic reflection” dialogue technique. Using the humanities-based Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism and Racial Violence (2016), we then launched Powerful Conversations on Race in September of 2017. By the end of 2018, we had engaged 350+ participants. Due to the success of this conversation series and the positive feedback we received, plans are underway for additional programming that will explore the issue of racism in 2019. Learn more at racedialogues.org

Community Innovation Labs
After a national RFP process in 2017, Indianapolis was selected by EmcArts (New York City) as the fifth US city to convene a Community Innovation Lab.  Led by Spirit & Place, Kheprw Institute, and Groundwork Indy, the lab integrates artists and artistic practices into a rigorous change process facilitated by EmcArts. Engaging diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors, the lab seeks to create more inclusive and sustainable economies for formerly incarcerated persons and youth aging out of foster care. Core funding for this work is provided by MetLife Foundation, with additional support from The Margot L. and Robert S. Eccles Fund, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation; The Lacy Foundation; Second Presbyterian Church; and Eskenazi Health.

Civic Saturday 
In January of 2018, Spirit & Place Program Director Erin Kelley was one of twenty fellows selected by Citizen University in Seattle to attend specialty training on how to bring Civic Saturday programming to Indianapolis. Civic Saturdays are an analogue to a faith gathering, but do not aim to replace faith traditions. Instead, the events serve as time for the public to nurture a spirit of shared purpose, to wrestle with moral questions, and to develop a sense of civic character. Using poetry, song, civic readings, a civic “sermon,” and conversing in Civic Circles at the end, Civic Saturdays strive to help people to show up for each other in civic life.

Civic Saturdays are held in partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library at Central Library in downtown Indianapolis and are supported by Indiana Humanities, League of Women Voters of Indianapolis, and Song Squad.

That’s Not All!
Spirit & Place is also proud to have been involved with these community offerings in 2018:
As 2017 closed, Spirit & Place partnered with WFYI and the New York Times to a host a community dialogue with journalist Farah Stockman regarding outsourcing.

29th Joseph T. Taylor Symposium – Invisible Indianapolis: Race and Heritage in the Circle City with the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and the IUPUI Department of Anthropology.

Secret Cures of Slaves: People, Plants, and Medicine in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World lecture by Dr. Londa Schiebinger with the IUPUI Department of History’s History Talks! series

Mohican Songs of the Spirit featuring Grammy-winning Stockbridge Mohican artist and musician Bill Miller with the IUPUI Department of Religious Studies, Eiteljorg Museum, IUPUI American Indian Program, and IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute.

Seeing Ourselves in Each Other hosted by IUPUI student groups Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Student Union, Native American Student Alliance, Dreamer’s Alliance United as One, and the Muslim Youth Collective.

A MoCon (speculative fiction writers conference) intersection-themed event, An Evening with Mikki Kendall & Chesya Burke

15th Annual Thomas H. Lake Lecture featuring Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity:water, on “Reinventing Charity.” 

Community Café: Can Social Media Build Real Social Connections? In October, Spirit & Place invited community change leaders to participate in a world-café style dialogue themed around the work of Zeynep Tufekci. Special thanks to host Broadway United Methodist Church and friends at The Learning Tree.

Equity in Action
Equity in Action was a partnership between Spirit & Place and the Kheprw Institute focused on learning how we can make Indianapolis more equitable. Recent reports nationally and locally have shown a broad consensus of disturbing data about Indianapolis’s economic health and racial/economic disparities. These include PolicyLink’s National Equity Atlas and The Center for Community Progress. For more data and analysis click here

Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory

Spirit & Place supported the opening reception of Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory -- an exhibition at the Indiana Interchurch Center by the New York-based fiber artist, Laurie Wohl which intertwined Muslim, Jewish, and Christian poetry and spiritual texts from the period of the Convivencia in Spain and from contemporary Middle Eastern poets.

28th Joseph T. Taylor Symposium: It’s not foreign. It’s U.S.
Spirit & Place served in an advisory capacity for the Taylor Symposium which in 2017 explored how, as a nation of immigrants, the U.S. is one of the most diverse societies in the world. Yet, history and modern times are rife with examples of cultural misunderstandings that stand in the way of a truly integrated society. 

Knock it Out of the Park: FREE Event Design Workshop
The workshop focused on imaginative yet practical advice from Indiana Disability Rights on how to create more welcoming and accessible events; a presentation by Spirit & Place Program Director Erin Kelley on why articulating goals and sweating the small stuff matters; discussion with Congregation Beth-El Zedeck Education Director George Kelley on what it takes to select and prepare event panelists and moderators; and, finally, dramatization and role playing activities with Bonnie Mill, Nick Carpenter, and Andrea Lott Haney with the Sapphire Theatre Co

An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story 
The Center for Interfaith Cooperation, in partnership with Spirit & Place, screened the documentary An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story. A panel conversation featuring Dr. Lewis Galloway, Second Presbyterian Church senior pastor; Tim Swarens, Indianapolis Star opinion editor and columnist; Rev. Marilyn Gill, Indiana Christian Leadership Conference executive director; and Ray Haberski, IUPUI professor of history and American Studies director followed the film. 

What We Need is Here: Hope, Hard Times, & the Human Possibility
Spirit & Place proudly served as a promotional partner with St. Luke's Methodist Church for a concert with
 Carrie Newcomer and Parker Palmer, who came together to create an evening concert designed to encourage a new kind of conversation—one that bridges our divides and helps restore civic community.

Polio: A Look Back at American's Most Successful Public Health Crusade
Pulitzer Prize winning author of Polio: An American Story and New York University professor David Oshinsky spoke about the largest public health experiment in American history in this “History Talks! Engage the Past, in the Present, about the Future” lecture presented by IUPUI Department of History, with support from IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, IU School of Medicine, Spirit & Place, and JBS Society.


Before I Die Festival
End-of-life discussions can be downright awkward. Many of us avoid these conversations despite the fact a number of decisions need to be made at the end of someone’s life. Spirit & Place proudly partnered with the IU School of Nursing from April 15-17, 2016 on the United States’ first ever “Before I Die Festival." Through book discussions, panel conversations, film screenings, cemetery tours, clergy training, music, art, and even death café’s we sparked conversation for almost 800 attendees at 20+ events. 
Need help keeping this conversation going in your own life? Check out these resources:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande is a great text to share and use to start these important conversations. 

National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate, and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning.

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. 

Civic Challenge
In partnership with Indiana Humanities, Spirit & Place launched an initiative that encouraged nonprofit organizations to engage voters in nonpartisan activities in 2016 and beyond. Through a series of trainings, Spirit & Place led the way on educating 501(c)(3) organizations on how to engage their audiences, staff, and boards to bolster a culture of voter participation. 

Why this focus? “Nonprofits exist to help create strong and vibrant communities. We are trusted and respected entities,” said Spirit & Place Program Director Erin Kelley. “We are rooted in our communities, connected to public, and dedicated to service on a daily basis. Who better than Indiana’s nonprofits to encourage voter participation and to help create a culture of civic engagement?”

Gentrify: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly & Game Night at Sun King Brewery
It can be difficult to have honest conversations about gentrification because of how mired it is with issues of class, politics, race, and human impact. With this in mind, Spirit & Place and the Kheprw Institute partnered in 2016 to launch
Gentrify: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly--a series of community discussions that explored the impact and ramifications of gentrification above and beyond displacement. The series launched February 28 and culminated with the Spirit & Place Festival event, “From the Ground Up: A People-Centered Approach to Community Development.”

Spirit & Place also hosted a game night at Sun King Brewery in June of 2016. By tweaking a few classic tabletops games such as The Game of Life and Jenga, we created an engaging way for the public to learn about and begin discussing gentrification. (These games are available for nonprofit boards and community groups to borrow! Contact Erin Kelley at ekkelley@iupui.edu to learn more.) 

City Suppers: Spirit & Place Edition 
Spirit & Place was proud to have partnered with the Harrison Center and City Gallery on its 3rd Annual City Suppers in October 2016. Aimed at building stronger community bonds, City Suppers encourages friends, family, and especially neighbors to share a meal--at home--and to really get to know each other. In celebration of the Spirit & Place 2016 festival theme, HOME, we encouraged participants to use these home-inspired conversation starters during dinner. 

History Talks! History Talks! was an inaugural program of the IUPUI Department of History with support from the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, Spirit & Place, and Indiana Landmarks.

On December 10, 2015, historian James Madison presented "Two Centuries of Hoosiers"at the Indiana Landmarks Cook Theater. Madison provided an overview of the state's past, from Hoosier pioneers through the Civil War to the 21st century. His illustrated talk highlighted connections between past and present to help us think about the future.

Talking About Freedoms without Freaking Out

Talking about Freedoms was an an IUPUI discussion series powered by Spirit & Place with support from the IUPUI Office of Community Engagement, Indiana Humanities, IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Center for Interfaith Cooperation, and The Center for Civic Literacy.

During the summer of 2015, Spirit & Place worked to connect the public with legal scholars and others in an exploration of which freedoms the First Amendment does – and does not – protect. 

June 19:  Hate Speech and the First Amendment:  Values in Conflict
June 24:  Can We Talk about RFRA without Talking Past One Another?
July 13:  Trivia Night at Sun King

Want to learn more about the First Amendment? Check out these sites:

The Center for First Amendment Studies
Bill of Rights Institute
Constitutional Rights Foundation
National Constitution Center