Indy strives to keep on creating

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On March, 23 Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all non-essential businesses to close and for everyone to stay inside unless for essential travel. This state mandate is affecting industries across the board.

According to, more than 1,000 Indianapolis arts and culture events have been canceled due to COVID-19. 30,000 artists, administrators, and affiliated workers, and over 125 arts and cultural organizations that make up the art industry in Indianapolis have been affected.

“Last year the income for our organization was about a third of our budget, $300,000 came from that work,” Walker said. “If things don’t get straightened out and people aren’t back out in public spaces, we have the potential to lose a third of our income.”  

Local artist Melissa Cain is one of the thousands affected by COVID-19. Since 2012, Cain has been teaching acrylic painting lessons and other art lessons such as paint and sit parties and even kids’ birthday parties. During this time, she has turned to online platforms like Facebook to continue giving lessons.

“I’ve had a few messages since then, some other people have now found my video and painted and sent me the pictures of what they painted afterwards,” Cain said. “That’s pretty cool, because it’s ongoing, anyone can now take advantage of that lesson.”

Cain said her art is currently being shown at Full Circle Nine in the Circle City Industrial Complex. However, she is currently paying for this rental space without people being able to go enjoy her art, she said. 

“I just got it [her art] in there in February, so it was in there about a month before everything closed down,” Cain said. “I’m renting a wall space that nobody can even get in and see right now.”

Photo Contributed by Melissa Cain Local artist Melissa Cain’s artwork displayed in the Circle City Industrial Complex. Cain rented the space a month before the stay-at-home order.

Despite the closure, Cain was granted access to go into the gallery in the coming week and do a virtual gallery showing so that people are able to see her work. 

Like Cain, other organizations are figuring out ways to keep Indy creating. Co-founder and executive director at Big Car Collaborative, Jim Walker said that the organization has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Indianapolis’ First Fridays are held each month, where galleries, studios, and culturally-oriented businesses come together to celebrate and support the arts across Indianapolis according to Walker said that April’s First Friday has already been canceled, and May’s will most likely be canceled as well. 

“The biggest effects on us right now is that we’re not having things happen out in public spaces …  like the Tube Factory,” Walker said. “In February, we had close to 2,000 people here for the opening and all kinds of different local vendors and artists participated in that First Friday and March was a little slower because people were starting to get concerned. That’s a big change for us.”

The summer is typically a busy time for Big Car Collaborative. A decent amount of their income comes from doing paid work, like at the Indiana State Fair, Walker said.

“Last year the income for our organization was about a third of our budget, $300,000 came from that work,” Walker said. “If things don’t get straightened out and people aren’t back out in public spaces, we have the potential to lose a third of our income.”  

Walker said that as an organization that this is something they have to think about and how they will be able to sustain themselves. While the summer is questionable, Walker said that Big Car Collaborative has turned to their radio station during this time.

“For First Friday, our plan is to have new content on the radio but also to have a program where people can even do home tours of their own art,” Walker said.

Big Car Collaborative is working hard to make people feel less isolated, like through their radio station Walker said. The organization is about bringing people together through the arts, according to Small Change Interactive, a theater organization, strives to do the same thing. They try to improve society by strengthening communities through creating relationships between individuals according to 

Founder and CEO Susan Galey Jones said that Small Change Interactive has made the switch to Zoom to continue Playback theater.

“Playback theater is where the actors listen to stories from an audience and then they play the story back in an improvisational type of way,” Jones said. “We are trying to connect and really help people feel heard and seen.”

According to Jones, Zoom has a feature for webinars. These webinars can have many guests, and Small Change Interactive’s goal is to have people pay to join the session said Jones. From there, Jones mentioned that guests could listen and have their stories shared. They are trying to combat isolation, said Jones.

“Those feelings of isolation can only be met and conquered by creating connection with people.” Jones said.  “Especially those people who are pretty much on their own, they don’t have family that they’re quarantined with. Those people can reach out and feel seen and heard. That’s what we hope to do.”

There are a plethora of ways that the Indianapolis community can still support local artists and organizations during this time of uncertainty. Walker and Cain said that buying art is a great way to support artists during this time but if you are unable to buy art during this time, simply sharing and spreading the word of art can be impactful.

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