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India Day, Spark postcard project bring the world together

India Day, Spark postcard project bring the world together

By Karla D. Romero, Spark writer in residence 

As I walked towards Circle Spark last Sunday, the morning was barely underway in downtown Indianapolis. I circled around the Monument and noticed that along with the extra seating and parklets provided by Spark, there were colorful new booths, stands and tables covered in even more colorful clothing, food and knick-knacks.

People began to arrive in large numbers, many of them dressed in dhotis, saris and other traditional garments. Orange, white and green ribbons and balloons decorated the stage that sat just a few feet away from the trailer I had to report to for Spark – “INDIA ASSOCIATION OF INDIANAPOLIS,” said the gigantic flag on the stage. It was India Day and my task on this particular Sunday was to facilitate the postcard project, which consisted of encouraging people to either create their own or send one of the many Monument Circle postcards (a partnership with the Indiana Historical Society) Big Car provides to anyone, anywhere in the world, for free (we’ll have them out every Sunday as well as other days until Oct. 16). As we began to set up, I felt several raindrops fall on my arms and before the rain could fall and wilt the postcards, Jim and I went back to the trailer, with just enough time to avoid the insane (yet brief) rainstorm.

I don’t know about you, but to go to work and to get to watch a rainstorm wash away the weekend at Monument Circle on India Day is quite a beautiful sight, especially when the sun finally made its debut. Once the rain cleared a bit, Jim and I gave it another go and set up the postcard table. On the sandwich board next to the table, I wrote, “MAKE A POSTCARD & WE’LL SEND IT! FREE!”

At first, it was hard to get people to come by, but a few curious onlookers did manage to make their way over. “What is this for?” Asked one of them. I gave them the spiel and they couldn’t believe it. “Seriously? You’ll send it anywhere in the world for free? Why?” Everyone asked the same set of questions, most of those questions with a hint of skepticism. After several answers to these set of questions, I found one that made the most sense, “Why not?”

We had a few more issues with the weather, but once the sun came out again and lunchtime rolled around, people started to crowd the table, many of them ate and chatted with me but weren’t interested in making or sending a postcard. “Do you send them to India?” Asked a young guy who walked by. I looked over at Nick Zuckerman who was there with me at the time and we both kind of nodded. “Yes, anywhere.” I answered. “We just have to make sure we put another stamp on it.”

A little girl stepped away from the Shalimar food line where she stood with her dad and asked me, “Can you send one to my grandma?” “Sure!” I answered. She spent several minutes on her personalized postcard and handed it to me. Although for the most part it was illegible, I could see that the recipient address line said, “Grandma.” She handed it to me and asked, “Do you know where she lives?” And walked away. Everyone who stood nearby laughed and a few minutes later, the little girl’s dad came up to me. “Are you really sending them to India?” He asked. I told him we were and handed him the postcard. He smiled, filled out the recipient’s address line with grandma’s address. “Thank you so much! Thank you!” He said.

Word must have gotten out that we were actually sending postcards to India, (on India Day, for free) because I was now alone and surrounded by people who wanted to send a piece of this day to their loved ones. “I cannot believe that you’re doing this for free,” said a woman who had sent a couple to family in India. More and more people came, several from Latin America, Europe, from all across the U.S., and many from other towns and cities in Indiana.

Those of us who had sent postcards or letters in the past laughed when kids came up to send one. “How does this work?” I laughed and explained it. Once they understood the purpose of postcards altogether, the majority of the kids who participated while I was there wanted to send several more.

In a time where new technology and fairly easy global communication is the norm, to see so many people, young and old, from all over the world, get so incredibly excited and emotional to send a physical object to someone they love is the kind of human interaction that perhaps reminds us that we need more human interaction.

Last Sunday, I was reminded that touching, making and physical presence as a community isn’t a luxury, but an innate part of the human condition. Many people who participated in the postcard project on India Day probably feel something similar. Now, can you imagine every Sunday being this fulfilling in Indianapolis? Spark is making that happen.


The historic and artist-created (Niina Cochran and Andy Fry) postcards available during Spark. This is a partnership with the Indiana Historical Society. Stop by and ask for one and we’ll mail it anywhere for you. 

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Planting city seeds with Wednesday walks

Planting city seeds with Wednesday walks

By Karla Romero, Spark writer in residence
By now you know that Spark is a project that temporarily reflects the endless cultural and socio-civic possibilities of a central and community-driven space in our city. What you may not know is that each day has a theme and Wednesday’s is simple: walking.

I got to spend last Wednesday evening at Monument Circle and what I saw was much more than a cultural shift in our city. I was approached by onlookers who wondered what was going on and why the Circle had gone through such a transformation. A family visiting from North Carolina, with a thick Cackalacky accent, chatted with us and sat along the Circle at the additional Spark seating. I thought, “How will their contact with Spark impact their opinion of Indianapolis?” They spent well over an hour playing games and participating in the overall Spark experience, so I’m certain that their vision of Indianapolis was greatly shaped by their time at Monument Circle. Sadly, they left before the most exciting part of Walking Wednesdays, a free guided Theme Walk. Last Wednesday’s Theme Walk was of the Indiana State House.

Jennifer Hodge from Capitol Tours led us from Monument Circle towards the State House. The tour started at 6:30 p.m. And, as our group started to walk, I looked around and saw that people were not only engaged with their surrounding, but they looked different. Before Spark, my memory of the Circle consisted of an image of the daily shuffle of individuals who were there to take pictures and leave, regulars who in many ways call Monument Circle their home, and those who used that space to walk through to get somewhere else. On this particular Wednesday, I could see people’s eyes as they looked across the Circle to investigate the changes to part of their daily expanse. Many sat at the parklets and tables that line the Circle. Others stopped and chatted, pointed and smiled, and just stood there, perhaps wishing that this were a permanent fixture.

The tour was packed with incredible facts and an immense amount of information about the Indiana State House. For example, did you know that the State House has a Sycamore tree that was grown from one of the famous Moon Tree seeds? In 1971, Apollo 14 Astronaut Stuart A. Roosa carried approximately 500 seeds to the moon as an experiment for the U.S. Forest Service. One of those seeds was planted in the front lawn arboretum of the State House in April of 1976, and is now one of only about 50 trees still alive from that experiment. For more information and a virtual tour of the State House, please visit: http://www.in.gov/idoa/virtual-tour/

This week’s Theme Walk goes very well with this little-known fact about our local Moon Tree. Aborist Nate Faris from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful will lead the Downtown Tree Tour, where we will learn what trees say about our city.

The most exciting part about the Theme Walks is that you’ll be able to enjoy a different one each Wednesday for the duration of Spark. So, if you find yourself pondering what your next Wednesday will consist of, remember you can change it drastically. Despite the fact that Spark will only last through mid October, perhaps the best way to prolong the experience of this project is by making a habit of using these pre-existing spaces more often.

If we can envision a space in our city as an expectation and not just an idea, we can continue to utilize the Circle after Spark has finished and demonstrate that turning a Wednesday into a cultural experience isn’t a luxury left to those who live in the biggest cities. I’m certain that the family from North Carolina that we talked to last Wednesday sees Indianapolis under a unique lens that most of us don’t, since their Monument Circle experience was exclusively defined by Spark. What if every Wednesday you could walk to the Circle and discover something about your city that enriches your cultural knowledge, your community and your personal and interpersonal growth? Join us every Wednesday through mid October, as we connect ourselves and our community to our city’s most treasured landmarks, history and hidden corners!

Upcoming Theme Walk schedule:

Aug. 12: Downtown Tree Tour  
— What can our trees say about our city? Get up close and personal while learning about nature with this tree tour led by arborist Nate Faris of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.

Aug. 19: Virginia Avenue History — Virginia Avenue boasts many historic buildings as one of Indy’s first most important streets. Explore what the avenue has to offer during this themed walk led by historian Connie Zeigler.

Aug. 26: Indy Oddities — Believe it or not, Indy is full of oddities. Explore what’s weird with artist Kipp Normand on this themed walk. Are you sensing some great photo opportunities?

Sept. 2: Mass Ave  — Massachusetts Avenue is certainly one of our city’s hangout hotspots. See why during this themed walk with Eric Strickland of the Riley Area Development Corporation.

Sept. 9: German American History — Explore German American History with architectural historian William Selm in this week’s theme walk. If you’re German, see if your roots might play a part in our city’s history in this themed walk.

Sept. 16: Pogue’s Run — Explore Pogue’s run, an urban creek that runs right through Indy, in this themed walk that has you experiencing your city in a whole new way, led by artist Sean Derry who did a previous project marking Pogue’s Run under downtown. Alan Goffinski of Reconnecting to Our Waterways will also help out.

Sept. 23: Downtown Public Art — Public art is everywhere, but sometimes we miss it when we are in a hurry or are quickly driving by. Take time to relax and enjoy our city’s public art in this themed walk led by Julia Muney Moore of the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

Sept. 30: Situationist Walk  — Tedd Grain of Indianapolis LISC and Big Car’s Jim Walker team up to explore walks as a spontaneous wandering games. Learn a little about the Situationist idea of the dérive and try one together.

Oct. 7: Indiana Avenue — Experience Indianapolis history in a new way with a themed walk from the Circle to historic Indiana Avenue with community activist Donna Stokes-Lucas.

Oct. 14: Haunted Indianapolis — What downtown hotspots give you the creeps? Explore Indy’s haunted locations with artist ghost investigator Craig McCormick.