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.