A spirit must be been swirling within Indianapolis, taking root in similarly minded people. I’ve been encountering more and more folks who have been convicted to use art as an inspiration for urban renewal.

Art plays an indispensable role in the life of a city, though sometimes people lose sight of any practical value to it. These privately funded organizations, feeling the recessional pinch of government budgets, dedicate themselves to bring together artistic talent and civic projects with the goal of neighborhood development. They incorporate the creative talents of local artists into the big infrastructure projects in the hopes of influencing positive changes in a community.

Jonathan Thomas, CEO of Eastgate Studios, says that “Art, in its many permutations, has historically provided powerful platforms of expression for change, some of the greatest of which was conceived during hours of immense crises. Through the rising tide of homicidal bloodshed on the streets of Indianapolis, I believe that God is calling the people of this capital city into a place of bold response, rather than fearful reaction. The art community of Indianapolis has been given an incredible opportunity to respond with the beauty of creativity. Therefore, EastGate Studios exists to unleash hope by harnessing the power of creativity among those who feel voiceless, as a catalyst for spiritual, cultural, and economic renewal.”

Some are thinking through strategies that use art as a tool for development. Matt Theobald, chairman of the Revitalize Art Music Project, says that “RAMP is a synthesis of the creative class in urban renewal and cultural tourism. If you throw the creative class at problems, all kinds of creative solutions can emerge.” The arts bring with them vitality, and there is an underexplored relationship between exhibition and the economic and social development of a poor and neglected community. Among their planned activities include a mural festival seeking to renew the east side.

So while short sighted politicians are happy to see funding for the arts cut, forgetting the importance of cultural tourism in the life of a city, the arts have not turned its back on the city. And that’s good for all of us.

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