"Indytalks tackles the future of Indiana"
Posted in NUVO on Jan. 6, 2010 by Jeff Cox
Indytalks, a social think tank formed by collaboration between the Athenaeum foundation, the Indiana Humanities Council, the Indiana Historical society and several other local organizations, begins its first in a year-long series of events aimed at getting Hoosiers involved in state issues. Its purpose is to stimulate intelligent and thoughtful conversation on topical social issues in an effort to support a sense of community among the people of Indiana.
Indytalks’ creators seek to bridge the gaps between major social, economic and artistic communities. “The notion was how do we bring intellectual conversation to the community,” says Cassie Stockamp, President of the Athenaeum Foundation and one of the principal players behind Indytalks. “We realized that they’re already going on in the city, but they’re being done in islands.” The solution, they figured, was to formulate a series of forums where civic dialogue could thrive and average Hoosiers could get direct answers about issues facing them for the future.
“As we talk about the career professional out there, how do we get them engaged, how do we get them involved in Indianapolis? [We want] to make the city feel more contemporary, consistent to what’s happening on the East and West coasts,”says Stockamp.
Indytalks’ creators are not alone in feeling that a city like Indianapolis, right in the center of the Midwest, could stand a stark look at itself in comparison with its coastal neighbors. Richard Longworth, former Chicago Tribune writer and author of Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism, makes supporting arguments in his recent book.
Longworth’s book focuses on many issues, but one theme keeps coming up — the need for the Midwest, a traditionally small-town-family-farm area, to adapt in order to fit the stringent realities of our economic and social future. Indytalks’ organizers feel the book’s principles could help guide Indianapolis’ future and inspire participation in many of the series’ events. This is most clearly shown in the first event — a Jan. 13 WFYI interview with Longworth to kick off the conversation and set a tone.
The next event, on Feb. 24, is perhaps the most intriguing concept Indytalks has planned in order to attract a wider variety of participants. “7 Simultaneous Lectures” is exactly what its name says. Seven well-known members of Indy’s art community lecture on the state of the arts in Indiana in the age of globalization, all at the same time — but audiences are able to adjust the speakers’ volume during the talk. “I’m looking forward to seeing something that most of us will never have sat through before,” says Stockamp. “It’s going to be interesting to see the speakers respond when someone gets up in the middle of their lecture.”
Other events spanning the year include “What the Arts Mean to Indianapolis”, “Is it Good to be a Hoosier?” and an evening presentation by television chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. The last event is scheduled for Oct. 7, but Stockamp does not think Indytalks will necessarily end there. “Our goal is, if it works, if people are responsive to us, sure; if not, let’s tweak it and see what we can do to make this even more meaningful.”