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Spirit & place festival connects communities via art and religion

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Music festival season has come and gone, but there is a celebration coming to Indy that intends to get the community moving in an unusual way. The Spirit & Place festival, taking place at various locations around the city Nov. 3-12, aims to help citizens move forward through the growth of the human spirit by giving Hoosiers avenues to reflect on how the arts, humanities and religion play a role in civic engagement and social change. 

The Spirit & Place festival has been around since 1996, and its programs have reached over 250,000 people. The group operates under the belief that a healthy community values the traditions, convictions and contributions of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural groups and feels that understanding each other is the key to shaping and strengthening our communities.

Erin Kelley, program director with Spirit & Place, wants to ensure the event features smaller organizations alongside large institutions. 

“We have worked hard to develop relationships with not only large anchor institutions, but also smaller congregations and grassroots connections. When we create events, we ask ourselves, how can we use art or religion as a tool to talk about issues we have today? We are trying to work directly with the ‘boots on the ground’ folk who are out in the community, using arts and other strategies to address social justice issues,” said Kelley.

The theme for this year’s festival is power, and many of the events explore power or the lack thereof, and what meaning that has for the lives of Indianapolis residents. Exhibits focus on uplifting the voices of the community’s homeless, the power of food to revitalize a neighborhood and the power of imagination. Despite the fact that these events touch on serious matters, Kelley wants Spirit & Place to be a place where connections are made and fun is at the forefront. 

“We get into some really serious stuff at Spirit & Place, and we do a lot of work around racial equity and social justice, but it’s also really important to make time for fun and for families to get together. Our opening night is unapologetically about fun; it’s about superpowers and superheroes, and the kids who dressed up for Halloween can put that costume back on and come out to enjoy games and crafts,” said Kelley.

At the end of the day, Kelley hopes all who attend the festival will leave with a better sense of their own personal power and potential to make an impact.

“We as individuals have power to make a difference in the world, to choose to inform ourselves and be engaged in the world. I want people to realize their own power to be active agents in the community.”

Don’t miss these Spirit & Place events:


Superhero’s Bash

Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, 6-9 p.m. at Harrison Center for the Arts 

Bring the kids and geek out with Spirit & Place and kick off the 2017 festival with the Superhero’s Bash! Dress as your favorite superhero or other empowering character you love for a night of games, art, music and fun. This is a free, family-friendly event with beverages and food available for sale. A costume contest will take place at 7 p.m.


Break the Chains Off! History of Hip Hop in Power & Resistance Saturday, Nov. 11, 6-8 p.m. at Mt. Zion Renaissance Center

Hip-hop is an art form that has been used as a powerful tool to break the chains of oppression faced by African-Americans in America. Learn about the historical usage of hip-hop as an inspirational musical narrative, engage in discussion and view a photography exhibit by photojournalist Wildstyle, which captures the creative journeys of some of Indy’s finest hip-hop artists. 

To learn more about Spirit & Place, visit spiritandplace.org.

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