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Spirit and Place festival is a lot of things wrapped into one

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It can be difficult to explain what exactly the Spirit and Place R/Evolution Festival is about. There are more than 30 events stretched over a 10-day period Nov. 1-10, covering everything from the intersection of faith and science to a panel discussion about the theory and practice of a boycott.

Here’s how program director Erin Kelley summarized it: There’s a lot going on, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for people to interpret these themes and messages however they think is appropriate because, of course, not everyone will see the same thing.

It’s important to acknowledge that everyone is connected in some way, Kelley said, “but there’s no such thing as one community.”

“We need a festival that reflects that level of diversity within the community but also says we are one place,” she said.

Most events are free, though an RSVP is required for some and encouraged for others. There’s a full list of events at spiritandplace.org, which is also where you can RSVP.

The festival will end with a conversation with New York Times Magazine investigative writer Nikole Hannah-Jones 4:30-6 p.m. Nov. 10 at Shelton Auditorium on Butler University’s campus, 1000 W. 42nd St. Hannah-Jones was the lead journalist for the 1619 Project, which explored the legacy of slavery in America. The event is free and requires an RSVP, though seats will go on a first-come, first-served basis.

The R/Evolution title is supposed to convey two meanings. On one hand, ways of seeing the world and interacting with it are evolving; on the other, some issues require a revolution.

Debra Des Vignes thinks the event she’s helping to lead, (W)rites of Passage, has the potential for both.

About a dozen formerly incarcerated people will present their writing — some stories, some poems — to an audience 7-9 p.m. Nov. 8 at The Church Within, 1125 Spruce St. They will also read work from writers who are currently incarcerated. Walk-ins are welcome, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP online.

Des Vignes is founder and director for Indiana Prison Writers Workshop, which is hosting the event along with Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and Indiana Women’s Prison History Project.

Des Vignes moved to Indianapolis about nine years ago and volunteered at the Plainfield Correctional Facility, where she gave the inmates a writing prompt: If they were a bird, would they fly alone or with others? Where would they go?

“There was a lot of raw talent and creativity in the room,” she said.

The stories formerly incarcerated people will present at the event also come from a prompt. Des Vignes said some of the writing will be about more sober topics like addiction and trauma, but there will also be some encouraging stories.

Des Vignes hopes those who hear the stories will be inspired to give some of their time or resources to organizations like hers that work with inmates. It could be something as simple as donating some pens and pads of paper inmates can use to write with.

“They’ll come away with a greater sense of empathy and awareness after hearing the stories,” Des Vignes said. “Hearing their stories will humanize those who are behind bars.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick @Ty_Fenwick at 317-872-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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