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Community-led change on the Near Eastside: Indy East Arts Peace, 46201 Project aim to transform a neglected part of town

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While many view summer as an ideal time to cash in vacation days, host barbecues and relax, some members of the community will be using the summer to help rejuvenate an often-neglected area of Indianapolis. Building 10 homes, renovating 80-plus others and finding ways to invest $50,000 into beautifying the near east side is in the cards this season, thanks to two initiatives organized by local nonprofits and implemented by members of the community. 

 

The 46201 Project

This past week alone, hundreds of individuals volunteered their time to help repair homes in the Near Eastside’s 46201 area code. These home renovations are part of the Shepherd Community Center’s 46201 Project that launched this summer. In the 46201 Project neighborhoods, a staggering 35 percent of all housing is abandoned and approximately 39 percent of the population lives below the Federal Poverty Line. The goal of the initiative is to help families break the cycle of poverty by tackling the systemic issues in the neighborhood.

Many of this week’s volunteers were from a church group in town for a convention, and the Shepherd Community Center plans to send more groups and individuals from local churches, businesses and organizations to help Near Eastside residents. They hope to renovate 80-100 homes by the end of the summer.

“We are focusing on houses that are owned, because we don’t want to fix up a home and have an issue where the landlord will up the price on the tenant. Any homeowner who is interested can apply to receive help with everything from simple tasks to painting, roofing and all types of things,” said Jill Height of the Shepherd Community Center. “The majority of all the workers are volunteers, and there are volunteer opportunities for people who know how to build a home and for people who have no experience.” 

Potential volunteers can apply on Shepherd Community Center’s website, and individuals who want assistance with their home can inquire by giving the center a call. 

46201

 

In addition to helping homeowners restore their property, the center is building 10 homes from the ground up through a partnership with the Central Indiana Fuller Center for Housing. The homes will be sold to individuals selected by the Fuller Center based on need. Height says the recipients will pay $400 a month in rent for 20 years.

Building houses is only the first step of a five-year initiative to tackle numerous areas of concern. 

“Our goal is to affect housing, hunger and hope. We know that our neighborhood is not always seen as the nicest in the city, and we want to make an impact by identifying the underlying issues and find solutions. Hope is a big factor in that, because if you have no hope, you don’t care to make a change,” said Height. “We want people to volunteer and get involved. We want to get to know our neighbors on a first-name basis, and we want to offer hope to people overall.” 

 

Indy East Arts Peace

While some organizations are working on repairing houses, others are finding additional ways to make the Near Eastside safer and visually pleasing. According to Julia Moore of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, safety and beauty go hand-in-hand. 

“The things you put in public space and the way you arrange a public space can actually reduce crime. Making kids feel integrated in a space is another way to increase public safety and discourage crime later on,” said Moore. 

Armed with a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Arts Council of Indianapolis has partnered with Near East Area Renewal (NEAR) to spearhead Indy East Arts Peace, a community-led initiative that aims to train select Near Eastside residents in creative placemaking and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED looks at ways to create spaces that encourage safe engagement with the world. It can include the strategic use of shrubbery, the placement of gates and security devices, or eliminating hidden places where criminal activity can take place. Creative placemaking is all about making a community more enjoyable. It targets places where people gather, walk and play and makes them more interactive and beautiful. The end goal is to create safer and more desirable places to live.

“We are creating spaces where people can compose music together, create art together or participate in theater together. We want to find spaces where all of this can happen on the east side. We want to make things more comfortable through artistic seating, well-designed activities and things that increase beauty,” said Moore.

Most importantly, all of these concepts are going to be decided upon up and implemented by Near Eastside residents. Indy East Arts Peace will hire four artists, four community leaders and four members of law enforcement and split them into small teams. These teams will explore the neighborhood and come up with creative ways to improve the Near Eastside using art and design.

“Think of the times you have been enthusiastic about something. It’s usually because it’s your own idea that you are excited about. The idea is to train community members and artists who will be working in their own neighborhoods, and police officers who know what crime happens where. It won’t just be visual artists that we are looking for; we want musicians, dancers, all mediums. Each team will create three to five ideas that could take place at different locations. There might be 25 ideas at the end, and we will have a big pitch night party where the teams and the community at large are brought together to vote for their favorite ideas.” 

Indy East Arts Peace will officially launch in August. The planning, training and engagement phase runs till July 2019, and all participants will be paid for their time.

 

For more information on Project 46201, visit 46201project.com. To connect with the Arts Council of Indianapolis, visit indyarts.org.

The 46201 Project

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