Why Indianapolis is a test case for a fairer form of gentrification

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Why Indianapolis is a test case for a fairer form of gentrification
The gentrifying Fountain Square neighbourhood of Indianapolis

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Why Indianapolis is a test case for a fairer form of gentrification
The gentrifying Fountain Square neighbourhood of Indianapolis

Arts collective Big Car helped transform a down-and-out Indianapolis neighbourhood into a thriving cultural hub, but then artists and other residents were priced out. Their new regeneration plan seeks to shift this urban paradigm

“I helped change one neighbourhood into a hipster place, and then we got priced out of there.” Artist Jim Walker is describing the shift in fortunes of the Fountain Square district of Indianapolis, where his Big Car arts collective was born a decade ago – and of the artists and residents who have been forced to move on by the neighbourhood’s gentrification.

Walker’s experience is an increasingly familiar story in cities around the world – a tale of urban pioneers who play a central role in the redevelopment of a downtown area, only to find themselves unable to afford to stay there. Is there a more equitable way? That’s just what Walker is trying to find out with his latest arts-led Indianapolis project.

When Walker and his wife, Shauta Marsh – alongside a collective of artists, writers, designers and musicians – first took up residency in the vast and (at that time) empty Murphy Art Center in Fountain Square for $135 per month, they had little idea that a decade later, the area would be the centre of the city’s music and film sectors; emblematic of an arts- and creative industries-based inner-city revival.

Ten years ago, Fountain Square was off the Indianapolis cultural map, with poor transit and social amenities. “Instead of sitting around and complaining about the cultural offerings our city lacked,” Walker says, “we started making things happen, doing what artists can to help turn our neighbourhood around.” []

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