It’s Not a Party Unless It’s a “Porch Party”

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You’ve probably already noticed the new billboard on 16th St. and East of Yandes St. because the photo’s effortless purity makes you pause and--if even for a moment--can bring you out of your commute and into nostalgic childhood memories that blend into a hopeful potential for what your neighborhood could be like.

Community photographer, Andrea Smith, unintentionally embodied her message behind the billboard’s photo, “Porch Party,” when she generously agreed to meet me for this interview. Rather than sitting inside on the City Gallery’s comfy couch, she suggested we sit outside in the sun.  

After silently realizing that I couldn’t remember the last time I was outside for longer than it takes me to get to and from the parking lot, I already felt more comfortable talking to Smith. The reason why this billboard is so eye-catching is because it’s capturing a relatable, vulnerable moment in our lives that we almost never see from an objective perspective.

Smith revealed the context that the viewer doesn’t get to see: several different families, demographics, races and ages all coming together on a personal level in “a collective effort to foster good neighborhood and community relationships. Porch parties (#porchpartyindy) encourage neighbors to get to know one another!” When taking this photo, all that Smith directed was for them to “actually get to know each other;” she was sparking community not only while the photo was being taken but will continue to as people see the “Porch Party” billboard.

She explained that the photo evokes nostalgia for core values that older generations of communities held and that she experienced these kinds of moments herself when she was growing up in Indy.

“If it was raining outside, you were on the porch and everybody would come over or go to whoever had the biggest porch and play.” Smith continued to describe the safety that was unspokenly upheld in her childhood neighborhood by the elders and retirees that were always on their porches. “So you just knew Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Smith because you knew they’d be sitting out and helping watch for the community.”

Even though I personally have never experienced something like that, I could sense the authenticity and calmness that took over when she re-lived these memories. Smith recalled that her love for photography began at “the place I grew up in… So being a child, I couldn’t often get away from my place so those are the things and the people that I would photograph.”

Now an established artist and entrepreneur, Smith is able to use her foundation of place and photography to convey positive messages of “hope and community relationships.” She hopes that people will see the billboard and understand that this nostalgic safety and community can still exist today in Indy’s neighborhoods.