Becoming Convertible

This past December, the Harrison Center was honored to receive a $2.1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment as part of the Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative. The generous donation makes possible the Harrison Center’s Convertible project, which will make the Harrison Center’s building and programs more welcoming and to increase access to the arts.

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Since its inception, the Harrison Center has been privileged to play a role in the growth and development of Indianapolis by showcasing artists and their work, connecting Indy’s citizens to meaningful cultural resources, and addressing community issues with creative solutions. We have much to be thankful for, as the relationships built through the years have given us a unique platform to provide our neighbors with rich engagement with the arts and culture, but the future will be even more exciting. The Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation initiative from the Lilly Endowment, seeks to make the arts and culture a more prominent part of life in Indianapolis, which goes hand-in-hand with what we believe and strive to do at the Harrison Center. Art is for everyone, and, at its core, our funded project, Convertible is a blueprint for making the arts more accessible for all of Indianapolis.

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Tangibly, there are a number of different ways that Convertible will be implemented. The Harrison Center inhabits a vast, historic building full of character and personality, but also full of challenges to share it well. Convertible will make needed upgrades but a creative twist. To name a few, the City Gallery, the first gallery you see when you walk into the Harrison Center and the room with large glass windows facing Delaware Street, will be upgraded with retractable storefront windows and an awning for shade and to help our programming flow inside and out. The rooftop of the Harrison Center, currently unused, will be transformed into a deck venue for classes, parties, community gatherings, and the occasional LED tetherball match. The courtyard will become a dog park/art garden with activities, holiday lights, and even a life-sized hamster wheel, providing a space where dog owners and Indy citizens of all ages can have fun together. The entire building will become more user friendly and less confusing to navigate, with a karaoke elevator, and each or our 7 exterior entrances differentiated by color themed light installations. Our holiday windows initiative will be expanded to include 18 more windows and to host exhibits more often. The 100 year old smokestack will be restored and repurposed as an art installation puffing colored steam. The Harrison Center is growing and developing, and the long list of exciting changes coming to the building will serve to better accommodate the many people who come through the doors each year.

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Convertible will also  make our programming more welcoming.  Our Adventure Fund will enable artists to take the Harrison Center throughout the city, empowering neighbors to exercise their creativity by making spaces for participation in the arts, or even by further supporting our neighborhood partners doing good work in their own right.  Convertible will enable us to share our library of place based videos and songs with the community, support pop up ice cream sales from our portable cart, staff to plan new programs and clean up. Convertible is an invitation to experience the arts in Indy. The cultural and artistic needs of the city and its residents are diverse and multi-faceted. We are responding by removing barriers to the arts, a Convertible solution, if you will. We are thankful for the constant support through the years from the Indy community that has made the Harrison Center what it is today, and we are grateful to the Lilly Endowment for this funding to help us serve Indianapolis better. The future of the arts in Indy exciting, and we hope you will join us to enjoy the coming changes.

Kyle Baird