Art School Student Finds Pleasant Surprises in Urban Indy


When Jennifer Jackson moved to Indianapolis to attend art school, she was pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

Surprise number one came when she stumbled upon the Harrison Center for the Arts, and it was that day that she was introduced to Joanna Taft, director of City Gallery, who immediately helped her to get plugged in.  Describing Joanna as “a force of nature,” Jennifer recollects the first time they met.  As soon as Jennifer mentioned that she was moving to Indy for art school, Joanna let loose with an onslaught of questions.  “She was like, ‘That’s fantastic! Do you need a place to stay, do you need a roommate, do you need a job, do you have a resume?  I have a list—I can send it out!’” Jennifer recalls.  “It was amazing because she said, ‘There’s no need for you to start from scratch when you’ve got a community right here ready to support you.’”

It wasn’t long before Jennifer was settled in the Old Northside, in a historic apartment building built in the 1930s.  She likes to brag about the roomy layout, hardwood floors, 9-foot ceilings, and entire wall of south-facing windows. Best of all is the milk dropbox, a remnant of the days when milkmen would deposit milk for the tenants each day. It’s now little more than a small cubby hole in her coat closet, hidden behind a small, green, iron door, but it was a tiny surprise in and of itself. “It totally woke up the 12-year-old girl in me,” Jennifer says.  “You just want to stash your little love notes and mementos and treasures in there.  That was a really fun thing to find.”

A second surprise came when Jennifer discovered the wonderful foodie culture in Indy.  She notes, “When I first moved here, it felt like everything was just a big chain, so I was happy that I got disabused of that notion.  There’s really great, innovative, fun food at all price ranges.  I feel like Indy has a fantastic food truck culture, and then there are little independent eateries like Punch Burger and Pure and Patachou.  Jennifer’s recommendation?  Fountain Square’s Peppy Grill.  “Super cheap,” she says.  “They have sour cream fries and the best chocolate milkshakes in the city.”

The list of unexpected Indy perks gets longer as Jennifer discusses the accessibility of the city.  “Cheap parking, that was a lovely surprise about Indy,” she remarks.  “I was expecting Chicago.  The cost of Indianapolis for the city that it is, it’s truly affordable.  My cost of living is probably not any more than it was in South Bend.”  And the price point isn’t the only characteristic Indy shares with small towns.  Jennifer describes Indianapolis as “either the biggest town or the smallest city you’ve ever lived in,” which is a huge part of its appeal.  She loves that, despite its size, it still feels very homey and livable.  “You don’t get lost here,” she says, “and I mean psychologically speaking, not just geographically.”

Overall, Jennifer’s favorite thing about Indianapolis is the abundance of people “committed to place and making the most of the city.”  For now, she’s happy in her apartment, but someday she’d like to buy a home in another downtown neighborhood and be a part of a revitalization effort.  “I love the idea of creating community within local neighborhoods,” she says, “and I want to be a part of that.”

But that’s no surprise.