We Are City

We Are City is not only our upcoming First Friday September 7th show, it's also the name of a collaborative group of city-loving thinkers, wanting to make this city better.  I asked Michael Kaufmann of Ezkenazi Health, one of the persons involved in the group, to explain in depth what is We Are City.

JF: Michael, who are you and what do you do in Indianapolis?

MK: I am first and foremost a citizen, a Hoosier by choice, and a city lover. I work for Health & Hospital Corporation as Director of Special Projects and Civic Investment. I live in south Broad Ripple or SoBro. I have lived in Indy for almost 8 years.

JF: You have a summit quickly approaching in September, We Are City. But it’s more than just a summit, right? What is We Are City?

MK: We Are City is many things. It arose out of last year's Urbanized Summit held at the IMA. But it is comprised of four main components.

1) We Are City: BRIEFING The BRIEFING is a twice-weekly email that is a digest capture of internet stories of things going on cities both [here] and [there] in an effort to examine ways in which cities are addressing their challenges and embracing opportunities. It also provides an editorial space for folks to [think], [react], or simply express [love] for something in the city.

2) We Are City: EXCHANGE A city fair or bazaar that is a gathering of city building organizations of all stripes, including for-profits, non-profits. Folks selling city branded t-shirts and accessories, environmental protection groups, bike advocacy groups, neighborhood CDCs, etc. This year's EXCHANGE will be coinciding with the Harrison Center's First Friday event on September 7th.

3) We Are City: SCREENING We have hosted a series of films that address different aspects of city living. Following the film is a brief panel discussion and then breakout sessions with topic tables for more in-depth public conversation about these issues. We will be resuming these sometime early next year.

4) We Are City: SUMMIT This is the most important component. This is a half-day conference bringing in folks from around the country as well as local experts to discuss a wide range of topics related to city living. Our hope is to eventually grow this into a regional conference that is unique in the diversity of topics as well as the forms those conversations take. This year's SUMMIT is on September 21st from Noon-5PM at the Harrison Center for the Arts. Tickets are available here: http://wearecity2012.eventbrite.com/

JF: What was the motivation behind putting it on and what will the summit entail? What do you hope will happen as a result of it?

MK: The SUMMIT will be comprised of three sections: measure, interpret and connect. Measure will examine at ways people are using data to help inform city infrastructure and neighborhood development. Interpret will look at creative ways of using design, art and music to address city issues. Connect will highlight efforts being made to draw all of this together and then connect the greater public with projects that enhance city living. We will also be using the framework of baseline, distinctive and exceptional to evaluate how we measure up on various aspects of livability and city competitiveness.

The motivation behind the SUMMIT is to provide a context in which we can explore city living in all of its varied nuances, both the positive and the negative, and begin to advance best practices and discover new solutions that will help make Indianapolis globally competitive.

JF: We Are City is also collaborating with the Harrison Center for the Arts! and the City Gallery for the September show. What will see on this First Friday?

MK: First Friday will be a combination of a lot of great and maybe at first seemingly disconnected elements. But really it will highlight many of the great things going on in the city and show how arts and architecture are helping us better understand our city and enhancing the lives of our citizens. This includes the Eskenazi Art Program for our new public hospital, AIA's solution-driven design for vacant lots, IDADA's celebration of our downtown galleries and artists, Jonathan McAfee's colorful portraits of a multicultural world, the aforementioned EXCHANGE. In many ways the Harrison Center will be a microcosm of a city.

JF: How can someone stay up-to-date or learn more about We Are City?

MK: The BRIEFING is the best source of information, http://wearecity.us

JF: Thanks so much for answering a few our questions.  We look forward to all the events on Sept. 7th and the Summit on Sept. 21st.

Jonathan Frey is a freelance photographer, roaming Indianapolis for pictures and conversation.

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