Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v07n11)
And In The OTHER Cultural Districts... - Casey Jo Ailes
posted: May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 20. 2010, the Earth House (227 N. East Street, located in Lockerbie Central) in downtown Indianapolis played host to the film screening Beyond the Motor City, a film directed by Aaron Woolf. This film revolves around the opinion that transportation can be seen as a way to revitalize a city such as Detroit. It also lays out how behind our nation is, when it comes to public transportation and the support at the Federal level. Prior to the film, local transit and planning advocates were presenting their ideas along with handouts, PowerPoint presentations and many heated discussions on how behind the city is with their efforts on public transportation. Presenters included: INDYCOG, ICAT, AARP, PUP and CICS. You may be asking, "who on earth are all of these acronyms?" Let me see if I can shine a little light on the subject without boring you about transit.
INDYCOG started last year as a blogging hotspot about the North America Handmade Bicycle Show that took place here in Indianapolis. It has launched into a legitimate advocacy movement across central Indiana. These true info-mongers are working to encourage the city to include cyclists in the future of transportation growth. And why not? Riding your bike does more than just shed a few pounds from your waistline, it is one of the most eco-friendly means of transportation available. For more info on INDYCOG visit www.theindycog.com.
Indiana Citizens Alliance for Transit, ICAT is known as the advocate for the immediate development. Basically when there was no one around to bring all the different sectors of transit together, ICAT was born. They are the organizational backbone to reach out to the public about the plans that are in existence. For more information on ICAT visit www.indianacat.org.
Most of us have heard of AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people fifty and over improve the quality of their lives. So why on earth are they hanging out at a transit event? Good question. Our local AARP are firm supporters of seeing our downtown area revive the street car. Simply put, streetcars create communities where residents have alternatives to cars for getting around. Not only do they cost less in the long run and pollute less than other forms of transportation, they can bring life back to a neighborhood that may have seen better days.
PUP, nope not K-9 related, People for Urban Progress is an Indianapolis-based non-profit organization that promotes public transit, environmental awareness and urban design. You may have seen a bit of PUP's work in the form of a handbag. They are the go-getters that stopped the city from pouring the entire RCA Dome vinyl roof into a landfill and came up with some better solutions for the material, one being the innovative Dome Bag Project. The items are available online at www.shopsilverinthecity.com. Working with local artists, they are creating wallets, clutches and messenger bags made from the roof of the former Dome. Proceeds from the sale of these items will benefit the Indianapolis Parks Department. PUP is working on using the same material to make structures and pavilions throughout the city. Since they are a non-profit they have no money to continue with this innovative idea so they are working on securing grants, one being the Pepsi Refresh campaign. PUP is in the running for a $250,000 grant that would be dedicated to providing these new shelters and shade pavilions in the Indianapolis parks. If you would like to help PUP with this project, vote for them this month. (Voting ends May 31st) www.peopleup.org. All of this sounds wonderful, but why was PUP at the Transit Fair? They are dedicated to being a part of making Indianapolis a more commuter-friendly city to live in, but at this point they are not working on any project with a partner, but you will find them out in the city at these functions supporting what they believe needs to happen in this city: improvement to public transportation.
Thanks to Health by Design these grass-roots efforts not only offered a common meeting ground for some of Indy's creative thinkers, but also invited Woolf himself to present the film in person. As I settled in to my seat and waited on the film to start, Woolf took the stage and said, " It's not often people come see a movie about infrastructure." As the crowd chuckled I began to look around to see what the numbers looked like and I was slightly disappointed to see this evening did not bring a standing-room-only crowd. It did however attract a little more than sixty people to come out and see what Woolf and the others had to say about what possibilities Indianapolis transit has in store for the future. (A slight impact to the attendance for this gathering could have been that the IndyGo cancellation meeting was taking place at the same time at the convention center.)
Aaron Woolf at the Earth House.
image courtesy of Curtis Ailes
So why is a documentary film about the past and future of transportation and looking at the blueprint of America something we should be concerned about here in Indy? Let me put it this way. In the same amount of time that it has taken California to consider what a high speed train could look like for their state, Spain put one in place. The high speed train that runs through Spain tops over 200MPH and has put their country miles ahead of us in transportation. Before long, more things will follow, putting them at the top as a forward thinking society. Where is our Albert Gallatin? Gallatin was Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of Treasury and a founder of NYU. The man that had the forward thinking to for see infrastructure in the 1800's that brought us the roads and canals we use along the Atlantic seacoast today. This country used to be the model for transportation, LAST CENTURY. Now the world is passing us by and we are being left in the dirt road, literally. Light Rail and High Speed Rail is the future and we are still stopping for gas at the corner station to fill up.
Casey Jo Ailes holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Herron School of Art and teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center. She is an award winning artist and focuses on photography and painting. Casey has been published nation wide and shows her work locally. Contact her at casey@BroadRippleGazette.com