In March this year, I stumbled upon ALL-IN Block Party grant while searching for funding opportunities to support the grassroots arts service efforts at ArtMix (formerly VSA Indiana). I was immediately excited about the Block Party initiative! The reasons I loved it?
- It was a simple application with a quick turnaround – and we needed funding to support our summer arts festival that was just a few months away.
- The idea was actually pretty cool – bringing together different voices in the community to promote civic health. Who doesn’t want fellow citizens who like to vote, try new things, and perform random acts of kindness?
Within a few days of submitting the application, we received notification that Indiana Humanities was ready to “go ALL-IN” with us. Then the fun part started. First, I attended one of the most engaging trainings ever. As the staff at Indiana Humanities explained ALL-IN Block Parties to us, we feasted on Indian food, won trivia prizes, and had the chance to meet people from organizations all around the state. Indiana Humanities also provided us with tons of freebies and a planning tool kit to help make our block party a success.
We combined our ALL-IN Block party with a pre-existing event – Arts for All Fest. This year the festival was in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was an important anniversary for our organization as our mission is to transform the lives of people with disabilities through the creation of art. ADA was the world’s first comprehensive civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. By combining this silver anniversary with our ALL-IN Block Party, we were able to emphasize our own organizational priorities for civic health – a community that is inclusive and accepting of people of all abilities.
On July 22, 2015, we welcomed 427 people into our art studios near downtown Indianapolis to take part in the ALL-IN challenges. Since art is central to all we do, we made sure that every challenge was complemented with an experiential arts activity with one of our professional teaching artists. For example, one of my favorite activities was “find your representative and write them a note.” We had all participants create collage postcards then write messages to their representatives in congress. Some were simple and kind, such as “thank you for remembering my family.” Some were more direct and civic-minded, such as “when will there be more jobs of the Westside?” The most important outcome was that the hand-created notes gave our participants a voice.
Whether it was taking part in an accessible drum circle with Rhythm Discovery Center, performing random acts of kindness with Peace Learning Center, or acting out what we would like our future to look like with About Special Kids, every single activity was engaging and thought-provoking. The ALL-IN Block Party helped us build and strengthen partnerships with other non-profits and reach new audiences. Most importantly, it helped us teach others that they have the power to make Indiana a better place.
ArtMix is art redefining disability. Our mission is to transform the lives of people with disabilities through the creation of art. ArtMix (formerly VSA Indiana) programs create opportunities for learning, self-expression, and socialization in schools, hospitals, and on-site in our adaptive studios near downtown Indianapolis. Since 1982, we have been a statewide advocate for increased community understanding and acceptance of people of all abilities. www.artmixindiana.org