For more than 10 years, Indiana Humanities has invited Hoosiers to intimate, thought-provoking conversations between a moderator and a guest. We’ve held these INconversations in tiny rooms for 20 people and on large stages for several hundred. The guests have been local leaders, national best-selling authors and adored professors. We’ve listened to music and poetry. We’ve heard from former presidential candidates and from up-and-coming politicians who would go on to be presidential candidates.
Below we’ve provided written recaps (often in the style of “5 Things We Learned”) as well as audio and video of the conversations, when available.
Additional Program Details
INconversation with Ashley C. Ford | April 12-14, 2022 | New Albany, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne
Indiana Authors Awards hosted New York Times-bestselling author Ashley C. Ford for a statewide speaking tour from April 12 to 14. Having spent the last several years in New York City, Ford moved “back home again” to Indiana in 2020. This Homecoming Tour celebrated the writer, host, educator and social media star and put her in conversation with local moderators in three Hoosier cities for conversations about her experiences as an Indiana author.
From her childhood in Fort Wayne to college days at Ball State to writing for worldwide outlets in New York City and back again to Indianapolis where she now lives and works, Ford brings with her both local interest and national acclaim. Telling the story of her relationship with her incarcerated father, Ford’s debut memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, explores themes of childhood, family, race, body image, education and home.
INconversation with Vann Newkirk | June 29, 2022 | Indianapolis
In the award-winning “Floodlines” podcast released in 2020, journalist Vann R. Newkirk II and his team at The Atlantic exposed how history, media, policy and people interacted in the crisis that was Hurricane Katrina, bringing new insights to causes and outcomes of the 2005 disaster. The podcast, and Newkirk’s reporting broadly, demonstrates the importance of journalism in revealing the deep inequities that are at the heart of America’s climate crisis. During this INconversation program, we discussed how journalism questions, describes and uncovers environmental inequalities, and how storytelling can inspire new, more equitable futures.
INconversation with Jean Thompson | Nov. 10, 2020 | Virtual
Jean Thompson, the author of The Year We Left Home (Indiana Humanities’ 2020 selection for its One State / One Story statewide read) joined us for a virtual conversation. Barb Shoup, the founding director of the Indiana Writers Center, moderated the conversation about place, identity and writing in the Midwest. Watch a recording of the conversation here.
INconversation with James and Deborah Fallows | March 18–21, 2019 | Muncie, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Angola
Indiana Humanities and New America Indianapolis hosted James and Deborah Fallows, authors of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America, as they shared stories of community revitalization. The Fallowses were joined by a local moderator for a conversation about what thriving towns and cities have in common, who’s trying new ideas that work and how Hoosiers are working through differences to solve local problems. Read “5 Things We Learned” here.
INconversation with Victor LaValle | Oct. 11, 2018 | Central Library, Indianapolis Public Library
We heard from the creator of the Destroyer comics, which reimagine the Frankenstein myth by way of Black Lives Matter. Leah Milne, assistant professor of English at the University of Indianapolis, moderated the conversation.
INconversation with Marc Leeds | April 18, 2018 | Indiana Humanities
Marc Leeds, the editor of The Vonnegut Encyclopedia and longtime correspondent with author Kurt Vonnegut, joined us for a conversation about Vonnegut’s fascination with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Emily Beckmann of IUPUI’s medical humanities program moderated this INconversation, which we presented in partnership with the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Read a recap and watch the talk here.
INconversation with Julian Castro | March 2, 2018 | University of Indianapolis
Indiana Humanities hosted former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. The INconversation was part of the University of Indianapolis’s Fairbanks Symposium and delivered in partnership with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership. Read “5 Things We Learned” from Julian Castro here.
INconversation with Jennifer Walthall | Jan. 24, 2018 | WFYI
The opioid epidemic is the biggest public health challenge Indiana has faced in a generation. Public officials, health care providers and law enforcement members see up close how it’s ravaging communities across the state. But like any crisis, creative and compassionate people are developing innovative strategies to address the epidemic. One of them is Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. In a conversation with Chad Priest of the American Red Cross, Indiana Region, Wathall shared how she’s leading the charge to use data to target the areas of the state most in need of treatment programs. Thanks to WFYI and Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, we were able to record this INconversation. Read “5 Things We Learned” about big data and opioids here. Watch the talk here.
INconversation with Jonathan Eller | Oct. 23, 2017 | Ash & Elm Cider Company
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the seven-decade career of writer Ray Bradbury. Today Bradbury’s books, papers and many personal artifacts are housed at IUPUI’s Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Professor Jonathan Eller, one of the world’s foremost experts on the author, has been a longtime shepherd of this incredible treasure trove. He joined us for this Quantum Leap INconversation to discuss Bradbury and his legacy, the deep connections between the author and the space program, and the unique role of science fiction in helping us imagine the future. Thanks to a partnership with Ash & Elm Cider Company, attendees were able to sip a limited-edition cider inspired by Bradbury’s famous dandelion wine recipe. Ray Haberski, professor of history and director of the American studies program at IUPUI, moderated. Read our recap of the conversation here.
INconversation with Tracy Fullerton | Aug. 16, 2017 | City Way Gallery curated by iMOCA
We got to peek behind the curtain as world-renowned game designer Tracy Fullerton shared how—and why—she turned a 19th-century memoir into a 21st-century digital game. We learned about the delightful challenges of the creation of “Walden, a game”—which included scouring Henry David Thoreau’s original surveys of Walden Pond to create the game’s landscape, as well as designing a color scheme and soundtrack that subtly cue the players to their success or failure in “living deliberately.” But most important, together we considered the remarkable possibilities of games and their ability to help us navigate our complicated, ever-changing world. We presented this special INconversation in partnership with GenCon and with support from Sun King Brewing Co. Read a recap of the conversation here.
INconversation with Adrian Matejka | May 25, 2017 | Indy Reads Books
We were proud to host the book launch for Indianapolis native and Pulitzer finalist Adrian Matejka’s volume of poetry Map to the Stars. This cosmic-themed collection traces Matejka’s own journey from Section 8 housing to the suburbs, with a side trip, via the Sounds of Earth project, to the furthest reaches of the universe onboard the Voyager I space probe. In Matejka’s poems, Sun Ra, Richard Pryor and Guion S. Bluford are among the many lights glimmering on the horizon, each a lodestar for navigating the earthly complexities of race, masculinity, poverty and migration. Read a recap of the evening here.
INconversation with Alan Lightman | April 20, 2017 | Butler University
This INconversation with Alan Lightman and Rabbi Sandy Sasso kicked off Indiana Humanities’ Quantum Leap theme. Colliding the worlds of the humanities with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) was the animating idea behind Quantum Leap. So pairing a rabbi with a physicist seemed like the perfect beginning to our series of programs. And who knew the event would start with “a rabbi and astrophysicist walk into a bar . . .” reference? With topics such as immortality, spirituality, time, physics, creativity and more, it was good to see that our speakers could combine humor with levity and gravity. Special thanks to our partners on this event: the daVinci Pursuit and Butler University’s Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative. Read a recap of the conversation.
INconversation with Justin Garrett Moore | March 3, 2017 | University of Indianapolis
Vibrant greenspaces do more than just make a city look good—they yield huge economic benefit, keep residents healthy, build social cohesion and improve a region’s ecological health. That’s why today’s most visionary civic leaders are investing in parks, trails and greenspaces. Justin Garrett Moore, an Arlington High School graduate and executive director of New York City’s Public Design Commission, sat down with Neelay Bhatt, an Indianapolis-based parks consultant and board member of the National Recreation and Parks Association, to talk about the myriad ways great parks contribute to dynamic cities. This INconversation kicked off the half-day Fairbanks Symposium presented by the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana Humanities, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Indy Parks. Read a recap of what we learned here.
INconversation with Doris Kearns Goodwin | Dec. 14, 2016 | Indiana Convention Center
What defines a president’s legacy? What makes a good leader? These are just a few of the questions we had the opportunity to ask preeminent presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin during an intimate conversation. Terry Anker, chairman of the Anker Consulting Group, Inc., and president of the Legacy Fund, moderated the thoughtful conversation. Review the five lessons we learned from Goodwin.
INconversation with Jim Madison | Dec. 1, 2016 | WFYI Community Room
To close out our Next Indiana multiyear thematic initiative, we hosted an INconversation with Indiana historian Jim Madison days before our state’s bicentennial. Eric Halvorson, a former anchor for WISH-TV, moderated the candid discussion about what Madison imagines is next for the Hoosier State. The audience also enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at stories from WFYI’s Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana. The two worked on the four-part documentary released earlier that year. Enjoy a recap of what we learned from the event.
INconversation with Terry Tempest Williams | May 4, 2016 | Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art
“What does an old-growth forest offer to the human heart and mind? Science is not set up to answer that question—but art may be.” This observation, by acclaimed Hoosier author Scott Russell Sanders, was at the heart of our Next Indiana Campfires programming theme. To jump start our thinking on these questions, we invited Terry Tempest Williams, one of the nation’s foremost thinkers about environmental issues, to join us for a special INconversation exploring how writers shape our comprehension of nature and awaken us to the need to care for it.
Williams, a Guggenheim Fellow and titan of environmental literature, has been called a “citizen” writer for her fierce advocacy of freedom of speech about environmental literature. The conservation was moderated by Sanders, whose own writing about the hills and forests of southern Indiana continues the tradition of essential Hoosier nature writers like Gene Stratton-Porter and Edwin Way Teale.
INconversation with Angel Ysaguirre | Feb. 5, 2016 | University of Indianapolis
How do civic leaders use the arts to build vibrant cities? Can cities sustain affordable, healthy arts ecosystems and also realize the full promise of urban renewal—and if so, how? What can Indianapolis learn from places like Chicago or Philadelphia, home of the nation’s oldest percent-for-art program and site of many impactful public art projects that engage residents and visitors alike?
Angel Ysaguirre, executive director of Illinois Humanities, explored the opportunities and tensions that lie at the intersection of the arts and civic leadership with Michael Kaufmann, director of special projects and community investment for the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County (Eskenazi Health). This special INconversation kicked off the half-day Fairbanks Symposium presented by the Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana Humanities and the Arts Council of Indianapolis.
INconversation with Ken Gladish, former president and CEO of Indiana Humanities | Nov. 17, 2015 | Indiana Humanities
As part of our “Humanities Homecoming” for former staff/board members and partners of our organization, we hosted an engaging conversation with Ken Gladish, the president and CEO of Indiana Humanities from 1984 to 1993. Rosemary Dorsa, former board chair of Indiana Humanities, moderated the conversation. Gladish discussed our organization’s history of innovation, his philanthropic journey and the power of the humanities. See photos here.
INconversation with NEH Chairman William Adams | May 15, 2015 | WFYI Community Room
This INcoversation featured a candid dialogue with National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William “Bro” Adams, moderated by the Honorable Randall T. Shepard, former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. The discussion centered on the Chairman’s “Common Good” initiative, which sought to illuminate how the humanities can deepen our understanding about issues such as citizenship, the environment, changing demographics, war and conflict, biomedical technologies and more. Read a blog post about the event.
INconversation with Nathan Alan Davis | April 9, 2015 | Indiana Humanities
Indiana Humanities hosted an intimate conversation with playwright Nathan Alan Davis (an Indiana University graduate), whose play Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea was featured at the Phoenix Theater. The discussion, moderated by Modupe Labode, IUPUI’s public scholar of African American history and museum studies, centered around themes of memory, identity, African American history and the different ways we understand these ideas—through history, through theater and art, through material culture and through family stories.
INconversation with Oliver Luck | March 23, 2015 | Lucas Oil Stadium
In the week leading up to the Final Four in Indianapolis, we hosted a conversation with Oliver Luck—who was the new VP of regulatory affairs at the NCAA. Moderated by WISH-TV sports anchor Anthony Calhoun, we discussed the role of college sports, the pressure on today’s athletes and much more. We presented the program in partnership with the Indiana Sports Corp. Read more here.
INconversation with Mark Miles and Matt Hunckler | May 8, 2014 | DeveloperTown
Mark Miles, the CEO of Hulman & Co., sat down with Verge’s Matt Hunckler for an INconversation in conjunction with Verge’s popular Pitch Night program. They chatted about sports, leadership and being versatile.
INconversation with Mark Samels and Amos Brown | Feb. 25, 2014 | Harrison Center
Amos Brown and a room full of adults and fifth graders chatted with Mark Samels, the executive producer of the American Experience film series on PBS. Billed as “TV’s Most-Watched History Series” the documentaries include Freedom Riders, about the courageous band of civil rights activists who challenged segregation in the south, and Freedom Summer, about the civil rights movement of 1964.
INconversation with Krzysztof Urbanski and David Hochoy | Feb. 13, 2014 | Clowes Memorial Hall
This conversation centered on a unique arts collaboration in Indianapolis—the performance and production of Daphnis et Chloe—which featured a full orchestra, original choreography and 150-voice choir. Featuring Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra music director Krzysztof Urbanski and Dance Kaleidoscope artistic director David Hochoy, the conversation was moderated by Classical Music Indy’s Michael Toulouse and included a tour of Clowes Memorial Hall’s backstage.
INconversation with Richard Lugar and Pete Buttigieg | Oct. 9 2013 | University on Indianapolis
The Fairbanks Symposium culminated with the keynote conversation between Senator Richard Lugar (also former Indianapolis mayor) and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. Read a recap of the conversation here.
INconversation with Jenna Golden | July 17, 2013 | Indiana Humanities
What’s the future of social media as a tool for change? That’s what we discussed with Twitter’s Jenna Golden, in town for the Millennial Impact Conference, and Kyle Lacy, ExactTarget’s social media guru (who literally wrote the book on Twitter marketing). The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with Glenn Gass | June 11, 2013 | iMOCA
We sat down with Glenn Gass, one of the country’s preeminent rock-and-roll scholars, to chat about the work of one of the most important bands of all time—the Beatles. Attendees were surrounded by the exhibit We Buy White Albums from artist Rutherford Chang, which incorporated 700-plus copies of The Beatles’ iconic White Album. Vess Ruhtenberg, a local artist and musician, moderated the conversation. The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with Kim Beck | May 23, 2013 | The Alexander
This conversation with contemporary artist Kim Beck and Lisa Freiman, the senior curator and chair of the Department of Contemporary Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, featured a behind-the-scenes peek at Beck’s new installation in 100 Acres at the IMA. It was also a farewell conversation for Freiman, who spent 11 years building the contemporary art scene at the IMA and in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with Gary Ginstling | May 15, 2013 | The Alexander
In 2013, Gary Ginstling was the new president and CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. A musician and innovator with degrees in performance from Julliard and Yale, he also holds an MBA from UCLA. Before coming to Indiana, he had spent several years working in Silicon Valley as well as with orchestras in Cleveland, San Francisco and Berkeley, where he developed a reputation for new and innovative programs. Indianapolis Business Journal arts and entertainment editor Lou Harry talked to Ginstling about his vision for the ISO. The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with Oliver Blank | April 11, 2013 | The Speak Easy
Oliver Blank is a composer who builds sound toys, creates public installations and composes symphonic cinematic music. His goal is to empower residents to connect with sound and create surprising experiences that bring a sense of wonder back to their city. Michael Huber, the senior director of commercial enterprise at the Indianapolis Airport Authority, moderated a conversation with Blank. The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with James Reeves | March 7, 2013 | The Speak Easy
James Reeves is a writer, educator, and designer who spent one month in Indianapolis as part of We Are City [IMPORT]. Reeves talked with the audience about Indianapolis’s identity, its strengths and weaknesses, and what he learned about Americans during an epic road trip that led to The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir. Krista Skidmore, partner and cofounder at FlashPoint, served as moderator. The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, provided a grant to support the INconversation series in 2013.
INconversation with Ann Meyers Drysdale | June 22, 2012 | Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Ann Meyers Drysdale, the first woman to sign an NBA contract (with the Indiana Pacers), talked about hope, failure and success during a Title IX Anniversary celebration. Chris Denari moderated. Read about what we learned here.
INconversation with Jim Lehrer | April 14, 2012 | Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library
Jim Lehrer served as the moderator for more U.S. presidential debates than anyone in history. He sat down with moderator Jim Shella and a small audience for an intimate conversation.
INconversation with Christopher Bedford | March 16, 2012 | iMOCA
Popular sport and high art don’t normally go hand in hand. But contemporary art curator Christopher Bedford led a discussion at iMOCA about his most recent exhibit that paired the two quite nicely. Sarah Green moderated. Click here for a recap.
INconversation with Will Allen | Jan. 12, 2012 | Indiana Humanities
“Spirit of Competition” met “Food for Thought” in this INconversation with Will Allen, a former Miami Hurricane basketball star who has become an influential and inspiring urban farmer. Bill Benner moderated. Read a recap of the event.
INconversation with Aaron Renn | Nov. 30, 2011 | Indiana Humanities
Urban analyst Aaron Renn discussed the future of Indianapolis’s urban neighborhoods with journalist Erika Smith. Read a recap and listen into the conversation.
Explore our other programs
Unearthed is a multiyear thematic initiative from Indiana Humanities that encourages Hoosiers to explore how we shape the environment, and how the environment shapes us.
Our Campfires program pairs nature and literature to spark conversations about Indiana’s future.