5×5 READ INDY winners Phyllis Viola Boyd and LaShawnda Crowe Storm have been hard at work since winning $10,000 to launch The House Poem Project last May. We’re excited to share the first update on this innovative public humanities and place-making venture.
The House Poem Project aims to transform abandoned homes in Northwest Indianapolis from eyesores into stunning works of art and catalysts for community revitalization. Boyd and Storm’s big vision is to cover blighted houses—slated for demolition but currently stymied in the backlog of the city’s public works department—with artist-designed murals featuring the poetry of neighborhood residents, itself inspired by works by African American poets.
In the future, when the homes are eventually torn down, the painted wood will be up-cycled into furniture built by local craftsmen. The sale of these works will fund future iterations, creating a virtuous cycle that will gradually and creatively revitalize Northwest Indy.
The pilot site is an old duplex at 2861-2863 Rader Street, in the heart of Northwest Area Quality of Life zone. It’s one of more than 1,000 abandoned homes in the area. Each abandoned home has a downward effect on safety, pride, neighborhood stability and surrounding property values. The house has been officially slated for demolition since at least 2008.
But, as Boyd and Storm point out, the pilot site is in the heart of an area where good things are already happening. It’s along a well-traveled walking route to nearby IPS Elder W. Diggs School 42. It’s across the street from a historic fire station that’s being turned into a community space by another group; Marian University freshman recently helped spruce up the fire station as part of a day-of-service earlier this fall.
Once the city turns over right-of-entry to Boyd and Storm, the next step is for re-entry workers from nearby New Life Development Ministry to prep the site for painting. They’ll clean up brambles to allow for access and pull down some tumbling siding to create clear surfaces. Part of the $10,000 award will pay for the wages of the re-entry workers.
In the meantime, Boyd and Storm are designing the mural that will eventually cover the house with poetry. They expect right-of-entry, site prep and design to be completed by the end of October, when the next phase—the painting of the dynamic, colorful mural itself—can begin.
We’ll keep you updated as Boyd and Storm continue into the next phase of their project.
5×5 READ INDY was the first of the 2015 5×5 series. Indiana Humanities co-hosted with Indy Reads on May 14 at Fountain Square Theater. Our five finalists each shared a big idea for how reading and the power of the written word can transform Indianapolis. Learn more about the five finalists here and read an event recap here.
5×5 is a platform for new and innovative ideas related to the arts. The series of idea-generating events is hosted and shaped by some of the city’s most important young creative leaders. 5×5 was launched in 2013 by Central Indiana Community Foundation, Christel DeHaan Familiy Foundation and the Efroymson Family Foundation. www.5x5indy.org