Best Of Indianapolis: Culture

From the best local podcasts to the coziest little library reading nooks, we applaud the people and places that celebrate the arts.
Photo courtesy Pacers/ Matt Kryger


Sure, downtown’s newest gathering space, Bicentennial Unity Plaza at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, looks great, with its large, gleaming metal sculptures and mural of notable Hoosiers. But its versatility is what we’re most excited about. The sunken basketball court, which will transform into an ice-skating rink this winter, has already hosted fitness classes, a concert, and a screening of Hoosiers. NBA All-Star Game festivities, pre-concert parties, Big Ten tournament pep rallies, and just about any community event will all be right at home here. A multilevel restaurant/ entertainment complex by Cunningham Restaurant Group is forthcoming. 117 S. Pennsylvania St.


After six straight sub-.500 seasons from 2017 to 2022, the Indiana Fever desperately needed a shot in the arm. Enter Aliyah Boston. The No. 1 overall draft pick followed up her All-American collegiate career with an impressive first-year campaign with the Fever, netting her the WNBA Rookie of the Year honor unanimously. Averaging nearly 15 points and eight rebounds a game, the 6-foot-5 center is the first rookie to lead the league in field goal percentage (57.8) and the second Fever player to earn Rookie of the Year accolades. With Boston as their star player, the Fever are well on their way to bouncing back.


Adrian Matejka has a longstanding fascination with boxer Jack Johnson, and no wonder. Like the boxing great, the former Indiana Poet Laureate (2018–19) and newly appointed editor of Poetry magazine is a champion himself, though of a different kind. A tireless advocate of the arts—frequently collaborating with Indiana Humanities—and other creators, Matejka’s most recent work, Last on His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century, showcases the gripping illustrations of comic artist Youssef Daoudi as it revisits the heart- pounding Jim Crow–era match that made Johnson unforgettable. The project is based on Matejka’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated book of poetry about the complicated legend, The Big Smoke.


The idea for Naptown African American Theatre Collective came to LaKesha Lorene in 2021, and after two years of gathering support and planning, the group debuted its first two shows, Black Book and Detroit ’67, this year. As the first Black-operated member of the Actors’ Equity Association in Indianapolis, NAATC’s mission is to create a sustainable source of opportunities for Black performers and showcase Black playwrights in Indy, where roles, pay, and representation have historically been sparse. NAATC also hosts community conversations and an Instagram Live show.


One car museum isn’t enough for a city with our automotive history. At 10,000 square feet, the Stutz Car Museum opened this year as part of the historic building’s $100 million renovation, putting Turner Woodard’s private collection on public display for the first time. It’s free to cruise into the street-level spot tucked into the Stutz’s new restaurant row and check out the dozen mint-condition vintage beauties, including a Stutz Bearcat, often called America’s first sports car. 1060 N. Capitol Ave., 317-488-7374


Open since August, the 22,000-square-foot Fort Ben branch of the Indianapolis Public Library manages to be spacious and airy while also feeling intimate and warm. The first library in the state to become a Certified Autism Center, its modern interior is punctuated by patterned accent walls in serene shades of blue and green, with plenty of comfortable seating areas to hunker down. On a Saturday afternoon, you might find all the private study rooms occupied, but available tables by the windows provide workspaces with ample natural light. The best spot? The back corner, where watery, teal-colored subway tile surrounds a fireplace on the back wall. 9330 E. 56th St., 317-275-4570


Philip Smith co-founded The Philippines Cultural Community Center for two reasons: to give members of Indy’s Asian community a place to connect and to share Philippine culture with those outside the group. Started in late 2020 in a small suite, it’s since moved to a 9,000-square-foot building with a daycare, gathering spaces, and a community food venue called Indiana Kitchen of Culture, where on some nights you may find a Filipino cooking demo. The center also houses an art gallery and museum and hosts career-building classes, drag nights, and regular karaoke and open mic events. “Even if you’re not Filipino,” Smith says, “you’re welcome to take a seat at our table.” 4141 S. East St., 317-721-6217


Photo by Tony Valainis

Following in the footsteps of Blink Cincinnati and The Lume, Carmel’s new seasonally evolving projection-mapped Palladiscope extravaganza dazzles as it transforms the facade of the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts into an animated masterpiece. BYO chair or blanket and take in the spectacle as 12 projectors bathe the building in shifting images set to music. The nightly show starts at sundown and repeats every half hour. 1 Carter Green, Carmel


Gerry Turner of Hudson, Indiana, may be the star of Hulu’s first season of The Golden Bachelor, but he’s a total silver fox. The retired restaurateur gave us a refreshingly wholesome slice of reality TV life. The gallantly goofy, 72-years-young Gerry drew the biggest Bachelor audience in years, taking us along for the ride through laughter, tears, and wide-eyed delight in every episode. Married for 43 years to his high school sweetheart before her sudden passing, Gerry was urged onto the show by his daughters and granddaughters—so sweet!


If you are the type of moviegoer who leaves the theater saying, “The book was better,” Kan-Kan Cinema’s Book to Film Club is for you. Past titles have included Crazy Rich Asians, The Color Purple, and The Princess Bride. Organizers have hosted smart pairings such as Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. The last one in October focused on Sleepy Hollow and was hosted by local author Ashley C. Ford. To join, snag the print version at the club’s partner bookstore, Indy Reads, purchase your ticket, and simply stick around after the film for the group chat. 1258 Windsor St., 317-800- 7099


Liminal is a cinematic journey across Indiana using aerial drone footage to explore the transformation of Earth’s environment through human activity—the epoch called the Anthropocene. The film, accompanied by music from electronic composer Metavari, is stunning yet relentless in revealing the enormous scale of industry and development in Indiana. Filmmakers Zack Schrank and Aaron Yoder want Hoosiers to contemplate humanity’s regional footprint. Schrank explains, “Because the visual association is so far away, it is easy for most of us to assume the Anthropocene is just somewhere else.” Liminal will be the focus of an exhibit at the South Bend Museum of Art in May through June 2024 and is available to stream on Hoodox.


If you’ve tried teaching yourself embroidery and only ended up inventing new combinations of expletives out of frustration, Bumble + Bird’s embroidery workshop, hosted at Create Art Studio, is the class for you. Bumble + Bird owner Meghan McGovern, an artist who sells colorful hoops with even more colorful language on them, will lead you through all the basics of stitches, floss, and fabric. After just two hours, you’ll leave with a beautiful piece you made yourself. 6511 Ferguson St., 317-469-1309


Photo by Tony Valainis

GANGGANG’s fine arts fair, Butter, has only been around for three years, but with its rapid growth and important focus, it’s already in the national spotlight. Butter’s goal of highlighting Black artists is an important starting point in an evolution away from what the Indianapolis Museum of Art once controversially referred to as the region’s “traditional, core, white” arts scene. This year’s three-day event was its biggest yet, with the work of 49 artists on display and thousands of attendees. Founders Mali Simone Bacon and Alan Bacon promise even bigger things in 2024.


Black Girls Eating
Indy food royalty Tannoria Askew and Candace Boyd bring delicious food talk to the table and educate listeners during their weekly toast to Black culture and sisterhood. 

Classical Pairings
Food and wine pairings? Nope. Musicologist Nick Johnson sits down with owners of local Indianapolis eateries and pairs their food with a classical melody in this clever examination of delectable notes. 

Don’t Cut Your Own Bangs
In its tagline, this weekly self- help program styles itself as “the remedy to comparison and feeling like everyone has life figured out but you.” Licensed therapist Danielle Ireland’s goal is to help listeners live their best lives and tune out the noise of the world. 

Off the Bricks
Poetry lovers tune in to hear from a different poet each month, learning about their works, lives, and creative tips. Hoosier poet Joyce Brinkman hosts. 

This is Problematic!
Uncover history in a new way alongside Conner Prairie history buffs Hannah Murphy and Easton Phillips during this monthly deep dive now in its second season. The podcast is a straight-up review of our past and the ramifications affecting our present. 

Voices of Indy
Singer-songwriter Josh Gillespie hosts these weekly discussions with local musicians. Each episode plunges into the artist’s discography and inspirations.