Best of Indy 2016: Art & Culture

New Art Gallery – The Tube Factory

When Big Car Gallery lost its lease near Lafayette Square in 2014, cofounders Jim Walker and Shauta Marsh looked closer to home for their next location. The Garfield Park residents bought an abandoned steel-tubing facility just off Shelby Street and transformed it into The Tube Factory, a coworking space, gallery, and something more: neighborhood revitalization hub. Big Car is buying derelict houses on the block, renovating them, and selling them to artists at a discount. As a result, painters and writers are flooding the place—and Fountain Square has some stiff competition on First Fridays. 1125 S. Cruft St., bigcar.org/project/tubefactory

Twitter Follow – @RGAY

Roxane Gay has many gifts, but an even temper is not one of them. The New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State frequently comes under attack for her progressive views on Twitter (@rgay), and she returns fire with angry, often hilarious retorts: “I just wonder why you think you are making any kind of sense. Have a seat, in another universe. I didn’t send for you.” With 132,000 followers, the Purdue professor will build on that audience when her highly anticipated memoir, Hunger, hits shelves in June. And Gay plans to publish another collection of essays next month with a title that easily could be her Twitter handle: Difficult Women.

Facebook Follow – No Mean City

No Mean City, a new campaign to market Indy to prospective residents, entertains in just about every medium (a biannual magazine, a website, multiple social media accounts), but Facebook is as good a place as any to check out all the cool stuff happening here. At facebook.com/nomeancityindy, you’ll find profiles of little neighborhoods you never knew existed, school guides, and YouTube tours of spectacular homes. Given the great photography and writing, it’s easy to forget this stuff is essentially advertising for the city.

Instagram Follow – Sarah Knuth, Hollie Woodward, and
Jordan Underwood Washburn

The Dottie Models Once known to Indy shoppers as the “Dottie Models” (they’re all current or former employees at Dottie Couture), these young ladies have become style icons in a city short on them. We followed three of the local models and asked what it’s like to be Insta-famous.

•Sarah Knuth @sarahknuth: “I love when people recognize me and come up and say hi. It makes you feel good to know you have real followers out there—they’re not just a ‘like.’”

•Hollie Woodward @holliewdwrd: “It’s like a friendship—you give advice and answer questions, and you ask for advice, too. I really enjoy talking to other people who have Instagram accounts dedicated to fashion and beauty.”

•Jordan Underwood Washburn @jordanunderwood: “It definitely makes the world a little smaller. It’s a fun way to network. People can feel your vibe from just looking through your feed.”


Vase from Design Bank

3-D Print Shop – Design Bank Indy

Until recently, we associated 3-D printers with product prototypes and medical models. Then we visited Design Bank. With stylish jewelry, vases, and toys made from colorful plastic, the eastside shop would be right at home on Mass Ave. Cofounder Wil Marquez broke the mold with this place, which doubles as an educational center for kids who want to learn design and 3-D printing. 3636 E. 38th St., designbankindy.com

New Museum Experience for Kids

For future park rangers – Conner Prairie

Tucked in the backwoods of Conner Prairie—if you hit the Confederate-sacked town of Dupont in 1863, you’ve gone too far—is a four-story treehouse with enough stairs, views, and preserved-insect exhibits to occupy kids for the better part of an afternoon. Officially named Treetop Outpost, the house is surrounded by music, digging, and construction games. A series of trails leads through local flora into the most Indiana-looking cornfield you’ve ever seen. And a lower-level library lets you flip through nature books while the kids stomp around above. 13400 Allisonville Rd., 317-776-6000, connerprairie.org

For future astronauts – Children’s Museum

Designed to look like a gravity-free space station—for 10 points, find the guitar on the ceiling—Beyond Spaceship Earth in The Children’s Museum’s lower level will blow the wee minds of aspiring space travelers. Designed with the input of Purdue grad and four-time space-walker David Wolf, the exhibit is full of examples of zero-G life, games, pressable buttons, and views of the passing Earth below. Stick around for the planetarium show on the Liberty Bell 7, the absurdly small traffic cone that launched Gus Grissom into space in 1961 and then sank to the bottom of the sea after re-entry. 3000 N. Meridian St., 317-334-4000, childrensmuseum.org

For future engineers – Indiana State Museum

It’s not often you hit up a museum to investigate skate parks and DJ decks, and the Indiana State Museum’s new Design Zone definitely aims outside the usual definition of “exhibit.” Created to teach math and engineering, the attraction appeals to kids with video game design, laser light-show construction, and music stations. (Ever wondered about the optimal number of beats per minute a DJ needs to get a dance floor moving?) It’s very much geared to a demographic that has aged out of The Children’s Museum. A nice mix of creative problem-solving and MythBusters-style science application. 650 W. Washington St., 317-232-1637, indianamuseum.org

Music Lesson for Kids – Mrs. Ashley’s Music Circle

Music Circle

Music Circle

On most mornings, the only music emanating from Union Jack Pub is the bartender whistling as he stocks the fridges for the day. But on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m., the restaurant buzzes with nursery rhymes and kids’ music, as wee ones (ages 0–4) and parents sing along with Mrs. Ashley’s Music Circle. Community-minded and vibrant, Ashley Robertson—with her three childhood- education degrees—doesn’t charge for her classes. She just asks that you provide a feminine-product donation for Support the Girls Indy when you drop in. Post-class, families can unwind over pizza. Keep in mind that Robertson sometimes changes venues, so visit Mrs. Ashley’s Music Circle on Facebook beforehand. 925 Broad Ripple Ave., facebook.com/groups/550135415064602

Workshop Series 

Practical Advice – Ruckus Makerspace

Pondering a new career in craft brewing, urban farming, or graphic design, but need a little nudge? The STIR educational workshops sponsored by Ruckus Makerspace provide practical tips and legal advice from local pros to stoke entrepreneurial dreams. The free events take place monthly in various locations around town, and feature some one-on-one coaching. Last year’s speakers included Kate Franzman of Bee Public. 1125 Brookside Ave., 317-637-8996, indyruckus.com

Team-building exercise – Escape Room Indy

You’re trapped in a KGB interrogation room with a dozen other people, and you have just one hour to uncover the clues necessary to get out. That’s one of five themed scenarios at The Escape Room, a franchise that opened downtown late last year. Rated by difficulty (the KGB space being one of the hardest, with only 5 percent of people escaping), the rooms challenge coworkers to collaborate and be creative when solving a mystery with a lot of dead ends. Hopefully, that doesn’t describe your job. 200 S. Meridian St., 317-986-6542, escaperoomindy.com

Networking for freelancers – Creative Mornings

Here’s an eye-opener: Freelancers make up 34 percent of the U.S. economy. If you’re one of them, you should be attending Creative Mornings. Part of a global organization that caters to creative types, the free monthly breakfast lecture series gives local freelancers a chance to mingle, nosh, and learn something new. Past speakers have included The Art Assignment’s Sarah Urist Green. Locations rotate around town, and events always include great local coffee. Oh, and attendees are guaranteed to be on their way back to their coworking spaces by 10 a.m. creativemornings.com

New Dance Floor – Tini

“Our customers were always trying to dance along to the music,” says Tini owner Brad Kime of his perennially packed vodka-and-video bar on Mass Ave. “We brought in DJs, but they just got in the way.” So when the office space above the original bar became available last year, the longtime business developer went to work converting the second story of the 1880s building (which he recently purchased) into a slender pocketbook of a dance floor. A newly constructed internal staircase now leads to an upstairs bar that includes a DJ station and a video screen, so there’s no longer a reason to jet when you want to cut a rug. 717 Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1313, tiniontheave.com

New Go-Kart Track

With customers such as IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Conor Daly, Sarah Fisher’s Speedway Indoor Karting quickly became the track of choice for adrenaline junkies when it opened in April. Both the multilevel European-style road course and the banked mini-Speedway oval are a little terrifying. If the rush proves to be too much, you can cool down and refuel on an upscale selection of gastropub grub at the onsite 1911 Grill. 1067 Main St., Speedway, 317-870-3780, sikarting.com

Book Club – Andrew Luck’s Book Club

Last April, Andrew Luck—whom The Wall Street Journal has called the “NFL’s unofficial librarian”—had a novel idea. He started a book club, recommending a title for beginners and one for seasoned readers a few times a year on andrewlucksbookclub.com. With Christmas coming, we asked Luck to pick a few hardcovers for our hard-to-buy-for friends and relatives.

andrewluckFor the history-obsessed uncle: Waterloo, by Bernard Cornwell. “It’s a factual account of one of the most important battles of all time.”

For the friend who watches the movie instead of reading the bookThe Martian, by Andy Weir. “It’s a really good book. A good movie as well, but just a better book.”

For Dad, who is always watching Dateline: The Bernie Gunther novels by Philip Kerr. “They follow a German detective who is a good guy during the rise of Nazi Germany.”

For anyone really into petsThe Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. “Full disclosure: This was in my book club.”

For the Colts fan: Coach Chuck Pagano’s book Sidelined: Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance. What else would you expect him to say?

For Pat McAfeeWar and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. You have to know Pat, apparently.

For the food loverThe Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard Morais. “It’s a novel about a family that eats its way around the world. A really fun read.”

New Museum – Kipp Normand’s Museum of Psychphonics

Jars of dirt crowd a display case. Disorienting videos play on old TVs. An ashtray from a Burger King where Elvis was sighted hangs with other ephemera. At the Museum of Psychphonics, you have reached peak Fountain Square. The Mona Lisa of the tiny space in the Murphy Building is the P-Funk “mothership.” Used by the band in concerts and gifted by former roadie Tom Battista, the model spaceship anchors a collection of oddities with delightfully little in common. Curated by artist Kipp Normand and painted floor-to-ceiling with stars, the museum is as beautiful as it is strange. The sign above the peephole says, “Don’t Look Inside.” But you must. 1043 Virginia Ave., 317-632-3220

Pokémon Go Location – Canal Walk

The downtown Canal Walk instantly became Indy’s most visible Pokémon Go tpokemonraining ground, but Broad Ripple Park is the game’s unofficial community hub. Swarming with the game’s trademark Pikachu, the park also has hosted a few Ekans—the snake Pokémon—in its grassy areas lately. Lots of in-game landmarks (pokestops and gyms) dot the fitness trail. Happy hunting. 1500 Broad Ripple Ave.

Music Lessons for Adults – Carmel Music Academy

Almost as long as John Mellencamp has been rocking the heartland, his bass player, Jon Gunnell, has been teaching people how to do the same. Now an instructor at Carmel Music Academy, Gunnell has students as old as 83. The secret to picking up music at any age, he says, is to learn by playing the songs you like. “That’s why we teach music backward,” he says of the fun-first, theory-later method. For $70 an hour, Carmel Music Academy offers lessons in guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin, piano, and drums. And yes, Gunnell is happy to teach you “Jack and Diane.” 13295 N. Illinois St., Carmel, 317-581-1030, carmelmusicacademy.com 

New Film Series – Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s  Harry Potter series cast a spell on audiences when it debuted this past fall. By stripping out the John Williams-penned scores from the movies and replacing them with live performances (not to mention a complimentary bag of popcorn), the ISO created a show even Voldemort would love. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will screen at Hilbert Circle Theatre in May 2017. 45 Monument Circle, 317-639-4300, indianapolissymphony.org

New Literary Program – Uncle Dan’s Story Hour

If you think about it, the Red Key Tavern has been a storytelling venue for the better part of a century. But one of the city’s greatest living authors, Dan Wakefield, has finally made it official with Uncle Dan’s Story Hour, a monthly series at the bar he helped immortalize in his bestselling 1970 novel Going All the Way. Part book-reading and part old-time radio variety show, the program is a fitting forum for Wakefield’s yarns about growing up in Indianapolis and his later literary life. Banter with co-host Will Higgins, as well as musical interludes by the likes of saxophonist Sophie Faught, keep the program moving along at a lively clip. 5170 N. College Ave., 317-283-4601, redkeytavern.com/uncle-dan-s

Bar Games

Foosball at Punch Bowl Social

Even in the sea of bowling lanes, bocce courts, and cornhole boards at downtown’s new adult playground, the giant foosball table stands out. With 16 poles, it’s twice as big as a standard table. Which means up to eight players can hammer away on the thing at once. Who’s got next? 120 S. Meridian St., 317-249-8613, punchbowlsocial.com

Video games at Tappers Arcade Bar

Several great taverns have set up shop in Fletcher Place recently, but none of them push our buttons quite like Tappers. Lined with retro arcade games such as Ms. Pac-Man, NBA Jam, and Mortal Kombat II, the bar is the perfect place for a misspent afternoon of craft beer and secret levels. No need to pack a pocketful of quarters, either; the video games are free, although a few pulls on one of the pinball machines does cost 50 cents. 501 Virginia Ave., tappersarcadebar.com

The Spilling Bee at White Rabbit Cabaret

Held about once a month, these contests in Fountain Square’s naughtiest bar take a drinking-game approach to spelling bees. Hosts Frau Heifer and Little Janie challenge participants with big words; spelling one correctly snags you a beer and a pass to the next round. Champions earn $50 and a prize package from local businesses. Can you spell T-I-P-S-Y? 1116 Prospect St., 317-686-9550, whiterabbitcabaret.com

Trivia at The Sinking Ship

On the last Thursday of each month, this SoBro bar hosts Trivia Obscura, a friendly competition pitting teams who think they know it all against each other in a raunchy Family Feud-style format. First-, second-, and third-place winners typically walk away with concert tickets, a gift card, or a bottle of liquor. Survey says? Big fun. 4923 N. College Ave., 317-920-7999, sinkingshipindy.com