Culture Q&A: Jim Walker, TEDx Organizer

On Oct. 21, the speakers return to Hilbert Circle Theatre. Before the event, we caught up with the guy who brings them all together.

The first TEDx Indianapolis took place in 2012. Who brought it here?
It was a partnership between the IMA, the International School of Indiana, and Big Car Gallery [of which Walker is the founder]. The International School wanted the theme to be related to the subjects they were working on at the time. So that one was focused very much on learning, and the other partners brought the arts and interactive elements. It went really well.
Do you feel like the event has some momentum now?
Yeah, we learned a lot about working in Hilbert Circle Theatre last year, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time in terms of infrastructure and partnerships. But it’s fun to change the theme every year.

Jim Walker, Founder and Executive Director of Big Car
Jim Walker, Founder and Executive Director of Big Car

Can you explain the theme of this year’s event (“Get Outside IN”)?
We were thinking about a natural progression from last year’s theme (“Mix it Up”), and what we really want people to do is get outside of their comfort zone. You need to take chances if you’re going to make your life better or improve your community. “Thinking outside of the box” is a cliche, but it’s really important, and it’s not something that everybody naturally does. We’re excited about sharing examples of how people are doing that in different categories, from the arts to business to education.
How do you select the speakers?
The national ones are chosen by our committee partners. We work with those speakers to narrow down their big idea and steer it toward something that makes sense with the theme. It’s a heavily curated process. As for the locals, some of them come from an audition process. We need a range of ideas.
How does the theme of this year’s conference jibe with the current culture of Indianapolis?
I think our city is ready to take the next step. We’re starting to get outside recognition. Some of that momentum came from the Super Bowl, but there are a lot of things we’re doing that are worthy of recognition. We’re also starting to focus outside our borders, seeing what we can learn from the rest of the world and what we can share with it.
What do you hope those who attend this year’s TEDx Indianapolis will take away from the conference?
I want them to be excited about their own ideas and challenge themselves to see what they can do and how they can contribute. I think that’s an important thing for our city—to move forward and make things happen as opposed to reacting to problems all the time.