Best Of Indy 2022: Culture

National Youth Poet Laureate, Alyssa Gaines

Photo by Lauren Gallagher, courtesy Urban Word

Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion


You’ll be absorbed by every punk-rocky square foot of Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion, a tribute to the Columbus-native fashion figure known for graffiti-centric designs and a collab with Louis Vuitton. Andy Warhol’s Sprouse portraits, Debbie Harry’s “Heart of Glass” wardrobe, and light-sensitive frocks that change colors are a few of the surprises that make this the exhibit for people who rarely remember museum exhibits. Newfields, 4000 Michigan Rd., 317-923-1331

Radio Show

Every Monday at 7 p.m, The BEAT with Dave Lindquist on WTTS-FM (92.3) features the esteemed entertainment journalist’s favorite tracks from up-and-coming and local artists, with thoughtful insight from a man who has heard it all. It’s basically a weekly playlist of all the new songs we should know.

After-School Program

This fall, Christ Church Cathedral expanded its long tradition of including youth choristers when it launched a comprehensive daily Choir School for students in grades 3 through 8. The program includes choral training alongside private music lessons on other instruments, academic tutoring, and community-building projects, such as providing snack packs for struggling neighbors and the homeless in downtown Indy. 125 Monument Circle, 317-636-4577

Breakout High-Culture Star

Since Park Tudor School grad Alyssa Gaines was named Urban Word’s 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate at a Kennedy Center ceremony, she has spoken alongside Bill Gates and enrolled in Harvard. Praised by the judges for “fierce, wide ranging, and funny” poems that “unfold like origami,” Gaines writes about her heritage and childhood. Follow her turn in the spotlight on social media.


Drag Me


This rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse is the brainchild of star-crossed lovers Jilly Weiss and Russell Simins, whose former bands include Indianapolis’s We Are Hex (for Weiss) and New York City’s Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (for Simins). Having now shared the stage with a similarly raucous outfit in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Service lives up to high expectations on this debut full-length album.

Ghost Electricity/Vampire Draw

Richard Edwards

The former frontman of local indie rock heroes Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, Richard Edwards presents a beautifully arranged album of love songs with the latest addition to his solo catalog. After opening up with the instrumental piano ballad “Ghost Electricity Theme,” Edwards consistently tugs at the heartstrings, exemplifying a knack for tender songcraft that he’s undoubtedly possessed since the days of “Broadripple is Burning.”

Never Be King

Native Sun

Consisting of bassist Brandon Meeks, drummer Richard “Sleepy” Floyd, and rapper Bobby Young, Native Sun shows off its melodic brand of hip-hop with Never Be King. From the soulful contributions of vocalist Allison Victoria on “Under the Sun” to the play of Indy jazz saxophonist Rob Dixon on the album’s title track, the trio represents Indianapolis time and time again, while also proving why they continue to be one of the city’s longest-standing hip-hop groups.


Pat and the Pissers

Channeling the Midwest angst of legendary Hoosier punk bands like the Zero Boys, Pat and the Pissers
have quickly made a name for themselves in the Indianapolis music scene, thanks in large part to frontman Alex Beckman’s fervent, Iggy Pop–esque energy on stage. A 12-track album that comes in at just over 17 minutes, Soil perfectly encapsulates the band’s sharp, in-your-face sound.

2 Minutes in Indiana

Various artists

Veteran musician Andrew Gustin challenged 20 local artists to create a two-minute instrumental composition representing life in Indiana. Gustin released the captivating result digitally and on vinyl on his homegrown label, Ameliorate Records. Mostly ambient in nature, 2 Minutes in Indiana features contributions from local experimental music mainstays like Mark Tester and Rob Funkhouser, along with pieces from classical clarinetist Eric Salazar, multitalented com-
poser Mina Keohane, and 16 others.

A man in front of his mural
Artur Silva

New Mural 

After combing through 500,000 objects in the Indiana State Museum’s archive, artist Artur Silva eventually chose a mere fraction of them for his 136 Images From the Collection mural installed in Gallery One. The Hoosier-related photograph collage of people, clothing, artwork, furniture, and animals creates a Where’s Waldo–like overview that’s as layered and complex as the state itself. Can you spot Wes Montgomery’s Grammy? 650 W. Washington St., 317-232-1637

Attraction Upgrade (Adults)

Traditional cultures and modern technology embraced when the Eiteljorg’s reimagined Native American Galleries were unveiled in July. Beadwork, textiles, pottery, jewelry, paintings, and sculptures are now displayed in striking glass cases (which, unlike the former cabinets, allow a 360-degree view). Numerous interactive displays include a huge wall map of North America. The highlight? Connected by Water, a collection of the detailed handiworks of Great Lakes tribes, including brightly ornamented moccasins and elegantly patterned bandoliers. 500 W. Washington St., 317-636-9378

Attraction Upgrade (Kids)

Eighteen years after Dinosphere opened, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis dug deep to expand its top exhibit this year, adding lesser-known creatures that its own paleontologists excavated from Wyoming’s Jurassic Mile. Two soaring long-necked sauropods and a curious-looking marine reptile called a baptanodon are among the fossils that now have a home here. Talk about good bones. 3000 N. Meridian St., 317-334-4000

Art Sale

If someone on your holiday gift list is a fan of both racing and art, this online auction benefiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is a no-brainer. Sleek: The Art of the Helmet auction offers nine designs by local artists with materials ranging from the shredded rubber of drivers’ Firestone tires to copper to party beads. Even if you don’t win a work of art (bids close December 11), you can see even more cool helmets at the current exhibit by the same name.


The Far Land

Brandon Presser

The mutineers of the Bounty sought out an uninhabited island upon which to settle. They wound up on remote Pitcairn, where hopes of a life in paradise ended violently, but not before a new generation was born and spawned a fraught society that has survived for 200 years. Presser, a travel journalist who resides here, got a rare invitation to visit the restricted shores of Pitcairn and came away inspired to write a lusciously styled thriller. Tom Hanks (yes, the Castaway himself) nicely summed up the draw of this book on Instagram: “The Far Land swells in the cause and effect of actions of passion. Brandon Presser’s fascinating narrative of the relentless consequences of the Bounty mutineers asks: Were they brave or damned? They lived such troubled lives ever after. You can’t make this stuff up!”

The Rabbit Hutch

Tess Gunty

This novel won the Waterhouse Prize for Debut Fiction, the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize, and, as of this writing, a National Book Award nomination. The so-called rabbit hutch is a low-rent apartment house in Vacca Vale (a thinly disguised version of Gunty’s hometown, South Bend). Gunty uses several literary devices, including a protracted obituary and free verse, to tell about its residents. Their stories take us into Roman Catholic mysticism, the anti-gentrification movement, and even—eep!—animal sacrifice. The novel stands apart visually, too. It has 20 pages of hand-drawn illustrations, a rarity in modern publishing. In that respect, it’s not so different from another novel with abundant hand drawings: Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Guess it’s a Hoosier thing.

Billie Starr’s Book of Sorries

Deborah Kennedy

One morning, a 28-year-old single mother faced two challenges: getting her daughter ready for a school trip to Chicago, and going to a hotel to entrap a political candidate. The ensuing government intrigue and family drama take place in fictional small Indiana towns. The book is filled with vivid prose and clever turns of phrase, plus the many possible answers a mom can give to an 8-year-old’s question, “Why do people drink?” Fort Wayne native Kennedy’s first book, Tornado Weather, was nominated for an Edgar Award for debut mystery novel.

Inciting Joy

Ross Gay

Beethoven composed Ode to Joy. C.S. Lewis was Surprised by Joy. Now IU professor and award-winning poet Ross Gay comes to us with his take on the powerful emotion. But this thesis is a paradox—instead of it being erased by difficulty and loss, it deepens. Thus, essay titles seem like oxymorons, like “Joy and Losing Your Phone” and “Grief Codex.” But they all share a single goal—to break down negativity and overcome the barriers that separate us from one another with healing joy. In a culture so poisoned with division and suspicion, what Gay delivers is no small gift.

The Best Night (Ever?) In Indianapolis

In the other 31 NFL cities, it was just the first weekend of the new NFL season. But this is Indianapolis, and Jim Irsay was ready to rock. So, on September 9, the Colts owner threw a free, all-day-and-into-the-night party at Lucas Oil Stadium that would have blown the roof off if it wasn’t retractable. Fans got to see his extraordinary collection of music, sports, and history memorabilia and take in a concert featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Buddy Guy, John Mellencamp, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), and Ann Wilson (Heart), plus Indianapolis native John Hiatt and an exceptional backing band.

The roof was open, the temperature perfect, the crowd about 20,000 strong. NFL Films and NFL Network captured footage, as did a documentary crew making a film about The Jim Irsay Collection. The whole thing deserved a name: Irsaypalooza.

Irsay’s collection had been to six cities before Indianapolis, but our version had more than 100 extra items. We got to see Johnny Unitas’s final-game cleats, 10 game-worn helmets from Super Bowl XLI, a locker from Shea Stadium used by the Beatles, and a Super Bowl XLI guitar gifted by Stephen Stills. Lines snaked around the stadium to see those along with signed letters by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and first editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And guitars. Dozens of guitars.

Before the show, Irsay suggested that Kenny Wayne Shepherd play David Gilmour’s iconic black Stratocaster, which Irsay purchased at auction for $3.9 million. The guitar was moved twice—once for the cameras the night before the show, and again the night of the concert, when it was handed to Shepherd as the band launched into Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

That was just one of the many great performances. Shepherd and Guy electrified the stadium with their guitar work on “How Blue Can You Get” and “I’m a King Bee.” R.E.M. fans savored hearing bassist Mills lead the band through “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” and “Superman.” Wilson sacrificed Heart for Led Zeppelin—including “Stairway to Heaven”—and a little Van Morrison. Drummer Kenny Aronoff backed Mellencamp for the first time in a few decades on a celebratory version of “Pink Houses.”

Then there was Irsay’s version of Nine Inch Nails’s “Hurt.” The owner’s voice is car wheels on a gravel road, but “Hurt” is more about striking the tone than hitting the notes. The Colts organization has made mental health its cause through the Kicking the Stigma campaign. Irsay’s “Hurt” provides the soundtrack.

Irsay has talked about finding a permanent home for the collection—in Indianapolis or elsewhere—but during a pre-show news conference, he backed off. Instead, he’s making like his hero Bob Dylan, who’s been on his Never-Ending Tour since 1988. The collection will make a few as-yet-unannounced stops in 2023 before heading to Europe in 2024.

As for the band, its focus on classic rock may not suit the Super Bowl, but it’s perfect for the Pro Bowl Games.


Irsaypalooza VIPs

Jennie DeVoe, singer-songwriter

“Patty Spitler, the host of Pet Pals TV, is one of our city’s best gems. I think so highly of her and her spirit that I gave her one of my songs for her show. It’s called ‘Give a Little Love.’”

Angelo Pizzo, screenwriter, producer, and director

“White River State Park, the Eiteljorg, and the Canal Walk are great places to get your steps in. When there’s time, I stop at the Eiteljorg and the Indiana History Center. My next script is set in Indiana during World War II, so I’m doing research at the History Center.”

Kristi Lee, radio host

“The Friendly Tavern in Zionsville is the best neighborhood restaurant. The name suits it because you’re truly only a stranger once at The Friendly—the first time you go in. I eat there every Tuesday with my boyfriend and friends. We refer to it as Tuesday Night Supper Club and it’s just a great time. They serve the best tenderloin I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts owner and CEO

“St. Elmo is my favorite, and that world-famous shrimp cocktail is my favorite dish. St. Elmo always has great food, a great ambience, and the people who work there are great, too.”