From Manhattan to Indy: finding a local art scene

Painting by Tom Day sitting on a wooden floor

Tom Day’s “ChromeBoy” featured in the annual group color show | Photo via @tomday_art

This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Madeline Walsh is an Indianapolis native, Harrison Center fellow + art and design enthusiast. Want to join the conversation? Learn how to share your voice here.

Years ago, I abruptly changed the direction of my life. I transferred universities, switched majors from Biomedical Sciences to Art History, and packed everything I owned into my Subaru to make the 13-hour journey from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Half-a-decade later, I had both a BA and MA in Art/Design History and was living a life in Manhattan punctuated by weekly visits to some of the world’s foremost art institutions.

Then the world shut down. The libraries and museums I frequented shuttered their doors overnight. I found myself again packing up my life — this time reversing the journey I made years prior.

My cat and I moved home to Indiana to live with my parents. I worried not only about the trajectory of my career, but also about what the arts community even looked like in the now foreign-to-me city of Indianapolis.

As vaccines became available and restrictions lifted, I watched the Indianapolis arts community spring to life. I was happy to find ample evidence of the city’s deep dedication to art, design + culture.

This commitment has become especially apparent since I began a fellowship at the Harrison Center — a nonprofit arts organization located at 15th and Delaware St.

At the Harrison Center, I have been particularly inspired by First Fridays. The center hosts this free monthly event in celebration of the work being created by local artists.

My start-date coincided with the October iteration of First Friday, which was unlike any event I have ever attended. Think: a 65,000 square-foot labyrinth of creativity and artistic expression complete with roof-top LED tetherball, a karaoke elevator, an adult-sized slide, and a human + dog-friendly hamster wheel.

I was surprised to find that the organization even offers the public a rare glimpse into the studios of its resident artists, like Tom Day, who is unveiling a new work today at the Hi Ho Silver Group Color Show.

A slide going down a staircase next to a piano

An adult-sized slide perfect for visitors with an inner-child | Photo via @melindaindianapolis

My time thus far at the institution has given me great appreciation for the values that the Harrison Center champions: place-based programs, grassroots activism, and inclusive, accessible art. These ideas are evident in the collective of people drawn together to (safely) recognize the work of local artists at First Fridays.

If you hold similar interest in the art communities of Indianapolis, or if you just want to check out the Harrison Center, then I hope you will join me at December’s First Friday tonight.