INDIANAPOLIS – An ambitious program to restore and build homes in Indianapolis’ struggling Near Eastside neighborhood is getting an art-oriented boost, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The 46201 Project, named for the neighborhood’s area code and spearheaded by the Shepherd Community Center, aims to refurbish from 80 to 100 homes by the end of the summer. Homeowners who need repairs are invited to contact the center, which will dispatch mostly volunteer workers to do the upgrades free of charge—and 10 homes will be built from scratch. “Our goal is to affect housing, hunger and hope,” Jill Height of the Shepherd Center tells the Indianapolis Recorder. “We know that our neighborhood is not always seen as the nicest in the city, and we want to make an impact by identifying the underlying issues and find solutions.”
But 46201 will go beyond housing renewal to explore how art and placemaking can deter crime and raise morale in the Near Eastside. The Indy East Art Peace  project, set up with a $50,000 grant from the NEA to the Arts Council of Indianapolis under the Our Town program, will bring four local artists together with four law-enforcement professionals and four community members to learn techniques of creative placemaking and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).
Beyond “Eyes on the Street”
CPTED is a design philosophy that began by maximizing “eyes on the street”—adjusting lighting, removing visual barriers, and increasing foot traffic so potential criminals sense that they will be observed—and has since come to incorporate public art and other amenities aimed at boosting neighborhood pride and the sense of ownership of public spaces.
“We are creating spaces where people can compose music together, create art together or participate in theater together,” the Arts Council’s public art director, Julia Moore, tells the Recorder. “We want to find spaces where all of this can happen on the east side. We want to make things more comfortable through artistic seating, well-designed activities and things that increase beauty.”
The Art Peace project is a joint effort of the Arts Council, the community-development nonprofit Near East Area Renewal (NEAR), the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Its official kickoff is scheduled for August.