2020 changed everything. We – and the world – feel changed. This change has been exhausting, exhilarating, terrifying, liberating, needed, and not enough all at once. The 2021 festival featured events dealing with change and . . . climate, religion, “truthsgiving,” ethics, Butoh dance, neighborhoods, education, and so much more. The Public Conversation featured Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, Leah Gunning Francis, author of Faith and Ferguson and Faith After Ferguson. Our opening night event witnessed the debut of a new jazz piano piece, “The Road,” by Christopher Pitts who was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s eponymous novel as well as the changes we humans have collectively experienced during the pandemic.
Amidst a global pandemic and worldwide protests against police brutality, the Spirit & Place Festival boasted 25 virtual and hybrid events that connected audiences far and wide and included the debut of “A Brave Attempt,” a commissioned work by poet and activist Manon Voice who not only debuted a new poem, but served as emcee to our first-ever virtual Opening Night Kick-off, and joined Irish poet and theologian Padraig O’Tuama in conversation to close the festival during its annual Public Conversation.
The Latin revolutio and evolutio are separated by a single letter. The first means “a turn around,” implying swift or abrupt transition. The second means an “unrolling,” or “opening,” suggesting gradual transformation or blooming. Regardless, it’s all about change and in 2019 we invited the community to explore the nature of R/Evolution. Spirit & Place did so by inviting Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project,” to serve as our Public Conversation speaker.
In 2018 we encouraged reflection on INTERSECTION as the place and space where the but, or, and, also, between, either, and other meets. The Public Conversation featured Zeynep Tufekci, techno-sociologist and author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest.
Want to check out ALL our past festival awesomeness?! Scroll to the bottom to learn about all our past Public Conversation speakers, events, and Award of Awesomeness winners.
Poet and theologian Padraig O’Tuama and spoken word artists and activist Manon Voice.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project.’
Zeynep Tufekci, techno-sociologist and author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest/
Dr. James Madison, Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History Emeritus at Indiana University Bloomington, Dr. Maria Hamilton Abegunde, Visiting Lecturer in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at IU-Bloomington, SongSquad, and the Indiana Historical Society Museum Theater program.
Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City, Allison Luthe, Executive Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, and Timothy Schmalz, sculptor (“Homeless Jesus”)
Marshawn Wolley, Director of Partner Relations at VisitIndy, Rev. Anastassia Zinke, Senior Pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church, Phyllis Boyd, Executive Director Groundwork Indy, and David Sklar, Director of Governmental Affairs of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.
Bestselling writer and journalist Gail Sheehy, author of Passages and Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos Into Confidence; cancer survivor and New York Times #1 bestselling author/poet Mark Nepo; and Dr. Timothy E. Quill, Director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care, University of Rochester School of Medicine.
Scott Jones, ChaCha CEO & cofounder; Sarah Fisher, professional race car driver & team owner; Philip Gulley, author & minister; and David Baker, jazz performer & educator.
Jane McGonigal, author, futurist, game designer; and Susan Sparks, professional comedian, former trial lawyer, senior pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.
2011: The Body
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball icon; Anita Diamant, author; and Thomas Lynch, poet.
2010: Food for Thought
Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power; Frances Moore Lappe, author; and Harrell Flectcher, gardner/international artist.
2009: Inspiring Places
Former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut III, and Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman.
2008: Exploring Imagination
Producer, writer, and director Julie Dash; author, songwriter, and pastor Brian D. McLaren; and essayist and journalist Richard Rodriguez.
2007: Living Generously
Patty Stonesifer, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Nathan Dungan, president and founder of Share Save Spend; and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer, composer, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock.
2006: Tradition & Innovation
Author and human rights activist Sr. Joan Chittister, author and scholar Manning Marable, and Hoosier film writer/producer Angelo Pizzo.
2005: Moving & Staying
Poet and novelist Wendell Berry, writer and humorist Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, and award-winning journalist A’Lelia Bundles.
2004: Building and Belonging
Author Andre Dubus III, educational reformer and psychologist Howard Gardner, and theologian Renita Weems.
2003: Remembering and Reconciling
Editor Jim Wallis, author Charles Johnson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams.
2002: Breaking Silence
Novelist Mary Gordon, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, and critic bell hooks.
2001: Crossing Boundaries
Scholar Cornel West, novelist Jane Smiley, and author Rabbi Harold Kushner.
2000: Growing Up
Jonathan Kozol, Terry Tempest Williams, and Martin E. Marty.
1999: Changing Landscapes
Barry Lopez, Sister Helen Prejean, and Kathleen Norris.
1998: A Gathering of Voices
Peter Matthiessen, Reynolds Price, and Maxine Hong Kingston.
1997: Leaving and Returning
Thomas Keneally, Clifton Taulbert, and Joy Harjo.
1996: Thinking Out Loud about Indianapolis
Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, and John Updike.
The Award of Awesomeness began in 2016 as a way to recognize festival events that exemplify Spirit & Place’s values; use the arts, humanities, and religion in innovative ways; and just plain knock it out of the park in delivering an AWESOME experience!
Your financial support is what helps fund this $1,000 community prize.
Riverside Speaks! Past, Present, and Future
Ebenezer Baptist Church & partners
Break the Chains Off! History of Hip Hop in Power and Resistance
Kheprw Institute & partners
Ivy Tech Community College—Indianapolis & partners
(W)rites of Passage
Indiana Prison Writers Workshop & partners
OM: The Origin of All
Hindu Temple of Central Indiana & Santosha Yoga
Spirit & Place
IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI
425 University Blvd., CA 003B
Indianapolis, IN 46202
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