Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
An empty tire shop in the parking lot of a suburban shopping mall might seem to some like an eyesore. But to the Indianapolis-based arts and community development group Big Car, that empty tire shop was an opportunity. The group, founded in 2004, has been working to spread art and community centers throughout the city. In the tire shop, Big Car saw the chance to fill a void in the neighborhood, which had been lacking any sort of cultural amenities (aside from, y’know, the shopping mall). So Big Car has been steadily converting the shop into a community gathering space, offering room for events, gallery space for local artists, a library and computers, and a community garden in what used to be a vast asphalt parking lot.
The community center is also engaging with the neighborhood, organizing events to bring neighbors together and to support local businesses. One recent effort created a restaurant guide to the largely immigrant-run eateries in the area. For Big Car, focusing on neighborhoods in need and celebrating the assets they have is a key part of improving Indianapolis.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.