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Fresh StART

Thomas D. Gregg IPS School #15

1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th grade classes

Spring Semester 2015

Case Written By:

Leila Viera

Arts for Learning Associate, Spring 2015

Fresh StART  project at IPS #15

With the Cloud Observatory behind her,

you can find Leila using her Arts Administration

skills from Indianapolis to New York.

And of course, cloud watching along the way.

(Thanks for your dedication to this project, Leila!) 

Closing Thought

Through the transformative power of the arts, students, and community members can work together to make a positive impact on their local community.


Arts for Learning expects to grow the Fresh StART program to other communities in Indianapolis. If you would like to bring this program to your school, neighborhood, or local community, or have ideas for future growth, please contact Arts for Learning at (317) 925-4043

In addition to the workshops, Fresh StART Indy brought an anti-bullying performance by Sapphire Theatre to IPS#15. This performance focused on the importance of showing kindness every day in order to improve our community and uplift each other, one small gesture at a time. The performance also served as a reminder for the students to take pride and ownership in the Cloud Observatory, which they helped to create. 


What We Learned

Arts for Learning provided the resources for the Fresh StART program to be implemented in IPS#15. However, throughout the implementation process, IPS#15 has proudly taken ownership of this project, the workshops, and the final art work. While the Cloud Observatory serves as a physical reminder of the program’s reach, the overall impact has extended further than the walls of IPS #15. Throughout this program, the Cloud Observatory has served as the glue, forming relationship between key community partners, and bringing together neighborhood residents, community leaders, and businesses. In an area that has a reputation of crime, violence, and blight, this project shines a light on the positive aspects of the neighborhood and provides hope for transforming the neighborhood into the safe streets that the students dream of. 


In the fall semester, Arts for Learning intends to bring all four artists back to IPS#15 to engage the students in workshops about various types of clouds. This will supplement the Fresh StART program and allow the students to provide artistic responses once they have experienced the Cloud Observatory for over three months.  

Meaningful Student Learning

From Mr. Ross Pippin, Assistant Principal, Indianapolis Public School #15: “We are excited about the voice that this project has given our students. It is important for them to be active participants in their community and their school. Fresh StART has given them a chance to get involved and do something great for their neighborhood.”


From Dr. Theresa Baker, Principal, Indianapolis Public School #15: “More great things are coming besides this great art project that we are sharing with you today. Our students share with us one very important thing and that is safety and hope. This is a great place to live and a great place to work.”


From City Councilman Zach Adamson: “I live about seven blocks from [IPS School #15] so I am in this community every day. I see the trials and tribulations, but I also see the amazing things that are going on, the transformations that are happening every day, and I am really excited to be a part of it.”

In addition to the student workshops, the school hosted three community nights throughout the project. These events served to create an open dialogue about specific ways to improve the local community and involved the families in the ideation process. The family nights featured cloud postcard making, as seen in the photo above.


Following the workshops and family nights, Meredith Brickell collected all of the students work samples, and used the pieces to inspire her creation. The final artwork was specifically inspired by a conversation between Meredith and the 5th grade class. As they were discussing the Near Eastside neighborhood, Meredith prompted the students to think about what is truly present in their neighborhood. Understanding that there are numerous abandoned lots and vacant spaces, the students began naming off positive aspects of the neighborhood; flowers, trees, animals, and clouds. One student specifically responded, “I want to be able to watch clouds!”, which inspired Meredith to create a Cloud Observatory. The Cloud Observatory is now open to the public at 518 Beville Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46201, across from the school’s art classroom.

The Community

The Near Eastside of Indianapolis encompasses 20 different neighborhoods with 40,000 residents. In general, the poverty rate of this region is significantly higher than that of Marion County with one in four people living in poverty. Additionally, educational attainment is quite low, as indicated by the fact that 24% of residents do not have a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Census, the unemployment rate on the Near Eastside in 2000 was 9.79%, which is nearly double that of Marion County’s at 5.4%. Likewise, the unemployment rate for the region has continued to increase in the past decade. As indicated by, the Near Eastside has a higher crime rate than Marion County at 141 crimes per 1,000 residents, about 20% higher than the crime rate reported for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.  


Specifically, the abandoned lot across from the IPS#15 classroom was identified as the target area. Situated between two abandoned houses, the space is currently a privately owned community garden. Furthermore, a majority of the 4th grade students at IPS#15 utilize the target abandoned area as their path to and from school through the Safe Routes to School program, further solidifying the need for engagement in this specific lot. 


Guiding Questions

1. How can community residents and students utilize art to transform their neighborhood?

2. How can art play a part in strengthening long-term community relationships?


The Creative and Learning Process

Four artists: Poet, Tony Styxx, storyteller, Bob Sander, songwriter Bobbie Lancaster, and visual artist, Meredith Brickell, worked with a total of 144 students in 18 workshops through their respective art forms to gather these ideas. This included the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th (two classes) and 6th classes at IPS#15. These workshops served as inspiration, producing ideas to influence Brickell’s final piece of public art.

Program Summary

Fresh StART Indy seeks to engage young neighborhood residents in a unified, school-based effort to improve their community through art. Made possible by the Central Indiana Community Foundation Crime Prevention grant and Art 4 Moore, Fresh StART Indy commissioned a visual artist –Meredith Brickell to create a piece of public art inspired by the local community to be installed in a vacant lot within walking distance from Indianapolis Public School #15 in the St. Clair place neighborhood of Indianapolis. With input from local residents including student workshops and community nights, Meredith Brickell’s artwork will be a direct reflection of community changes from local residents, showcasing the power of the arts to transform a community.   


The School Partner

Thomas D. Gregg, Indianapolis Public School #15 specializes in providing students an education based around science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The school has a focus on aviation and aerospace, which directly ties into the theme of the Cloud Observatory. IPS#15 has been a school partner with Arts for Learning for over 10 years. IPS#15 currently has existing partners with the Boner Center and the Pacers Foundation. For more information about IPS#15 visit their website: