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Neighborhood Stories

Near Eastside Neighborhood

Grades K-5

November 2015 

Program Summary 

In November 2015, Arts for Learning was selected as a finalist for Dream Indy: 5×5, a competition that awards individuals and organizations for creative and innovative ideas for using art to improve Indianapolis. Five competitors used five slide images and took five minutes to pitch their dreams to make Indianapolis a better place, with art as the basis.  At the end of the event, Arts for Learning was named the winner for its “Neighborhood Stories” program and received $10,000 to launch the idea. 5×5 was funded by Central Indiana Community Foundation, Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, the Efroymson Family Fund, and Lilly Endowment.


Fresh StART Indy seeks to engage young neighborhood residents in a unified, school-based effort to improve their community through art. With support from 5 x 5 Indy funders and the Art4Moore Fund of the Tides Foundation, “Neighborhood Stories” is an extension of Fresh StART, a program that encourages the sharing and collecting of stories in underserved communities throughout Indianapolis. Local artists, and residents of the Near Eastside are collaborating on a storytelling and bookmaking project that celebrates the diversity and vibrancy of their community. The “Reader’s Chair” is a transportable public artwork that was created by visual artist Emily Kennerk that is part of the Neighborhood Stories program. The chair was constructed by Indiana Furniture, with help by Mayer Fabrics, and will serve as the centerpiece for community reading events. It will travel to a variety of different businesses, community centers, etc. around the Near Eastside neighborhood and will be the center of programs each month. Arts for Learning is also partnering with Author Solutions to publish a collection of stories about the Near Eastside written and illustrated by students, families, and other community residents who participated in workshops at Thomas D. Gregg Elementary, the Shepherd Community Center, and East 10th United Methodist Children and Youth Center. Our teaching artists will help community members create their own page of the book.

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.  

Creative and Learning Process

Neighborhood Stories included workshops with Bob Sander and Jingo de La Rosa. Sander, a storyteller, helped participants create stories centered around their neighborhood and de La Rosa continued the process by aiding in illustrating the stories they had just written.

The Readers Chair was revealed at the Jasper Community Arts Commission’s 13th Annual Chalk Walk Festival and will make its debut in Indianapolis at the Feast of Lanterns.

Feast of Lanterns, Indianapolis, August 27

Arts for Learning had a booth at the event, as well as a KidZone area. They partnered with Center for Inquiry 2 and their art club. Readers Chair will program readers for the event from around the Near Eastside neighborhood. During the event, Adzooks Puppets performed with the chair. You can find out more about their performance and how they can connect with the chair on their Story Chair website

Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School #15

Thomas D. Gregg, Indianapolis Public School #15 specializes in providing students an education based around science, technology, engineering, arts and math. 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:

Shepherd Community Center

Centered in the Near Eastside neighborhood, the Shepherd Community Center works with neighborhood youth and thier families “to break the cycle of poverty on the near Eastside of Indianapolis by engaging and empowering the community to cultivate healthy children, strong families, and vibrant neighborhoods through a Christ-centered approach that meets the spiritual, physical, emotional, and academic needs of our neighbors.”

East 10th United Methodist Children and Community Center

“The mission of East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center, Inc. is to provide a safe place where the spiritual, emotional, educational, and physical needs of children, youth, and their families are responded to in a holistic approach.”

Case Written By:

Emily Vriesman

Graphic Design Intern, Summer of 2016

Xavier University 

B.A. in Graphic Design and Art Education

Graduating December 2016