CICF News / 2012 / August / News Post
August 30, 2012
We Built This City

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, sometime around 6 a.m., Indianapolis’ urban enthusiasts receive a special message in their email inboxes. It might feature a blog post from an urban design expert, a local editorial on Georgia Street’s use – or lack thereof – or a link to a creative place-making approach in a European city. The content changes in each edition, but the snappy overviews and interesting ideas in We Are City’s Briefing aim to spark and sustain a local interest in city-building.

City building efforts in Indianapolis
span from large-scale trail-building
projects to neighborhood-based
organizations. Photo courtesy of
Curtis Ailes/Urban Indy.

The Briefing is one of three programmatic efforts from We Are City, a group of local volunteers focused on pushing Indianapolis into a new phase of development, one that moves from aspiration to arrival. In addition to the biweekly Briefing emails, the group plans to host both the We Are City Exchange and Summit at the Harrison Center for the Arts in September 2012, efforts sponsored by the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

“We’re looking for ways to promote city-building in Indianapolis,” says John Beeler, one of We Are City’s organizers. “And to move from idea generation to project completion.”

From Aspiration to Action

We Are City’s organizers are a diverse group of mostly thirty-something professionals connected to universities, hospitals, social media, community groups and the arts. They originally came together originally in support of the Urbanized Summit in October 2011 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The 2011 summit, which followed a screening of Gary Hustvit’s Urbanized documentary on the increasingly urban nature of human life in the twenty-first century, attracted a range of organizations and individuals focused on improving Indianapolis through design. Given the success of the event, the volunteers wanted to keep the conversation going – and more. We Are City was born shortly after.

Many of We Are City's organizers were involved in the October 2011 Urbanized Summit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

We Are City’s contributors share a common goal – to advance city-building conversation and action-, but the group’s professional backgrounds are varied. Michael Kaufmann and John Beeler have worked together previously with the Asthmatic Kitty music label. Today, Kaufmann works with Wishard Hospital in community outreach, while Beeler works in social media. Tim Carter, who leads Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology, and Pamela Napier, a Herron School of Art professor, represent academic institutions. Additional contributors include local government veteran Tonya Beeler, designer Matthew Hale and landscape architect Brian Staresnick.

“We decided that we needed to do it again,” says John Beeler. “But we had to pick a new name. ‘We Are City’ means that, as a city, we’ve arrived, we’re not trying to aspire.”

With the new name and the goal of inspiring action, the group hopes that their trio of projects can do more than create a space for impassioned conversation. We Are City’s goals include sharing ideas, forging connections among organizations that represent neighborhood action and more conceptual urban thinking, and inspiring individuals to collaborate on solutions to local challenges. Local interest in urban life and community action has spread from community leaders to arts organizations including several city offices and organizations like Big Car and the Indianapolis Museum of Art to several upstart organizations and online media such as People for Urban Progress, Untold Indy, Urban Indy and IndySpectator. With this increased focus on city-building, the organizers hope to engage a diverse audience.

Make Your Own City Connection

To find out more about We Are City, visit There, you can connect with the three core efforts of the project:

The Briefing: Biweekly enewsletter shares links to local, national and global stories about placemaking, urban action and opinions on city improvements, as well as local events and occasional essays on urban Indianapolis life.

The Exchange: Diverse organizations, from neighborhood-based groups to citywide initiatives, share information and opportunities for involvement as part of the Harrison Center for the Arts’ First Friday activities. September 7, 2012 from 6 to 10 p.m..

The Summit: Speakers from Indianapolis and beyond highlight innovative solutions to city challenges, including a green jobs co-op effort from Cleveland and Indianapolis’ Reconnecting to Our Waterways initiative, at the Harrison Center for the Arts. Summit attendees participate in action-focused conversations. September 21st, noon to 5 p.m. Registration is $20.

Read more about CICF's Inspiring Places Initiative, which focuses on transforming public spaces into high-quality amenities.