Indianapolis, Indiana – Fountain Square

Main Streets 2017: Indiana

Like many cities in the 1960s, Indianapolis lost population and businesses to the allure of the suburbs. The once-vibrant Fountain Square, where Virginia Avenue and Prospect and Shelby Streets intersect, was dubbed “the lost little valley,” its bowling alley shuttered, the fountain forlorn.

Perhaps no one would have believed that a key to revitalizing part of this neighborhood, a mile and a half from the city center, was the reintroduction of a game invented in 1900 and loved by Babe Ruth. Not baseball — duck pin bowling. In 1994, a local businessman rediscovered and bought the Fountain Square Theatre, a dilapidated gem from the 1920s that he restored and reopened, complete with dance hall and vintage duck pin bowling alley. Local people began to visit the neighborhood again. More businesses followed, and even the fountain got restored.

Today’s Fountain Square is more popular than ever, a haven for artists where poets, painters and performers compete to claim one of the neighborhood’s new housing units. One of Fountain Square’s most anticipated events is the annual Art Squared, where artists create new works around the square in “Masterpiece for a Day,” local artists offer work for sale in the Fountain Square Art Fair, and the day wraps up with the Art Parade. If you’ve never seen art paraded around a town square, this is not to be missed.

The Fountain Square Music Festival is a two-day October event centered on the square, with over 50 performers performing on the main stage and in club venues a block or less away. Visitors enjoy pre- and post-concert meals in the area’s many restaurants, featuring the cuisines of Peru, Mexico, Greece and China. Indianapolis has always welcomed immigrants, and continues to celebrate its cultural diversity.

Linking Fountain Square with the city’s five other designated “cultural districts” is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile path for bicyclists and pedestrians that’s highlighted by public art installations. Even the trail is art, in part. When planners wondered what to do with a dark stretch through a covered parking lot, their solution was to embed purple lights in the trail’s bricks that twinkle, illuminate and turn off when the walker leaves the area.

“Surrounding neighborhoods, including Fletcher Place and Holy Rosary, add to the vibrant life on the trail between Downtown and Fountain Square,” notes the square’s website. Explore it all by walking, or rent a “Pacers Bikeshare” bicycle from one of the neighborhood kiosks. You won’t be sorry you did.

Photo credits (L-R) – Nyttend, Jim Grey, MCC Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN is home to two 2016-17 LifeChangers: Lisa Johnson and Elizabeth Rothrock

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Carmel, Indiana – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Indiana

One of the nation’s fastest-growing communities, Carmel, Indiana was named the “Best Place to Live in the United States” by CNN Money magazine in 2012. The city’s lively central gathering place is Main Street, rich with local culture and engaging attractions.

You can’t miss the street’s Carmel Arts & Design District, which promotes small businesses and local artisans and welcomes you with its distinctive brick and wrought-iron gateway. One of the largest of its kind in the Midwest, the Arts & Design District features art galleries, showrooms, restaurants, antique stores, interior design studios, and an array of specialty shops. During the holiday season, the street comes especially to life on Festive Fridays, when visitors enjoy shopping and entertainment in a relaxed, fun atmosphere late into the evening. Favorite gathering spots along the street include the Agave Bar and Grill, the Carmel Music Center, Scotty’s Brewhouse and the Pint Room.

Annual festivals hosted by the Arts & Design District include Carmel Artomobilia, which brings in an amazing variety of classic, exotic and rare autos, plus auto-designed art of all kind. In September, the Carmel International Arts Festival offers concerts, dance shows and children’s activities along with its main feature, a juried exhibit of work by artists from Indiana, across the U.S., and internationally.

A unique destination on Main Street is the Museum of Miniature Houses, whose seven exhibit rooms display more than 600 miniature homes, room boxes, dollhouses and other finely fashioned miniature items and displays. Carmel also has the World’s Smallest Children’s Art Gallery, so designated by the Guinness Book of World Records. The Monon Greenway, which passes through West Main Street, is a bicycling and recreation trail on the line of the old Monon Railroad, which connected Chicago and Indianapolis.

Carmel is also home to the Palladium Center for the Performing Arts, where the acoustics are world-class and the entertainers range from community-based theater, dance and musical groups to internationally known entertainers. And the city’s Carmel Clay Public Library, located just off of Main Street between Carmel High School and Carmel Elementary School, is one of the country’s most impressive community libraries. It contains over 300,000 books, 46,000 audiovisual items, and 665 periodicals.

All photos courtesy of City of Carmel

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