FULL AUDIO CAPTION: Terre Haute, Indiana recently received state designation as a cultural arts district. Just three blocks from the downtown’s is Ryves, a long-established neighborhood now facing significant economic, social, and health challenges. Herz-Rose Park lies at its center, yet suffers from disinvestment and disuse. Unlike most of Terre Haute’s parks, Ryves’ two square block park is surrounded by homes and apartments and is adjacent to a recently renovated elementary school, which serves the city’s largest at-risk population of children. As the heart of Ryves, Herz-Rose Park is well-positioned to serve as a focal point for the neighborhood revitalization efforts aimed at promoting health and well-being, economic development, and personal growth.
In 2018 artist Matthew Mazzotta through a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks grant generated by Indiana State University and Art Spaces, two of the many partners in revitalization efforts in the Ryves neighborhood. Matthew met with stakeholders interested in revitalization in Ryves and held his signature “outdoor living room” to engage with residents, learning of their fond memories, needs, hopes, and desires for Ryves and in particular for Herz-Rose Park. He then conceptualized a public art project that would bring back the town center feeling the neighborhood has lost in recent decades. Businesses have severely declined, the housing stock has aged, physical health and mental health issues have risen, and little investment has addressed those issues. Residents want to interact, to share, to plan, to dream and to re-connect with their city and the neighborhood.
The proposed project, called NEIGHBORS, includes two house-like structures with permanent seating for year round use. The structures hold a surprise though – they can transform into a variety of orientations, allowing for creative programming to address community-identified needs. For example, this city streetscape opens eight storefronts that can be programmed for health education events, activities aimed at teaching job skills or recruitment, opportunities to build relationships with law enforcement officials in a non-emergency situation, and many other options. Other orientations will allow for different activities, including theatrical productions, music, movies or a big town square.
Many partners have committed to bring NEIGHBORS to fruition, including the Mayor’s office, Parks and Recreation (who will own the completed project), Indiana State University, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Art Spaces, and Vectren, among others. By intentionally integrating art and creativity into programming desired by residents, NEIGHBORS can serve as a catalyst for change so badly needed in this resource-challenged, nearly downtown neighborhood.
GENERAL INFORMATION: NEIGHBORS, an interactive public art project, has been conceived by artist Matthew Mazzotta for Herz-Rose Park in Terre Haute’s Ryves neighborhood. Two life-size, house-like structures with external porches and varied styles of permanent seating will offer year-round opportunities for meeting and gathering. When activated for a specific programmed event, the structures will pivot to form a streetscape with storefronts, a town square, a theater space, a plaza, a crossroads or another configuration, depending on the type of event.
Facilitated activities to promote various aspects of health, arts, education, employment opportunities, safety, and civic engagement will be designed in direct response to ongoing input from neighborhood residents. Art Spaces is the leading community organization for NEIGHBORS. Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology are early members of a broad consortium including higher education, social service agencies, healthcare agencies, public education, non-profits, government and private business that is being developed to build, program and sustain NEIGHBORS. Mechanical and technical aspects are being researched and considered with college student and faculty integration in course syllabi, and fundraising is well underway. This exciting project has tremendous potential to act as a catalyst for positive community-driven revitalization within a city neighborhood facing many challenges.