Life’s journey is filled with movement and meaning, but this Nov. 7 to 16, “Journey” also is the theme of a quest for thousands of curious people during the 2014 Spirit & Place Festival in Indianapolis.
The 19th annual festival will explore the various aspects of “Journey” in nearly 40 events scattered throughout the city, focusing on the impact of such topics as immigration, incarceration, marriage and dozens of others, all led by partnerships linking various civic, cultural and religious groups.
Spirit & Place was created 19 years ago by The Polis Center at IUPUI to engage the city’s population in unique conversations about each year’s festival theme.
This year, individual events will study life’s journey, all leading to the annual festival finale: the public conversation. This year’s event will feature renowned authors Gail Sheehy and Mark Nepo and Dr. Timothy Quill and focus on the “Journey’s End” at 4 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Christian Theological Seminary’s Shelton Auditorium.
All three are linked by loss and the quality of one’s end of life. Sheehy, the author of “Passages,” cared for her husband in the last stages of his life. Nepo is a two-time cancer survivor, and is scheduled to tour with television host Oprah Winfrey to discuss his perspectives on the importance of palliative care. Quill is the director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.
The three also will participate in the Mary Margaret Walther Program in Palliative Care Research and Education symposium “Passages and Promises: Innovations in Palliative Care Research Education and Practice” at the IUPUI Campus Center on Nov. 17.
Linking to other community events of importance is a Spirit & Place goal, said David Bodenhamer, the executive director of The Polis Center and one of those who helped create the festival.
“Spirit & Place’s success ultimately rests upon its ability to connect to the larger civic interests and concerns represented by an ever-growing number of groups in our city who, like Spirit & Place, want to make Indianapolis an even better place tomorrow than it is today,” Bodenhamer said.
Simple, open-ended themes are a deliberate choice, said Pam Blevins Hinkle, the festival director.
“We purposefully choose themes that are timely and resonate broadly in the community,” she said. Such themes help organizations find intriguing partnerships with other groups and explore issues more deeply.
Bodenhamer said he has been pleasantly surprised by some of those partnerships.
“I underestimated both the desire to contribute and the ways in which people wanted to collaborate across sectors,” he said. “People want to experience the whole city, not only their part of it. In this sense, Spirit & Place has touched a longing for connections that make a difference. The festival has encouraged this city’s cultural re-awakening and its belief in itself as a city of worth.”
Simple themes “evoke a wide range of feelings, images, memories and reflections that stoke the imagination and create a sense of anticipation for the November festival,” Hinkle said. The themes often offer an interesting mix of individual and community journeys.
Though other cities have shown an interest in imitating the impact of Spirit & Place, Bodenhamer said none have been able to replicate it.
“Spirit & Place is unique because Indianapolis is unique: we have our own history, our own traditions, our own sense of time and space,” he said.
by Ric Burrous
Learn more about this year’s festival.