Sowing Into Community

In January 2018, Lilly Endowment Inc. launched an initiative called "Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation." Indianapolis-based non-profit organizations were invited to submit visionary ideas that could succeed at three goals. The first was enhancing the quality of life in Indianapolis. The second goal was bolstering the city’s image as a desirable place to live, work, play, and visit. Fostering a creative, energized, and forward-thinking community was third.

The grants program defined arts and culture broadly, and non-profits from different backgrounds were encouraged to partner to create ideas that could be implemented by 2019. Not only did Strengthening Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation ask for ideas that could bring joy to the community, broaden perspectives, and bridge divisions, the initiative also sought ideas that could grow the local economy by driving tourism and attracting exceptional talent.

In the end, 226 creative ideas were submitted from art centers, community centers, community development organizations, parks, school districts, and more. These ideas, with project budgets ranging from $7,500 to $10 million, were evaluated for their creativity, feasibility, impact, rationale, and scope of community benefit. On December 5, 2018, Lilly Endowment announced 17 projects to be funded through grants totaling nearly $49 million.


• Use the arts to rejuvenate historic city landmarks and beautify public places.

• Support artists by strengthening the spaces where they work and live.

• Incorporate the arts into neighborhood revitalization.

• Create dynamic cultural programs and experiences that bring people together.

• Provide arts experiences to children through innovative school-based endeavors.

• Infuse art into the development of nature trails that are accessible to people with physical disabilities.

Newfields was awarded $8 million to fund infrastructure and programming for largescale festivals. Harvest will debut as a long weekend (October 3-6), and will expand over several years to become a month-long community celebration. Harvest, along with future seasonal festivals at Newfields, will markedly contribute to the city’s arts and cultural power by appealing to 6,000 to 10,000 local, regional, and national visitors each festival day.

With the 2017 implementation of Winterlights and Spring Blooms, two successful programs based on market data, Newfields proved that it has both the right venue and the right expertise to host major festivals. But these aren’t just any festivals; they’re events that respond to the desires of today’s arts and culture enthusiasts. Newfields’ ability to activate multisensory experiences across the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Garden, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, and theaters makes it the ideal Indianapolis destination for festival programming that showcases the visual, performing, horticultural, and culinary arts.

Lilly Endowment's investment will allow Newfields to publicly celebrate Indianapolis's diverse community, attract a broader audience, contribute to the city’s tourism economy and reputation, and provide outstanding opportunities to infuse arts and culture into thousands of lives. 

Latest Stories