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Richmond is 'a beautiful place to call home' -- India Cruse-Griffin creates community art for Positive Place and 'One Book' projects

Oct. 24, 2012

Richmond-based artist India Cruse-Griffin is overseeing the creation of a public art piece for the Positive Place Initiative and IU East’s “One Book, Many Voices” project.

India Cruse-Griffin

India Cruse-Griffin

Applying her characteristic mixed-media style, Cruse-Griffin will use layers, textures, patterns, color and paint to create a collage reflective of collective childhood memories and a shared story of places and events within the Richmone community.

“Art is a binder between all people. When they look at art, they may like it or hate, but they are a part of it,” said Cruse-Griffin, an art teacher at Richmond High School.

After growing up in Richmond, Cruse-Griffin moved away for a time, returning to raise her family in the city where her parents and grandparents grew up. She says she knows the students she sees every day have a bright future, and she encourages them to consider Richmond in their future.

“Living in Richmond just is a true part of who I am; I have such deep roots in the community, and my heart is here. I know Richmond is a good place,” Cruse-Griffin said.

Residents of Wayne County have been invited to contribute photos and short stories for Cruse-Griffin to incorporate into a three- or four-panel piece. Just like the community of Wayne County itself, the work will be composed of individual pieces that, while powerful on their own, have even more impact when combined and functioning as a whole.

The community art piece will be revealed in January 2013 and will be the centerpiece of a variety of events and activities throughout 2013.

Cruse-Griffin is in the early stages of creating the piece, sketching out the panels.

“The project is going really well. I find myself carrying my camera around Richmond so I can snap photos here and there of different things that people may recognize where they are and can quickly identify like the blue crane flying over the Whitewater Gorge,” Cruse-Griffin said.

“I want to show that there are great and wonderful things going on in Richmond as well as a beautiful place to call home. We have a lot great stuff going on here, and we sometimes forget that.”

Community participation in this creative process is critical to the goals of the Positive Place Initiative and One Book, Many Voices.” Both of these projects welcome community participation and foster discussion to improve the region.

Funded by an Indiana Campus Compact Scholarship of Engagement Grant through the Lilly Endowment, the Positive Place Initiative connects and applies the expertise of an IU East faculty member with a strategic community issue in the Richmond and Wayne County region.The "One Book, Many Voices" project launched in August with the mission of fostering campus and community discussion to ultimately inspire positive civic engagement.

Fredricka Joyner, associate professor of business administration and organization behavior at IU East, said a key goal of Positive Place is to create an inclusive conversation about residents’ feelings of attachment to the community.

"It is our hope that through conversation we will discover new ways to engage each other and to work together to strengthen the community," Joyner said.

Katherine Frank, dean of humanities and social sciences at IU East, said the addition of the storytelling element to this project allows people to lend their voice to the process.

“The ‘One Book, Many Voices’ project encourages people to listen and communicate and to learn about themselves, others, and the places where we live, work, and play through the storytelling process. Storytelling builds knowledge and confidence and helps lead to action,” Frank said.

“India’s work is well-known in the community as is her love of and service to the area,” Frank said. "India is an artist and teacher, and her art reveals what it means to teach others about one’s practice and the world that influences it. Her work invites people in and asks them to think, care, and act -- to have a positive influence on their community. There simply isn’t a more perfect fit for this project.”

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