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One and All 

 "Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by ... Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

-Martin Luther King Jr.
 "Letters from Birmingham Jail"

This passage motivates Rebecca King and Dante Ventresca, local artists and community activists. The two will use Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a canvas to incorporate ideas from around the city for a communal art project promoting growth and amity.

You may remember them from their TEDx Indianapolis talk in 2012 or the PETAL Project that was a part of Super Bowl XLVI. Both projects, and many others that King and Ventresca have had a hand in, push for better community through the arts. The artists will tell you that a community functions as a whole; and as MLK said, what affects one part will be felt in another. To manage and embrace that connectivity positively, Ventresca and King now run the Theater of Inclusion.

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The theater makes its stage in far more than just a traditional setting. Although for Ventresca the project began as a revitalization of such spaces around Indianapolis, Theater of Inclusion now works everywhere -- from classrooms and boardrooms to community and detention centers. For Jan. 20, the curtain will open at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, revealing a publicly collected installation titled "One and All," in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The artists gathered images from Indy residents via email for the past few months, following their call for submissions. It was fairly simple: Send in a picture of something you think makes your community better, and then describe it in one word.

Some of the image and word pairings are closely aligned and are what a general viewer might associate. For example an image of free weights submitted by a member of the Crossfit community states the word "strength" below it.

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"[Other times] you get the impression that it is more of a reminder to the person who may be going through a tough time," says King. "People have responded in a variety of ways ... One thing that is really important to Dante and I in all our projects is that we are not imposing a message. We want to facilitate a conversation and create an environment of openness."

King and Ventresca believe the project will allow people to see common themes in how everyone defines community. Each image has been printed onto a magnet and will be displayed at the IMA on makeshift walls 4 feet high. The artists will spend most the week leading up to the exhibit creating and building the walls and fashioning the initial arrangement of the magnets.

"We are paying attention to the elements of each image," says King, discussing how the installation will look that morning. "It will be more like creating an abstract piece ... organizing color and texture so it allows the eye to scan across the images."

By using magnets, King and Ventresca hope viewers will be encouraged to get a little hands-on art appreciation. Patrons are welcome to move the images and regroup them as they see fit. Then at the end of the day, viewers will be able to select images that they like and take them home.

Even if the entire installation exists only for a few hours before it breaks apart and scatters, the day will be documented, and ideally people will walk away from it with more than just a magnet.

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The display is shaped like an hourglass. According to King this represents how the collected images come from a very wide community, but then they come together for a moment, in a tightly focused space for a few hours. And then they scatter back out into the community.

"This is so people can share what is most important to them," she says. "But also so they can have an artifact to remind them that there is somebody out there, whether they have met them or not, that has that shared value. It is a message in a bottle almost."

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About The Author

Emily Taylor  /  IUPUI

Emily Taylor / IUPUI

Emily Taylor is currently in her last year at IUPUI where she is studying Journalism, Philosophy and Political Science. She is a freelance writer in the Indianapolis metro area where she lives surrounded by her books, far too much coffee and a mangy mutt named Blissful.

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