I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but some people in pretty high places have had some pretty high praise for Indy recently. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have made it hard for me to miss. I feel lucky to be surrounded by friends and fellow makers heralding Indy’s Great Awakening, but I also can’t help but notice that I live in a bit of a bubble.
Take a pass through the comments sections of local and even national media trying to say good things about Indianapolis. You’ll find a sizable part of our city’s population who still seem to live in the Indy of 10-15 years ago—the Indy with a quiet and crumbling downtown, where you were advised not to go to Fountain Square or Mass Ave. by yourself after dark, which was a moot point because there wasn’t really much to do there anyway.
But that’s not today’s Indy. Today’s Indy is a buzz and a blur of arts destinations, booming local breweries, unique eateries—which is to say nothing of our growing tech haven, our staple life sciences and biotech industries, our emerging creative class. SunKing, Pattern, Josh Kaufman, Exact Target, John Green, Thunderbird, the Cultural Trail, Angie’s List, Fountain Square, Black Market, Children’s Museum. That’s just the start of a list of Indy names sharing national and even global spotlights. Today’s Indy is swarming with people working to make a name for our city.
I can understand those who are scared to get their hopes up, but they are missing out on a historic moment in Indianapolis. That thing I said, about “making a name for our city.” That’s real. That’s happening right now. Right now, anyone who wants to can play a lead role in shaping Indy’s identity locally, regionally, and nationally. Names are important.
To give something a name is to give it value, is to say, “Something is at stake here. Something about this place is different from other places.” You give something a name so you can identify it, so you can talk to others about it, so you can have a relationship with it.
And Indy is naming itself. Quite literally. In the past month, the city has unveiled new names for two of its up-and-coming areas: Market East and the International Marketplace. Market East specifically was met with mixed reviews.
I understand the reactions against “Market East.” I really do. Right now, there’s not much there but the City Market, the old City Hall, and a parking lot where Market Square Arena once stood. It feels like a misnomer. It feels unwarranted. It feels premature.
But I dare anyone to wander the catacombs beneath City Market and tell me that Market East lacks history. Spend an afternoon at the farmer’s market and tell me there’s no personality. Remember the rush and roar of a crowd coming to its feet as the ball left Reggie Miller’s fingertips and tell me there’s no identity in those few blocks where Market Square stood.
“Market East” is precritical. Not premature. It’s a name that gives homage to what made that district great in the first place, and sets it up to be great again. It gives those who live and work there a way to take ownership of it in a way that they couldn’t before, just like any other district or neighborhood in the city.
That’s what a name can do.
In a way, Market East serves as a metaphor for Indy as a whole. People are investing their time, money, and talents to build something here. People are paying attention to what we are doing. The New York Times. Movoto. The Chicago Tribune. Buzzfeed.
This isn’t the time to wallow in our “Indy-feriority,” as I heard someone recently quip. This is the time to own who we are. This is the time to give ourselves the name we’ve always wanted.