Michael Bricker, co-founder of the Indianapolis-based People for Urban Progress, says it’s a little tough to sum up what he and his organization do all day. But it’s not for want of trying. Think of PUP as a “do tank” instead of a “think tank.”
By design, PUP’s story is best told through its projects, each of which addresses at least two of the organization’s three key concerns: transit, environment and design.
Bricker’s own life is project-based: when not hanging out at PUP’s outpost/factory store in the Murphy Arts Center, he works as a production designer on increasingly high-profile indie films, notably Natural Selection, the winner of the 2011 SXSW Grand Jury Prize.
As ILG talked with Bricker on a First Friday at the Murphy, he was preparing to head to Utah for Sundance, then Albuquerque to work on a film by “mumblecore” director Andrew Bujalski. His twin sister, PUP lead designer Jessica Bricker, picks up the slack during his absences, along with a small crew of part-time employees and a battalion of volunteers.
In 2013 PUP hopes to mount their single biggest installation: an interactive sculpture comprised of coin-operated parking meters, which PUP took off the city of Indianapolis’s hands when parking was recently privatized and “modernized.”
Here’s more about that project, due to be installed in the Indianapolis City Market’s courtyard this summer, as well as several others on PUP’s slate. Head to peopleup.org for progress updates, videos and opportunities to get involved.
Because of the unitary nature of PUP’s work — one canopy here, a row of seats at a bus stop there, a wallet made from shards of the RCA Dome roof in that pocket — it’s tough to point to any one project and say, “There, yes, there is where PUP made its mark.” PUP’s parking meter installation on the City Market’s west plaza could go a long way to addressing that situation, being “a permanent showcase for our work and other non-profits,” according to Bricker. Each parking meter has been refurbished with a three-way light that runs from red to yellow to green. Insert a coin into one of the meters — over 50 of which are to be installed this summer in concentric semi-circles on the plaza — and the light goes from red to green. Coins will be collected monthly and donated to that month’s featured non-profit. A prototype of a meter is currently on view at PUP’s Murphy Arts Center headquarters.
Working from the idea that the mighty UNIGOV isn’t conspiratorially trying to exclude citizens from the decision-making process, PUP is designing dense but user-friendly infographics, or People’s Guides, that guide the average person through the who, how and why of city government. For Bricker, it’s a matter of showing “how you have to do it to make change.” As such, the project is a non-partisan, collaborative project open to input from the city (a city councilor, for instance, helped to correct and clarify the People’s Guide to City Government).
Super Bowl and RCA Dome material
It’s PUP’s reason for being and albatross: cast-off material, including the RCA Dome roof (nearly 90 percent of which was reclaimed by PUP in 2008) and all manners of tarps that covered Indianapolis during the 2012 Super Bowl. Over five acres of RCA Dome roof are still housed in storage; over nine acres of Super Bowl materials also remain to be put to some sort of use. Products made from the roof, from wallets to purses, are sold at retailers around the city, helping to fund other PUP projects. The RCA Dome roof, made of a sturdy material that will look the same in 100 years as it does now, has also been used as the roof for two canopies that PUP has helped to install in an urban farm and neighborhood-gathering place. PUP is brainstorming on different ways to use the material over the coming years, including as stuffing for chairs or other products.
Bush Stadium seats
“Everyone remembers sitting there: it’s nostalgia that can’t be thrown away,” says Bricker of the Bush Stadium seats that have been installed in bus stops throughout the city. Not only do these seats offer a place to rest weary legs where there were none before, but they also provide a mini-history lesson, or least a reminder of the former home of Indianapolis Indians ballclub, and just how much fun it was to watch a game there. Not that it’s easy to refurbish the seats. They have to be completely sandblasted and reconstructed, both to do away with their peeling lead paint as well as to make sure they’ll still open for business after being exposed to all manners of weather.