In July, the State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) joined the Policy Circle and the Sagamore Institute at The Harrison Center in Indianapolis to enjoy the exhibit, “The Beauty of Front Porch Citizenship” and discuss what it means to be a citizen.
Promoting civic engagement and civil discourse is a prominent theme for SPAC this year. The Sagamore Institute curated a selection of a selection of original manuscripts from The Remnant Trust collection, and local artists from the Harrison Center in Indianapolis responded to and interpreted the themes of the texts in different media highlighting different experiences of citizenship in both Indiana’s and America’s history.
An original printing of Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects” was paired with a local artist’s depiction of Madame Walker – a well-known civil rights activist, but also a proponent of women’s rights and entrepreneurship. Another example included, a pairing Plutarch’s “Moralia” with an oil painting of May Wright Sewall – a prominent suffragist in Indianapolis history, but also a major proponent of women’s classical education (Plutarch is the cornerstone of classical education).
After the group viewed the exhibit, they divided into small groups to discuss themes of citizenship.
Here are some excerpts from the event’s small-group conversations:
• What does it mean to be a citizen? Maybe it is each of us continually safeguarding the tension between individuality known as individual freedom of being and community. Maybe it is as simple as the pursuit of a simple feeling of wellbeing known as simple feeling of wellbeing. How we think of ourselves as citizens changes as our life stages change. For some it is an association, or faith-based institutions, or neighborhood that allows us to understand what it is to be a “citizen of ” something: enjoy a unique experience, shape the world around us to “do better”, and find confidence and belonging.
• From Front Porch to Patio – There has been an architectural shift of our homes over the past decades from designing homes with front porches to back patios. Front porches provided a space for you to see and be seen with your neighbors – a way to learn from each other and discuss the news of the day. With the shift to the back patio, are we are avoiding our neighbors and isolating ourselves from people and issues? To take it a step further, are we withdrawing in our homes more – behind our screens where our words aren’t always as kind, honest and factual and where we can’t be accountable for the things we say and the impact it has on our fellow citizens?
• The American Quilt – Which patch of the American Quilt are you? Are you the center patch that holds it all together? Are you frayed and on the corner – yearning for help from your fellow citizens? Or are you the bold, colored one with a pattern that can have a great impact on your fellow citizens?