The Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University has been awarded a four-year, $2.9 million National Science Foundation grant to create sites along six Indianapolis waterways where arts and science will be used to educate the public about Indianapolis’s water system.

Tim Carter

Tim Carter

“We’re creating the first science museum in Indianapolis, but it will not be a building,” said Tim Carter, director of the Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). “Instead, we’re using the city itself as a learning environment and focusing on six waterways and the adjacent neighborhoods.”

The six waterways are the White River, Fall Creek, Central Canal, Eagle Creek, Pleasant Run, and Pogue’s Run, all located in priority areas identified by the neighborhoods through the Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW) initiative (

By spring 2015, the six Indianapolis/City as Living Laboratory sites will be established at destinations along these waterways. These locations, which will have activities such as dance, music, and poetry that will interpret scientific content, build on previous projects developed in Indianapolis and New York City by Mary Miss Studio.

There will be opportunities for community members to engage with work built by collaborations between artists and scientists. In addition, the project will be accessible virtually through a site-specific app for mobile devices and on the Internet so that temporary installations will have a life beyond the live performances.

“This innovative form of informal science learning combining scientific content and artistic endeavors of sculpture, music, dance, and poetry has the potential to reframe how future science museums around the country are constructed and programmed,” Carter said.

Funding will go to the artists, for installing sites, and also toward research and evaluation so that the lessons learned from this project can inform future installations in other places.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard praised the project.

“This National Science Foundation grant will go a long way toward fulfilling my goal of improving Indy neighborhoods through trails, connectivity, and enhanced waterways,” he said. “This unique connection of art, science and trails will provide great new places for families, walkers, runners, and cyclists to see our beautiful city and perhaps even learn a thing or two in the process. Congratulations to Butler University, its Center for Urban Ecology and the many other organizations that partnered to win this grant.”

In addition to ROW, CUE submitted the proposal in partnership with:

·         IUPUI’s Center for Urban Health, for research and formative evaluation.

·         New Knowledge Organization Ltd., for research and front-end evaluation.

·         Mary Miss Studio, for visual art curation.

·         Butler University’s Department of Dance, for dance curation.

·         DaVinci Pursuit, for artist and scientist collaborative engagement.

·         The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, for programming and dissemination.

·         The Goods, for public relations and dissemination.

·         The Kinetic Project, for web, app development and music curation.

·         Poets House, for poetry curation.

·         Lifelong Learning Group, for summative evaluation.

The project was one of 13 selected from more than 400 proposals. Grant requests could not exceed $3 million.

Carter said the ultimate goal of this project is to help people to understand connections between their daily activities, the science of the city’s water system—where water comes and goes, where stormwater flows, what lives in the water—and scientific thinking in general. He hopes it will provoke the public to ask questions and test their prior knowledge about their surroundings, which could result in a new appreciation for the waterways as an asset in their neighborhoods.

“This will hopefully result in a new way that the art is created and a novel approach to interpreting science,” he said. “The aim is to creatively provide a way for people to engage with their waterway, learn about the water system adjacent to their neighborhoods, and understand that the city they experience every day is itself a living laboratory.”

For more information about the project, please visit


Media contact:
Marc Allan
(317) 940-9822