The Cultural Ecologies Project

The Cultural Ecologies Project is a public research program of the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute (IAHI). It asks the seemingly simple question, "How do cultural interventions transform cities?" We work with community stakeholders to examine the impact of the arts and humanities across multiple scales — from the personal to the neighborhood to the city level.

The Cultural Ecologies Project responds to a deficit by designing and implementing mixed methods research for understanding how cultural interventions transform cities. We use the metaphor of ecology to frame our approach. Put simply, we take the perspective that communities are ecologies — always in flux — made up of interlocking networks of cultural, political, social, and economic interdependencies. Rather than focusing on the cultural intervention as an output that simply needs to be quantified or described, we study its its effects on changes in behavior, attitudes, and values over time.

The tools for assessment and evaluation that are developing capture these complex interactions by examining: (1) the shifting experiences of individuals and groups; (2) the changes in institutional practices (funding, programming, etc.); as well as (3) the structural shifts in Indianapolis’ cultural, economic, and political ecologies. This approach answers the needs of multiple stakeholders and positions Indianapolis as a model for other cities.