By: IZZA JATALA
Ignite Michiana focuses on community involvement and sharing the innovative ways people in town are contributing to wave of change South Bend has been undergoing recently.
The concept is the same but the topic has changed; Ignite Michiana came back for a second installment at the State Theatre last week.
The event titled, “Innovation and the Good Life,” showcased 18 speakers, each with 5 minutes to give people a glimpse into cultural and social scenes emerging in the South Bend area.
The crowd outside the State began to file in around 6 p.m. last Thursday, Nov. 7.
Once everyone was seated, the music stopped, the lights dimmed and Willow Wetherall, the organizer for the event, approached center stage to give her welcoming address to nearly 400 people.
“It’s been six months since the last Ignite event and a lot has changed,” said Andrew Elegante, general manager of the State, during his address to the crowd.
The State first opened its doors with Ignite being its first event back in March earlier this year and has since then hosted many other events.
Wetherall said the goal of the evening was to showcase the interesting things happening in this area and help people feel more connected to the city’s “revitalization.”
Representatives from community hubs, clubs and projects spoke about making positive contributions to the surrounding area.
“To see this big crowd and to see people come back to hear more about what’s going on in South Bend and be apart its renaissance is really great. I am happy to be a part of it,” said Sara Lowe, an IU South Bend graduate student who was a presenter at the first Ignite event and worked as a volunteer for the second one.
The evening of rapidly presented ideas progressed with talks on things like Aesthetic Preoccupation and the 933 Bridge Project, Guerrilla Gay Bar, The Club: Michiana and Wish Stickers.
Arielle Schmitt spoke about her experience playing roller derby for the South Bend Roller Girls, how they have evolved as team and their philanthropic activities in the community.
“The next time someone says there is nothing to do in the South Bend area, come to a bout and experience the 500 screaming fans supporting your South Bend Roller Girls,” said Schmitt.
Schmitt’s teammate and IU South Bend student Ambrosia LaFluer came to the event to both support Schmitt and hear what events are going on in the area—some of which she and her teammates are involved with.
“I’m excited to represent my age group at a downtown South Bend event and be present in my community in addition to supporting my roller derby teammate,” said LaFluer.
Frank Bouchard, biologist from the University of Notre Dame, talked about getting outside in Michiana whether it’s hiking at Potato creek or kayaking the St. Joseph river, anything to find ways to enjoy the all the outdoor activities possible in Michiana.
“That’s why I started the South Bend Adventure Club. This is a place where people want to go experience the outdoors… this is a resource for the community and it’s up to you to help make it awesome,” Bouchard said.
Joel Langston, manager of media services at IUSB, gave a comical but informative talk titled, “My Dear Sweet Digital Game-Base Learning,” which was about the use of computer and video games to extend and deepen learning.
One of the final speakers, Dena Woods, is a local musician involved in the growing music scene in the area, from co-administrating the South by South Bend Music Festival and The Pool, South Bend where she helps book various bands and artists.
The Pool is located downtown at Central High Apartments.
“It’s unique, it has character, it has history and its right in the middle of downtown South Bend,” Woods said.
Ignite Michiana not only informed people about what’s happening in their city, but also gave attendees the chance to connect with what’s happening.
Placed in the Ignite program brochure was a listing of different clubs, businesses and events in town like Chicory Café, LangLab South Bend, The Music Village and the Poetry Den.
For the second time, the event brought the community together to share a night focused on the change this area is undergoing, from new business and clubs to service projects and the emerging arts scene.
“I love to see people who are so innovative who are not just thinking of what a good life means but making it happen for themselves and the community,” said Elizabeth Bennion, political science professor at IU South Bend and director of the American Democracy Project who was in attendance.
“The problem isn’t that there is a lack of things to do in the city, it’s that there is a lack of awareness that these great things exist,” said Wetherall, who hopes to plan two more Ignite events in 2014.
For more information about the event and topics discussed visit www.ignitemichiana.com.