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5×5 Indy Winner Mali Jeffers Project Update

Posted by: 5x5 Indy
Posted: October 7, 2015
Categories: 5x5 Indy

Launched in 2013, 5×5 Indy creates a space to for people in Indianapolis to share and support arts based ideas for community projects. Each 5×5 event showcases five ideas and awards one with $10k.

We thought it’d be fun to catch up with our winners to see what happened with their project and what they’re up to now. Today we’re talking with Mali Jeffers who won at a 5×5 hosted by the IndyHub in 2013.

Mali’s Project: I am an Artist.

maliJeffers_320x240I am an Artist is a photographic public art exhibition – an advocacy campaign for local, alternative artists (tattoo artists, DJ’s, chefs) to expand the idea of who can be an artist.

The project has 3 goals; to expand the idea of what an artist looks like; to show what talent we have in Indy that we might be overlooking; to show positive images of people of color, especially to those in underserved areas.

My proposal sounded something like this: There will be 52 images. Artists will be photographed in their element. 15 of them will be printed on vinyl window adhesive (exterior) for public display for 4 weeks. J. Benzal, Service Center and Silver in the City have offered window spaces. Remaining 37 images will show up in surprising places –advertisement in Nuvo, poster on Starbucks community board.

Mallory Talty will be the photographer. Images will be transferred to playing cards to keep the project alive. Silver in the City will sell the Indy playing cards.

There’s more to presenting at a 5×5 then just winning, right? What would you say you learned from participating?

Absolutely there’s more to 5×5 than just winning. 5×5 is a chance to get an idea out of your head and see if it sticks. It’s a way to validate an idea and to see how people respond to it. It’s a personal learning process. And it’s a story about Indianapolis – we have unique ways to engage our community and to celebrate their stories and ideas.

I think that’s what I learned most and it’s something that I already knew, but 5×5 was the greatest real-life example. Indy craves innovation. Indy wants to support its residents. 5×5 proves that Indy wants new and fresh and is  willing to put money where our mouth is.

Since your idea won, how would you say you’ve benefited from your participation?

There are a few ways I’ve benefited. At the very start I was able to meet new artists and make connections between them and the business community. I formed new relationships with some of Indy’s greatest artists and it was so fulfilling to show them off via large vinyl’s and having their image on playing cards. I’ve also come away with a better understanding of public art.

There is an image on 30th and College of ballet dancers. It’s 7 feet high and 11 feet wide on an empty, run-down building that used to be a record shop. The vinyl was only supposed to be there for 1-2 months but right before de-installation the building owner asked me not to remove it. He said it was the only thing offering any sort of life to that intersection and that the community respected it.

I expected the image to be marked or defaced, but October will mark it’s third year and not a single thing has been done to it. The building gets marked, the art doesn’t.

As a 5×5 veteran, what would you recommend to someone participating in a 5×5 challenge?

I’d say to commit to the idea, and put it all out there. Don’t think about winning as much as putting an idea into the world and waiting for it to attach. Essentially, I think it’s more about having a unique idea and articulating it clearly versus tailoring an idea for a crowd or specific opportunity.

What challenges did you encounter when executing on your 5×5 idea?

Very few, actually. One scary challenge was a building owner coming out during installation and telling us to stop. Apparently, I’d gotten approval from someone who didn’t have the authority to offer approval. Thankfully the building owner liked what we were we doing and the attention it brought to their business.

What fun and unexpected outcomes have you encountered?

I didn’t expect for people to ask for a round two. I’d love to do this project again and there seems to be a demand for it.

It was also pleasantly surprising to hear people take their own pictures of the work when it was installed and post about it. I think people enjoyed the purity of the project. I didn’t have a sponsor logo on the image or a phrase or anything aside from the artist name, their medium and where people could find out more about them.

Lastly, the artists seem to be proud to be included. They posted images, they participated in a walking tour to talk about their art and seemed to enjoy an opportunity to be highlighted.

If you could go back and present again, what might you do differently?

I’d have worn a different outfit.  Nothing, really. I was my normal, jittery self. I ended early and presented the idea with the purpose of presenting an idea. I was completely shocked that I won.

How did your idea evolve or change though the execution process?

After finding out the prices of vinyl printing and install, I couldn’t blow up as many images as I would have liked. My process evolved from showing 20 of the images in the public realm to showing about 15.

It’s been about a year since your 5×5 win, and we want to know what you’re working on now.

I am now the Love Indy Project Manager for Plan 2020. I find ways to foster resident and visitor pride and create local ambassadors through the #LoveIndy movement. I continue to find creative ways to talk about race and inclusion through Mosaic City.


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