Sports and the Arts: An Indianapolis Love Story

Our city is unique in many ways, and it’s about to be on display for the world to see as March Madness comes to town.

Created in partnership with Indiana Sports Corp.

Many years ago, well before I was thinking about moving back to Indianapolis from New York City, a friend of mine asked, “Does everyone from Indy love it like you do?” I answered, “I can’t say for sure, but all I know is that I love it, even with its imperfections, and I’m really glad I’m from there.” 

You see, when I left this city at 18 to go to college in Durham, North Carolina (Go Blue Devils!) and then moved to NYC after graduation, it wasn’t because I was running away from this place…it was more running to something, which included the dream of a career in publishing that at the time was pretty centralized in New York. But I always loved coming home and I’ve taken great pride in watching the city evolve and grow over the years, so much so that I settled downtown again in 2017. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a total sports nut and have been ride-or-die for my Indy teams for as long as I can remember. True story: I once hopped up off the couch watching a Colts playoff game and broke my foot, requiring surgery. We lost…and that lives with me forever in the form of a couple metal pins. I’m also a writer and a creator who loves to immerse herself in culture.

One of the greatest things, to my mind, about Indianapolis is how those two seemingly disparate worlds come together seamlessly here. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s about to be on full display for the world as we play host to both the women’s and men’s Big Ten basketball tournaments and then the entirety of March Madness. 

Across Indy you will see the best of not only our superior hosting abilities, but the best of our sports and arts communities as well. So many organizations worked together to make this happen and it’s really going to be something to see. “Indy has a long history of arts and sports being good teammates—the arts are always integrated into the experience and not just an afterthought for entertainment,” says Shannon Linker, vice president of Artist Services and Engagement at the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

“This is how I think our city should operate. Are we a sports city? Sure. But we aren’t just a sports city. Whenever we land a major event, our first question should be how do we amplify our arts and culture through this platform?” Sarah Myer, Senior Director, Marketing and Communications, Indiana Sports Corp. says. “If we want to be successful and continue to attract and keep talented people here, we need to collaborate, be inclusive, and think about what we can do to serve our city, not just our individual organizations.”

To that end, you will all be able to participate in SWISH, a series of arts and culture experiences people can have downtown from March 14-April 5—put on by a great cross-section of partners including the Indiana Sports Corp, Downtown Indy, Visit Indy, Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

SWISH will include 17 days of live performances including music, dance, and spoken word, along with 16 public art must-see art stops. There will also be four custom “court murals”; Shining a Light, a nightly show with basketball-themed content; 11 basketball history and culture tours (by bike and trolley), hosted by Sampson Levingston; and various photo ops all around downtown. 

“We received over 500 submissions from musicians, dancers, poets, and visual artists. This isn’t just a way to engage our city and a national audience, but to continue the relief and recovery efforts we’ve been focused on for the past year. Artists need to work,” Linker says. “They need their work to be experienced, heard, and explored in real time. And they need to be paid. We’re thrilled to be able to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the hands of creatives in service to their careers and the broader community.”

For this sports and arts-loving girl who lives downtown, this sounds like some version of heaven and I cannot wait to see the show Indy puts on. I know I’ll be proud. 

You will be able to find details, schedules, and guides about all of these events and more at

Abby Gardner is Indy Maven‘s executive editor.

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