So how did we get here?
When my two partners and I decided to go into business as Indy Walls, we all had something valuable to contribute. Jon had the property, and Patricia and I had the vision of what the property can be. We all did our fair share of the back-breaking labor in order to turn it from a building to a work of art. Together, we would infuse a building to one that would facilitate community, collective action, and rattle our perception of what art can represent to a community it serves. No one said that changing some common practices wouldn’t be difficult, but I felt confident that if we all worked toward the public good, everything would suss out over time.
The public good can be many things like handing out candy to the neighborhood kids on Halloween, bringing in snacks and drinks for the community, donating equipment and materials, teaching, encouraging others to grow as artists, hosting shows and events in order to bring new people to take part in our community. It increases not only the general public good, but its biproduct produces individuals who don’t understand the theory, met with individual needs that work against the public good. These types of examples would be wasting communal materials because they’re free, not paying rent, conspiring against the community, or not securing the facility properly upon leaving. In order to maintain a working system, you must never have too many individualists and free riders in a collective or the resources will inevitably run out.
We found ourselves with many artists in breach of our rules and in breach of the rental agreement. All three partners feel as though they are just as equally to blame for this, but our community was special and we let it blind our better judgment on forcing for ejection and instead allowing more time to for them to get current on their bill, even though our wait list was ridiculously long and resources were starting to run dry.
It was one of my duties at Indy Walls to encourage the community to work toward the public good, just as it is to discourage any waste of our resources. We would hold community (round table) votes for community projects to increase the public good but please don’t mistake this as having any ability to overthrow the business owners by community vote. That’s not how businesses work. We are owners of a business and not an elected official of the business. And no one in breach of their agreement would ever get to vote.
The nuance of events that took place.
Outside of the walls, we were hit with friends of residents who came in and used the building as a resident would - after hours for the duration of their studio build and moved their personal belongings in once ready or friends of friends just showing up at closing to do mostly anything but art. You would almost always see these certain artists and guests after hours when the building wasn't open for business, or early and all day on the days that we’re closed. Once in the building, they eventually stopped coming during open hours all together. Every week after week of requesting we unlock the building on our days off, using community resources, and excuses for delay in payments and signing leases (to which their excuse of accessing the building during special hours is due to being a guest of one of their resident friends), and they no longer want their studio because they now feel the vibe has changed because we’re asking for some kind of payment and commitment for it. You can’t eat an entire meal and complain that you don’t like the restaurant when they bring you the check.
In mid-August, a performance artist came to the building wanting to hold an indoor stage event and we agreed to allow her to host it. She requested turning a room we had previously designated as one day being ADA accessible restrooms into a changing room for the performers. We said it was fine and she went to work painting a mural and bringing in one of our communal couches to be placed inside the room with coffee table and rugs. I have to admit, it was one of the nicest looking rooms in the facility but it should have, she stayed late nights for a month up until the event “prepping” it for the show. Normally we don’t allow non-resident artists in the facility to do such things for such extended periods, but she quickly made friends with a resident and took advantage of our rule that resident artists may have guests with them at any time. We figured this was temporary and once the show was over, the activity would cease, we’d get our furniture back, and the room would return to bare-bones. That, however, did not happen. She remained spending many, many nights in our building as a guest of another artist, and they spent that time hanging out in her fully furnished room that she does not rent.
At this point, we told the first set of non residents to vacate the premises due to not following the rules of the building or just straight taking advantage of our resources, which upset the residents that were friends. This alerted other artists that owed back rent and drew concern for their guests who continuously made their way in the building after hours. Change was coming and our kindness was no longer mistaken as weakness. We tried to crack down on keeping the docks closed when our heat was running, despite the numerous, numerous, times a day a resident or non resident would open them and forget to close them after going through. The three of us by this point are deep into working in the haunted attraction when the artists who felt their free ride was ending, started to organize and conspire.
Wrapping it up. . .
Jon was approached and told that the artists have been having discussions about Patricia’s temper and have an issue with our professionalism in the workplace. He told us they reported that the arts community sees the building as a laughingstock and that I am the culprit for its failures. Maybe Jon had forgotten that we’re in the running as one of the top three best galleries from the Indy Star. Over time, Jon unfortunately fell for this ruse, hook, line, and sinker. I explained that’s nuts to think anything of it, seeing how the majority who stated these things were behind on payment or not even artists from in the building but use the facility like they are.
By this time, I realize not only are we addressing this in a public forum but they’ve staged a surprise intervention of sorts to discuss our professionalism and Jon sprung it on us after working the haunt, on a Monday night, late, and our kids had school the following day. Only two artists in attendance were current on their rent and both broke lease by participating in previous acts during their stay in the building. I told Jon that this was misdirection and all of what he heard was constructed in order for everyone to save face upon leaving and not paying their bills. It changes the narrative from deadbeat tenant, to unprofessional staff. The three of us held a vote and agreed that artists without a lease can no longer stay after hours and that this staged meeting would be addressed once rent has been paid. We exited the offices shortly after to be approached asking if we were ready for the meeting. Patricia said ‘what meeting?’, in that the owners had discussed and voted down any meeting that night. Clearly, Jon didn’t tell them this like he said he was. The resident responded with you know what meeting, we’re waiting. I then did what Jon said he would handle and announced that if anyone isn’t happy here, they can leave. I addressed the non resident artists in the room and informed them it was after hours and needed to leave. They did not, and Jon just sat quietly as the room started calling Patricia a dictator and that everyone would walk if she remained. I informed them that the “everyone” they are referring to eiither doesn’t pay rent or owes us for months. They immediately corrected us and let us know that was personal and not the subject that needed addressed. Jon still sat there and quiet. I raised my voice louder than the first time and told everyone to get the fuck out. I reminded Jon of our vote and questioned why he was allowing them to stay, even though our vote was unanimous in decision. He still sat there, staring ahead and refusing to enforce our vote. This was when it was clear that this was a staged coup d'état attempt to remove us from our roles as CEO. I told Jon that by not enforcing our vote in front of them allows them to wedge themselves between management even more. Jon lost sight of the group’s goals of professionalism (as did I) and there was a heated exchange ending with Jon taking back his truck and telling us to walk home with my kids. I arrived home to see the celebration on social media as they actually thought Jon and a bunch of non residents and free-riders had the voting authority to remove two of the three owners of Indy Walls. What appeared to be dissent was disloyal subversion.
Hindsight is 2015...
I spent the following day stranded at home and thinking about a very similar situation a friend of mine once endured. I knew from past experience that we had to return to the walls and straighten out the building by removing everyone involved into hoodwinking my partner into thinking I could be removed that easily. Upon arrival, it looked as if the building was ransacked. Jon assigned our haunted house operator, a friend that I’ve known since he was a child, to manage in our absence. Instead of focusing on emptying out one of our squatters studios, he opted to assign the cleaning duties to his friend and a lady from the neighborhood who doesn’t have a studio to pillage the possessions of a studio that had been previously forfeited months prior. It also forfeits any privacy that our last tenant had. The lady who assisted told all partners that there were boxes and items that came up missing after they recklessly left the contents unlocked and accessible. Safes were missing, refrigerators, and other items were looted by... somebody. Apparently, Jon felt the property of Indy Walls could be given to our illegitimate replacement without clearing it with any of his real partners, again. He also felt that since we refused to take part in their prior coup, that WE forfeited the business to him and his new replacement partner, my friend who operated the haunted house. Within one day they had come up with new innovative ways to charge the arts scene, like building passes and commission fees on artist studios. After a long discussion, we finally got through to him the importance of counting the vote and complying to the democracy of the vote and maintaining some semblance of a model that doesn’t charge for artist participation. He was instructed by a unanimous decision (his vote also) to ban and remove each one of the troublemakers as soon as possible. Everybody had been contacted, some threats had been made about hurting me and my family, some even left in handcuffs that day.
The following day, we had work to do in order to fill an empty building to cover a lot of bare walls. It wasn’t that I declared myself First Friday artist, but I didn’t have anybody on site who could cover it and the show must go on. Upon arriving, Jon was in the building and the vendors hall was tagged in numerous spots, the building was once again filled with the same trespassed non residents who have now been told three times to leave and haven’t. When asked why he let one of them roam the building after holding a vote to remove her, his response was ‘what harm can she really do’? I then noticed another lady in the building who was told not to return also. She was visiting another person who shouldn’t have been in the building either. Once again, the haunt operator, Patricia, and I have to explain that he voted with us on this the night prior and that he needs to stop making his own calls on things, it’s reckless and is overriding any authority that the three of us have left. Jon agreed to stop going against the vote of the group then he and the haunt operator left early, Tricia and I spent the rest of the night preparing for First Friday and hanging art throughout the night. When morning arrived, we headed home only to find out that Jon had removed us from the Indy Walls bank account, attempted to reset online passwords, and was preparing to file for an emergency eviction. I informed Jon that he doesn’t control the majority vote to make any hasty decisions like the ones he has been making for the last week, packed up my artwork and left the building in better condition than how I found it for one of the last times. John insists that he was going to use the money to reimburse an artist who just moved out and the remainder he planned to give to his new partner, the haunt operator, for payback on business that hadn't anything to do with Indy Walls. Upon longer discussion and convincing him that this is theft and something litigious, he agreed to reimburse the artist and issue checks equally to the three of us in the remainder. He even came to terms that Indy Walls ownership was something that I created on my own, two years prior to his involvement, my logo is even nestled within the Indy Walls logo, and that his actions trying to remove me paint him in a very dishonest light.
And now this...
I don’t understand all of the animosity, lies, and gossip that this has produced. People I actually thought were stand-up people are online saying terrible, untrue statements. And legitimately the ones who are ranting most are also the ones who rarely even used the building to its potential. This level of aggression and deceit has sickened me to my core with this scene. At this point, I don’t give a fuck. Do better, Indy.
Owner, Indy Walls