Tools Lend Themselves to Creative Expression

Photo by John Gieryn

by Jim Grim

Aspiring Steven Spielberg, Ken Burns, Babyface, and other creative types have a unique production resource in Midtown they may not even know about. The Indy Art | Media Co-op hosts iTooLL, the Indy Tool Lending Library. A program of the Kheprw Institute, 3549 Boulevard Pl., iTooll lends audio, video, and photo recording equipment as well as microphones, projectors, PA systems, canopies, film lighting, and laptop computers featuring production and editing software popular with musicians, filmmakers, and other artists.

“Providing access to amplify underserved and critical voices” underpins the foundation of this “membership-driven, membership-funded resource to build community and communication,” John Gieryn, an iTooLL director, said. “It reflects the Kheprw mission of equitable access.”

The iTooLL exists to ensure that people from all racial, social, and economic backgrounds have equal access to the tools needed to host events, create media, and share their gifts with the community, its founders report. “A PA system can cost a couple thousand dollars or rent for $500 a day,” iTooLL director Sukie Conley said.

Members rent production and event equipment for $1 per tool per week. While others are invited to utilize the lending library, rental fees for nonmembers are half the retail cost of the individual item. Conley said the annual membership fee is $250. Half of the cost goes into a fund to purchase new equipment, and that saves members a fortune in production or event costs, she added.

“Members meet quarterly to determine what new equipment is purchased each year,” Conley said. The group would like to purchase a video drone and more MacBook Pros for members to check out weekly.

Lisa Barton, iTooLL’s social media director, said, “A lot of members of the general public have creative ideas but are stifled” because of limited access to the necessary production equipment. “Anyone who wants to make something or create an event can utilize our space and resources and networking.”

Barton has used one of the digital cameras. “I would love to do more with video, but haven’t done much,” she added. “I would like to experiment with rotoscoping. Mixed media doesn’t always have to be two-dimensional.”

The group hosted a workshop in April about the art of rotoscoping that featured local artists the BrainTwins. The duo has produced professional music videos and multiple other multimedia projects with rotoscoping, an animation technique that traces over video frame by frame to emulate live action when projected at a rapid speed, the artists explained. The 1980s-era MTV music video “Take On Me,” by the Norwegian synth pop trio a-ha, featured the artistic technique invented by Polish-born animator Max Fleischer in 1915. Fleischer’s “Koko the Clown” character was an early product of the technique.

The Indy Art Media Co-op hosts gatherings called FilmHack, usually from 6 to 9 p.m. the first Thursday each month, at the Kheprw Institute, to cultivate skills and connections. Organizers say the events can range from formal workshops that feature local professionals to more informal sessions where attendees share works-in-progress.

The lending library opened in October 2016 thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, as part of its 5 × 5 contest that sought to foster community building and art-focused innovations in selected Great Places neighborhoods.

The lending library’s founders believe that economic status should not limit local art, culture, and entrepreneurship. “For creatives, makers, organizers, and aspiring professionals alike, access to quality equipment can often dictate creative capacity, event effectiveness, and overall community impact,” they say on their website. “Equal access is key to amplifying diverse Indianapolis voices.”

“It began with a bunch of us artists getting together to do art beyond silos,” Conley explained. “We had done some documentary screenings and wondered how we could do that kind of work for the community. Members bring art together, doing good work and bringing community together.”

A “let’s support people who are doing this work in the city” attitude took hold, Conley added. “Educated in the arts, individuals coming out of college are often unable to do projects without equipment they used in school.” She cited a PA system for a nonprofit event or a canopy for an artist display as examples.

The group is passionate about connecting community members to make Indianapolis thrive, welcomes volunteers “with a passion for design, A/V, outreach, writing, web development, and accounting, and [who] are open to ideas for news projects.”

The iTooLL is open 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Jim Grim, director of university/community school partnerships at IUPUI, has lived in Midtown for 30 years. He has been widely published and specializes in education and community engagement topics.

iTooLL Equipment
Available for Rental

digital camera
digital recorder
floor cans
folding chairs
handheld stabilizer
folding tables
A/V & photo recording equipment
PA systems
film lighting
MacBook Pros