by Marc D. Allan for Indianapolis Monthly

The basement of Victory Memorial United Methodist Church outside Fountain Square looks like the greatest kids’ playroom ever. In the glorious mess of a main room, which contains stockpiles of oddities like overhead projectors and foam swimming noodles, there’s a corner for painting, a green-screen area for film projects, and a section with assorted power tools where the construction of a giant “steampunk music machine” made of old bike parts is about to begin. In the storeroom, you’ll find shelves filled with costumes—pigeon heads and dinosaurs, among many. And in an adjacent room, what sounds like a vacuum cleaner is, in fact, just that. Except it’s being used in reverse, to inflate a giant clear plastic ball that someone can get inside to be rolled around.

This clubhouse is home to Know No Stranger, a self-described “art gang” that produces and participates in theatrical and other events around the city. This group of friends, tired of hearing people complain about the culture in Indianapolis, started the avant-garde troupe in spring 2009. “In the circles we were running in,” says Alan Goffinski, one of the founders, “there was a lot of negative energy, a lot of talk about the place that we call home. We got to the point where if everybody who was complaining about what an awful place Indianapolis was just did something positive, we would have a great city.”

Look at the arts culture in Indianapolis over the past several years and it seems that a lot of people are thinking the same way—the city’s young culturati has flourished in the last decade. For a number of years, the city had no Shakespeare companies. Now there are five. Want dance? Movies in weird places? A fashion collective? A cutting-edge fashion/film/food event? An eco-conscious music festival? In the last few years, we’ve added all that and more.

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