The Parks Alliance of Indianapolis
  • Civic & Cultural
  • Parks & Recreation

2.9 Acres

Building Community Through the Arts

The restoration and transformation of Indianapolis’ Taggart Memorial into an amphitheater symbolize a collaborative effort by the city and local community to revitalize a deteriorating monument into a dynamic community asset. This project not only preserves a significant piece of Indianapolis history but also provides a platform for community theater groups, local artists’ performances, and enriches the city’s cultural landscape as a vibrant arts center.

The Result of a Robust Planning Process

The restoration of the monument was a top priority in Riverside Regional Park’s recent master plan, aiming to revive the park’s former grandeur. The process involved extensive public involvement, including a Citizen’s Steering Committee, a Technical Steering Committee, open houses, stakeholder interviews, a design studio in the park, online surveys, and a field trip to Chicago for insight into funding and managing large-scale public spaces like Millennium Park. This innovative engagement approach has set a new standard for parks planning in Indianapolis, inspiring similar methods in subsequent master plans.

A Priority of the Plan

The initial project was an outdoor theatre, prioritized through public input. It would connect to the Taggart Memorial, honoring Mayor Thomas Taggart’s park vision. Erected in 1931, the neoclassical monument deteriorated due to neglect. By 2017, it was fenced off due to significant damage, reflecting the community’s frustration with park investment challenges.

A Creative Funding Strategy

In 2018, the Parks Alliance of Indianapolis seized on a grant opportunity from the Lilly Endowment aimed at enhancing community through arts and culture. Teaming up with Indy Parks, Historic Landmarks of Indiana, and the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company, they secured $9.2M—the largest arts grant of the year. RATIO, providing pro-bono design services, led the project’s advancement, assembling a team of experts and forming a steering committee to oversee implementation.

A Performance Venue or An Outdoor Theatre?

For the permanent home at the Taggart Theatre, the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company (Indy Shakes) was chosen as the resident artist, offering free outdoor Shakespeare performances. Design considerations prioritized intimacy, limiting capacity to 650 with tiered seating for optimal views. The stage, 50′ wide with wood flooring, featured top-notch sound and lighting. Additionally, two small buildings housed amenities and extended performance space. To diversify programming beyond Indy Shakes’ three-day schedule, The Parks Alliance collaborated with GANGGANG, a local agency focusing on cultural activation, ensuring a culturally vibrant program reflective of the community.

Lessons Learned

For the Taggart Memorial Amphitheatre, engaging theater and acoustic design experts was crucial for optimal performance quality. Acousticians modeled sound to select suitable speaker systems and mitigate neighborhood noise.

What it Means to the Community

The Taggart Memorial Amphitheatre has transformed into a hub of joy and community pride, instilling optimism in Riverside Park’s future. Its diverse performances unite people of varied backgrounds, fostering connections. The completion of the Taggart symbolizes a revitalization for Riverside Park, infusing the community with vitality through the arts.