BY Emily Rachelle Russell –

Nov 18, 2018

“ART LIVES HERE”: Eric Helvie from nonprofit Marion Studio Project speaks at SEAD: Socially Engaged Art + Design Conference at Marion Design Co. on Saturday.

BY Emily Rachelle Russell –

Marion Design Co., Indiana Wesleyan University and the University of Indianapolis partnered this weekend to host SEAD Indiana: Socially Engaged Art + Design Conference.

Following a day of programming in Indianapolis on Friday, a sold-out group of attendees gathered at Marion Design Co. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to hear guest speakers and discuss the merging of art, design, community and storytelling.

According to Marion Design Co.’s Wendy Puffer, the event started as a conversation about art, design and community between Puffer and a University of Indianapolis connection at a conference. They designed to make something happen together.

“My hope is that (attendees) feel empowered to go back to their community and tell their story, and secondly to empower others to tell their stories … and activate their community,” Puffer said.

The Saturday gathering brought speakers and attendees in from Notre Dame, Goshen, Huntington, Ball State University and Indiana University, with at least eight universities represented, Puffer said. She hopes to see interest in the vision of SEAD spread throughout the state, with potential for future SEAD conferences in places like Gary and Kokomo as well as the current Indianapolis and Marion locations.

Puffer’s session at the conference focused on universities and communities working in creative collaboration and “crossing the boundaries of the campus borders.” A big part of this conference, she explained, is the collaborative effort that made the event possible.

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One of Saturday’s speakers was Eric Helvie, the New York City-based artist behind local nonprofit Marion Studio Project. As a friend of the organizers from Marion Design Co., Helvie joined the lineup to share the story of Marion Studio Project and their slogan, “art lives here.”

“Marion, Indiana is a good place to make good work,” Helvie said. “It’s a great place to stage live-scale fine art productions and kind of set up shop. … I’ve seen a lot of my friends have come out of Marion and gone on to do incredible things.”

Helvie also spoke about his past as an artist in New York City and his approach to working with interns and assistants in a studio setting. Marion Studio Project, started earlier this year, intends to be an artists-in-residence program to foster what Helvie calls Marion’s “world-class talent” and help individuals with that talent go wherever they need to.

“I hope that (attendees) leave with a real strong sense that art and creativity is alive in Marion,” Helvie said. “And … really thinking how it can specifically integrate with the community and better the community itself and the community at large.”

For more information about SEAD, visit


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