Stories are under appreciated, they are the most powerful and ubiquitous tools for learning and appreciating our humanity. They tell us who we are, where we came from and they bind us together for the better functioning of society. When we decided to make the move to 37 Place I became interested in the history of the building. It dates from 1927 and was built as a school. It holds particular meaning for African Americans as the last segregated school in Indianapolis. But even these are only facts. They don’t bring to life the history of the people who walked its halls, taught its students and how they lived their lives in the space we now occupy.
There were many community meetings and events as the building moved from dilapidation to demolition to renovation. At one of these meetings I met Liz Odle, and as we shared a table discussing our aspirations for the future of the facility I learned that she had taught in IPS #37 as it was before. In fact Elizabeth Odle began her teaching career in the space now occupied by Art With a Heart. Liz worked with Special Needs students and was a pioneer in proving that inclusive teaching was not only possible but it was better for all students to foster a welcoming, supportive environment for every child regardless of their academic or physical ability.
After 17 years at IPS 37 Liz earned the chance to run her own school and with the encouragement of her Principal left to become the Principal of IPS # 14. Throughout the rest of her career Liz became one of the most awarded and recognized employees of the Indianapolis public schools for her tireless effort to inspire the kids in her building to be more than they thought they could be. Following her retirement from IPS Liz went to work at United Way where she is now Director of Bridges to Success and oversees the work of Community School Coordinators in 17 IPS schools.
Although Liz never taught art we found so much in common between our mission and her personal goals. The strong academic base of our programs also fits well with our new space in a former school. There is something powerful when so many aspects of life align and so we thought it right to name our new studio after a remarkable woman whose work giving hope and education to underserved youth so closely mirrors ours. The Elizabeth Odle studio, presented by Gator, was opened on Friday September 13th with representatives from CICF, IUPUI’s Full Service Community School Coordinator program and the Board of Director of Art With a Heart present to celebrate the achievements of our honoree as well as Mrs. Helen Lewis who was the Principal of IPS #37 when Liz started there. The ribbon was cut by Liz Odle and Andrew Lee, Executive Director of Art With a Heart.