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Goods for Good: People for Urban Progress

Writer  /  Kara Kavensky
Photographer  /  Brian Brosmer

Returning to Indianapolis after finishing his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, Michael Bricker arrived just in time to become involved in a critical question when the RCA Dome was being demolished, “What is going to be done with all of that material?”

The material in question was the 15 acres of durable fabric, which had been used as the roof.

Maryanne O’Malley first posed this key question. What was to happen to this material? The answer, after some interrogatories, was “nothing”, for there was no plan for the material.

As O’Malley and Bricker began their ideation process of what to do with the material, they focused upon a process for developing something with local design talent. People for Urban Progress (PUP) was born.

Bricker and his team, which includes his twin sister, Jessica, were pivotal in civic engagement of the concept of sustainability.

“We were really struggling to get any support or buy in for thinking about the potential for this resource,” shares Bricker, who is a Cathedral High School graduate. “We reached out to the newly formed office of sustainability and were asked, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?’ We hope now that approach has changed.”

Over a brief period, Bricker has witnessed a shift with major organizations asking themselves, ‘What will happen with [insert X here] resource?’ and thoughtfully considering their architectural waste. A big contribution to the city is the utilization of these resources and how they may relate to the history of the city.

“Our products are a memory. There are a few simultaneous wins of our work, yet we stumbled upon starting a new company amorphous as we set out to do the right thing,” says Bricker, whose efforts resulted in salvaging 13 of the 15 acres of material.

What is amazing is that the PUP products tell a story. Being made from the roof of a former building that played host to not only Colts games, but to amazing performers such as The Rolling Stones, U2 and Pink Floyd, is nostalgic and fashionable.

The PUP founders were looking for a company to take on this project and they became the company they were looking for.

PUP is all about design and reuse. PUP has uniquely positioned themselves to encourage the de-mystifying of design, with an approachable feel and valuable aesthetic for design. PUP, essentially, rescues discarded materials and redesigns them for public benefit.

Another example of approaching art is the PUP cooperative project of salvaging Bush Stadium seating, with installations at bus stops. This was done in collaboration with Brian McCutcheon, now of Ignition Arts.

“This allows for people to rethink transit and it shows that someone is investing in that infrastructure,” Bricker says. “The team designed a cool base for them and now the seats have new and meaningful value, ‘attainable, approachable. and sustainable’ is what we want our work to be about.”

PUP aspires to be good stewards of the material they salvage, creating long lasting products for the community. They are selective about what they allow to have happen with the material, such as the five miles of banners from the Super Bowl they acquired.

Recently, PUP has relocated to the Central State campus alongside Brian McCutcheon of Ignition Arts, and Project One, another frequent collaborator of PUP. Now that their offices are within shouting distance of one another, one can only imagine what is yet to be created and imagined.

For more information and to purchase PUP bags, please visit peopleUP.org.

About Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky lives in the Geist area with her family. In addition to writing, she owns Geist Pilates.

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