Joanna Taft realized the social capital of front porches in 2007. Before Indianapolis Colts games, her family and neighbours would tailgate outside their homes, enjoying the weather and the company, and cheering on their home team. After the season ended, Taft and neighbours continued to gather, birthing a weekly ritual of neighbours visiting together on their porches every Sunday afternoon.
Taft, who serves as the executive director of Harrison Center for the Arts, an arts non-profit in Indianapolis, began to look beyond her porch to her neighbourhood and her city.
“We realized that other people could benefit from it too.”
Spending time on porches isn’t an innovative practice, but “porching” is gaining momentum in Indianapolis as the city is discovering it as a means of connecting with neighbours.
In 2014, the Harrison Center for the Arts began facilitating an annual, city-wide porch party after piloting a similar event in an Indianapolis neighbourhood. HCA simply encouraged neighbours to invite neighbours to their porches. Approximately one hundred porches signed up to participate. Since the inaugural event, the porch party movement has expanded state-wide with fifty-two Indiana counties and seven hundred porches participating.
“The one really beautiful thing about porching is that it’s outward facing. Random people from your block can walk by and come on your porch and it creates a closer-knit block,” says Kyle Ragsdale, an Indianapolis resident and porch party host.
For one of the city-wide events, Ragsdale and his neighbours coordinated a porch crawl. They went to each other’s porches during the day for food and drinks, and ended the evening by releasing lanterns together. Typically, porching for Ragsdale looks like inviting a few neighbours over and sharing snacks and drinks together over conversation.
“Any way we can be more connected with our neighbours makes our life richer,” Ragsdale says.
For Indianapolis residents, porches are becoming an icon of neighbourliness and hospitality. One Indianapolis neighbourhood even promoted their passion for porching when creating a tagline to brand their neighbourhood: “Herron Morton: Porching since 1875.” Taft says that some Indianapolis neighbourhoods are considering ways to ensure front porches remain a fixture of the city through land-use committee policies and historic building renovation efforts.
“Porching is a sign that you are open for business,” Taft explains. “It is now a hobby and tradition in our family and is becoming a movement in neighbourhoods across Indianapolis.”
Read more stories of hope and heartbreak in the Summer 2018 symposium on social isolation here.