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Social Alchemy Symposium

October 11, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - October 13, 2020 @ 10:00 pm

Social Alchemy will explore historical and contemporary examples of utopian experiments, fictional utopias and dystopias, and social design.

The Social Alchemy symposium in New Harmony will include philosophers, writers, historians, designers, architects, placemakers, urban and rural city planners, and community organizers. We will also feature workshops led by local artists and leaders from New Harmony, community meals, and local tours.

About New Harmony

New Harmony was the site of two utopian experiments in the early 1800s. The first was a separatist, religious community known for its hard work, communal living and property ownership and celibacy. The second, was a rationalist social experiment in giving people of many backgrounds an opportunity at a better life and work environment. Then, in the 1940s until the 1980s, town leader Jane Blaffer Owen envisioned New Harmony’s built environment as a mix of historic Hoosier and cutting-edge contemporary. Today, New Harmony brims with art, history, architecture, and a strong sense of place.

Highlighted speakers at the Social Alchemy symposium:

Darran Anderson is an Irish writer living in London focused on the intersections of urbanism, culture, technology and politics. Anderson is the author of Imaginary Cities, chosen as a best book of 2015 by the Financial Times, The Guardian, the A.V. Club, and other publications. Imaginary Cities roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds.

Maurice Broaddus is an Indianapolis-based fantasy and horror author best known for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court novel trilogy. He has published dozens of stories in magazines and book anthologies. Broaddus’s work centers on utopian and dystopian ideas through the genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, horror fiction.

Cara Courage is a British specialist in socially engaged art, arts in the public realm and a collaborative placemaker, working across research and practice. Courage currently works as the Head of Tate Exchange, Tate Modern’s platform for socially engaged and often activist art. Courage is the author of Arts in Place and Making Places published by Routledge in England.

Kent Schuette is a professor emeritus of architecture and urban design at Purdue University based in New Harmony. As an landscape architect, Schuette has studied the Athenaeum extensively.

Susan Neville is a creative nonfiction short story writer and writing professor. She is the author of: Fabrication: Essays on Making Things and Making Meaning and several other books. Neville lives in Indianapolis and teaches writing at Butler University.

Themes for the Social Alchemy symposium


Connecting the past and the future

Ideas for New Harmony/Main Street/young people, families

Art and culture as utopia

Literary New Harmony/utopian literature over time

Spirituality, philosophy, alchemy, and utopia


Current utopian experiments and planned communities, contemporary communal studies

Activating spaces/placemaking as utopias/temporary utopias

Food, drink and agriculture in utopian/planned communities

Preservation and history/context

Tourism as temporary utopia

Architecture and landscape architecture

Labyrinths/other physical metaphors/sacred geometry

A quick history of New Harmony

Pop. 763 (as of 2017)

THE WOODLAND INDIANS:From 400 AD, the Woodland Indians maintained a complex, productive community, including earthen mounds built for ceremonial and cosmological purposes.

THE HARMONISTS:German farmer George Rapp and 400 followers arrived in New Harmony in 1815, creating a community based on productivity, worker-owned industries, and shared resources.

THE OWENITES:The Rappites sold the land in 1825 to Robert Owen, a Welsh socialist. At its height, 1,000 Owenites were part of a “Village of Unity and Mutual Cooperation” prioritizing worker rights, scientific research, and artistic expression.

JANE BLAFFER OWEN:For nearly seven decades, Jane Blaffer Owen was the driving force behind the restoration and revitalization of the town of New Harmony, Indiana. Owen had a vision for the town, bringing in and commissioning renowned architects, visual artists, musicians, and writers. Her time there is often referred to as the town’s “third utopia.”

About Big Car Collaborative and why we’re part of this

As a nonprofit organization working in art-based community development, we’re very interested in intentional and inclusive communities designed for all to thrive. That’s our goal for our 15-building, one-block Cruft Street Commons project in Garfield Park––to make an arts-focused, socially cohesive neighborhood. And this work is inspired by our research into historic utopias in New Harmony and elsewhere.

Project Partners

University of Southern Indiana, Historic New Harmony, New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, Working Men’s Institute, Indiana State Museum, Indiana Humanities, Pattern Magazine, University of Indianapolis, The New Harmony Project.

Made possible by Indiana Humanities and The Efroymson Family Fund.


October 11, 2020 @ 7:00 pm
October 13, 2020 @ 10:00 pm
Event Category:


New Harmony
506 Main St.
New Harmony, IN 47631 United States