City State Residency

The City State Residency is a curated program that invites experts from a full-spectrum of professions and practices to participate in collaborative ventures in the city of Indianapolis. Residents include visual, performing, and literary artists as well as individuals who work in the fields of design, science, or the humanities. By embedding visiting, multidisciplinary residents with various community organizations throughout Indianapolis, we intend to generate new perspectives, catalyze collaborative projects, and learn from the past to design for the future. By participating in a global conversation, we hope to discover the things we have in common with other cities as well as uncover the things that make Indianapolis unique.

The City State Residency is a program of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute in partnership with Ignition Arts, iMOCA, People for Urban Progress, and PRINTtEXT. City State is generously supported by the Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health, IndyGo and Blue Indy.

2018-19 City State Residents

Nina Elder

Nina Elder

Nina Elder is an artist, adventurer, and arts administrator. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico where she cultivated love for the land and curiosity about its use. After earning an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, Nina returned to northern New Mexico where she co-founded an off-the-grid artist residency program called PLAND: Practice Liberating Art through Necessary Dislocation followed by several years as the Residency Program Director at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Nina’s work is exhibited and collected nationally, and has been supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Rauschenburg Foundation, and the Pollock Krasner Foundation. 

Nina examines historic land use and its cycles of production, consumption, and waste. Mines, bombing ranges, and junk heaps are source material for her landscape paintings and representational drawings that explore the line between land and landscape, beauty and banality. She has backpacked into mines, travelled to Arctic Cold War military sites, and obtained government clearance to tour the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. She has drawn with radioactive charcoal, ore from mines, and dam silt. Her personal experience of research is reflected through performative, narrative presentations that are equal parts travel log, artist talk, personal story-sharing, and scientific inquiry, as well as a call for greater curiosity and engagement with the world.

Visit Nina Elder's website at

Nina's work as a City State resident is affiliated with The Anthropocene Household, a project supported by the IU Grand Challenges: Prepared for Environmental Change and Rivers of the Anthropocene projects. 

2017 City State Residents

Oliver Blank and Natasha Jimenez


Outside is a new kind of design agency that uses human-centered design practices to reduce suffering and increase peace, health, and well-being.

The agency was founded by Oliver Blank and Asha Jimenez who have previously designed useful things with UNICEF, UNHCR, ThoughtWorks, Google, and Lego amongst others.

Outside does three things: consult, design, and empower. From the small details to the big picture, Outside provides expert advice and actionable feedback. Having worked with some of the most impactful organisations in the world on end-to-end design, Outside can build anything. Through workshops and mentoring, Outside builds capacity in your organisation for design thinking, processes, and strategy.

More about Oliver:

Oliver Blank is an artist and designer. His artwork is about intimacy and affection in public, and his design projects focus on the prevention of suffering.

Oliver’s artwork induces unforgettable experiences that instil a shared romance. Past projects include composing music for forgotten buildings and hosting a phone-line that collects messages for lost loves and missed connections. His artwork has been exhibited in countries including Japan, Mexico, and Spain, and venues such as Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Oliver is the co-founder of Outside, a humanitarian design agency. Focused on humanitarian design, Oliver’s work includes an award-winning communication tool for refugee field workers and a platform that provides critical information to people in natural disasters. He has launched projects for Google, Lego, and Nokia, and collaborated with various NGOs including IRC, UNICEF, and War Child.

More about Natasha:

Natasha Jimenez is an artist, engineer, and designer. 

Her art focuses on people’s connection to the natural world and each other. In her latest piece, The Last Conservatory, she creates a multi-sensory installation constructed out of foraged wood, moss, and fragrant herbs. Music and poetry emanate from inside the trunk of a tree, coercing the audience to physically connect to the soothing properties of nature.

Natasha is also the co-founder of humanitarian design agency Outside, where she designs things that promote peace, health, and wellbeing. She has developed projects with various NGOs including IRC, UNHCR, and MercyCorps. Natasha is the lead developer for Translation Cards, an award-winning app that enables field workers to communicate with refugees effectively.

Chris Merritt

Chris Merritt

Chris is trained as a landscape architect whose work focuses on landscape design projects with implementation in complex infrastructural, ecological, and cultural contexts. He has a particular interest in the craft, form, and material of landscape projects that express unique character and high quality. His previous project experience ranges from planning and urban design to detailed site design with public agencies, institutions, and private developers.

Chris has received recognition of his work with awards from the Urban Land Institute, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Institute of Architects, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His work has been in exhibits in Boston, New York, and London and has been published in Landscape Architecture Magazine, Environment and Landscape Architecture of Korea, and a variety of online media publications.

Chris studied landscape architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Purdue University. For his academic work, Chris was named an Olmsted Scholar, Harvard Community Service Fellow, and was a Research Associate with the Harvard GSD's Office for Urbanization. He has lectured and been a design critic at schools in Boston, Florida, and Indiana.

Chris is also the co-founder of a monthly event series in Orlando, Florida focused on urban issues titled "Rethinking the City."

More about Merritt Chase: 

Merritt Chase is a landscape architecture and urban design firm rooted in the regional landscapes of the Midwest and Appalachia. Founded in 2017 by American designers Chris Merritt and Nina Chase, we work locally and have been recognized nationally for our public space designs, placemaking initiatives and research. We believe in the power and value of great urban outdoor places. Parks, plazas, playgrounds and streetscapes are the communal spaces that make cities lively and diverse, and we are dedicated to positioning these urban landscapes as the foundational building blocks of cities. 

We work at multiple scales and phases of projects, from conceptual master plans to constructed spaces, from temporary pop-ups to permanent landscapes. We seek projects that layer research, culture, ecologies, and economies to create unexpected public spaces in cities. We work with clients and communities through a clear design process to realize innovative and thoughtful public spaces. We have expertise in landscape architecture and urban design, but we recognize that residents know their own environments best. We approach every project with open minds, open ears and a desire to identify opportunities. Our process-based approach provides stakeholders with a framework for making decisions and results in sustainable public spaces that are unique to their context and reflect the residents that inhabit them.