St’Art Up 317 Vendor Spotlight: PUP

St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.

This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.

On December 20, 2008, the iconic yet dated RCA Dome and its white roof disappeared from the Indianapolis skyline. As the city transitioned into an era of revitalization and fresh ideas, People for Urban Progress, or PUP, emerged with a simple goal – to reuse and upcycle materials to address urban problems.

Emma Hagenauer, PUP’s brand manager, sums up the organization’s mindset.

“Be nice to each other and don’t throw trash on the ground,” she says. “No really, for us it’s about getting to work. Not just talking about it, but making the change we want to see. “

The infant non-profit’s first project? To rescue 13 acres of the RCA Dome’s roofing material from the dump and convert it to things like bags, wallets and clutches.

True to their mission, PUP’s small team got to work. They washed the dome fabric in founder Michael Bricker’s bathtub, designed products and stitched prototypes.

“Thankfully, people got excited to get involved with our work and we have been able to keep growing since then,” Hagenauer says. “We’ve grown in terms of staff, the product line, and the amount of materials we can take on, and we’re just getting started.”

Ten years later, PUP has its own studio, five full-time staff members and has channeled the profits from their merchandise into urban reuse projects like installing awnings and seating at bus stops and converting salvaged redwood boards from IUPUI parking garages into benches and tables for student use.

“We hope to always adjust and transform our product line as the materials we use change,” Hagenauer says. “With every material and project we’ve worked on we get to know a new material better, so there is room to switch into new products as needed.

As far as future projects go, Hagenauer is keeping the organization’s plans close to her chest but says that PUP would love to continue to expand its operations.

“We’d love for there to be different PUP chapters in new cities,” she says. “Working in Indy has (shown) us that these issues of reuse and sustainability are ones that all cities are facing.”

While PUP hopes to expand or inspire like-minded people in other cities to take action to improve their communities, they still have lofty objectives for what they can accomplish at home in Indianapolis.

“We try to be a resource to our city and to put out work that reflects what the future of Indy could be,” Hagenauer says. “Using what we have, working closer with our neighbors (and) being open to fresh ideas that can make Indy a more connected and inclusive place to live.”

While there is still plenty of work to be done, PUP continues to succeed because of its steadfast belief that a little resourcefulness and hard work can help Indianapolis reach its true potential.

“The more we build dialogue around issues we care about and work to do what we can to contribute, the city will keep improving. Our actions and voices can be heard in this city, it just takes some gumption.”

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