November 12, 2021

Madam Walker Legacy Center gets upgrades

Madam Walker Legacy Center gets upgrades

An Indianapolis landmark is nearing completion of a $15 million renovation. In 2018 the Lilly Endowment, Indiana University and IUPUI provided funding to upgrade the historic Madam Walker Legacy Center on Indiana Avenue.

WFYI’s Terri Dee spoke with the center’s President Kristian Stricklen about that work and their outreach efforts for women-owned businesses.

WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: The Madam Walker Legacy Center has undergone some major changes. Can you describe the general improvements and upgrades inside and out of the center?

Kristian Stricklen, president, Madame Walker Legacy Center: The majority of the renovations are infrastructure, there had just not been a lot of consistent upkeep. There is now central air, new fiber, and Wi-Fi. There's all new audio visual equipment, the ballroom, and the entire building side of the Walker has been completely renovated.

All of the board rooms are completely renovated, all of the tenant spaces have been completely renovated. Last but not least, there's a brand new elevator -- a beautiful elevator that has different pictures of Madam and her products that are etched into the walls of the elevator. And now the elevator actually goes all the way into the ballroom directly, again, just for wheelchair accessibility.

Dee: It sounds beautiful. Many people who are familiar with the history and not only of the center, but of Indiana Avenue, knew it as a hub for entertainment. I'd like to know what is the strategy for attracting business and attendees to the center? Is it primarily for events and entertainment? Or is the center available for office space? And if so what type of businesses would be ideal?

Stricklen: I'm so glad you asked that Terri. The reason why we adjusted the name to Madam Walker Legacy Center in 2018, from the Madam Walker Theatre is that we wanted to be able to uplift Madam's entire legacy and as you said, it was an entertainment hub. But that wasn't what Madam actually was about. She was an entrepreneur: she was a businesswoman.

And so we have four pillars that we are working under now, which is entrepreneurship, women's equity, social justice, and then art and entertainment. So while we definitely want to continue to encourage programming ourselves and for others to use, and come in and attend events in the theater, as well as the ballroom, we are looking at broadening our scope.

One of those things is really highlighting the Madam Walker Legacy Center as a nonprofit organization. Aside from the historic Walker Theatre, we've got new programming around entrepreneurship. We actually finished a call out for women-owned businesses. We're doing what we're calling our "Inspire Her" entrepreneurship programming specifically for women-owned businesses. We'll be working with MidState Supplier Development Corporation to give grants to women-owned businesses.

We're also wanting to broaden our scope. As far as social justice, there's been so many things, of course, that have happened nationally and locally, you know, just over the last several years. And so that's something I would say, look out for more from the Walker in 2022.

Dee: Thank you for your time today.

Stricklen: Yes, thank you.

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