New program aims to ‘legitimize’ street performers

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By Charlie De Mar

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 22, 2014)-- Panhandler or street performer?  What’s the difference?  A new pilot program is working to help you decipher and make Indianapolis a destination for street performers.

“Busking is one of the oldest professions in the world. People have been taking to the streets for thousands of years,” said Pauline Moffat, Executive Director, Indy Fringe.

Pauline Moffat wants the tradition of street performers to continue here in Indianapolis, but she says there’s just one problem, “There's a little confusion between busking and panhandling.”

Downtown Indianapolis Inc. and Indy Fringe are rolling out a five-week pilot program that encourages talented buskers or performers to hit the streets.

“We are certainly trying to discourage individuals who come down just to make a dollar and hold the sign that says 'why lie it’s for beer,” said Bob Shultz, Downtown Indianapolis Inc.

Visit Indy says in past two years 14 conventions have been lost to other cities.  Those groups citied the amount of panhandling as part of the reason they went to another city. The loss cost the local economy $24.5 million.

Starting this weekend approved street performers will have a sign near their tip jar; showing that they are part of the program.

Shultz says the performer will also comply with the language of the proposed city-county ordinance that targets soliciting.

“You will not see our street entertainers 50 feet from a cross-walk or in front of a location where a financial transaction might take place,” said Shultz.

Local musician and street performer Allie Burbank says the new program legitimizes her act.

“That makes us feel like the city welcomes artists,” said Burbrink.

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