Erin O’Rourke ’06 is a creator of lifelong memories.
Through more than 15 years of organizing programs and events for local organizations like the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and Sun King Brewing, the Butler University Arts Administration grad has led experiences ranging from summer camps, to weddings, to beer festivals.
“I’m helping create moments that people will always remember,” she says. “How many people get to say that? It sounds cheesy to say that it’s like a calling in life, but I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Now, O’Rourke is helping build something new.
On June 21, a 40,000-square-foot artisan marketplace and food hall celebrated its grand opening on the northwest side of downtown. Located in the heart of Indy’s up-and-coming 16 Tech Innovation District, the AMP provides space for new ideas—whether that means an established deli owner trying out a pizza joint, or a first-time restaurateur slinging PB&Js. And as the AMP’s Events and Catering Manager, O’Rourke is excited to watch those businesses grow.
“It just seemed like an interesting chance to get in at the ground level of something,” she says about the job. “You don’t always have that kind of opportunity.”
The AMP lives in a building that formerly housed a service garage for the Indianapolis Water Company headquarters. The current space—a massive, industrial-style room filled with shipping container kitchens and a flood of simple tables—has yet to see many major events. But O’Rourke has been laying the foundation for future concerts, conferences, parties, and more. The AMP holds up to 500 seated guests (or 1,100 standing), and there’s a stage near the northeast wall. Event-goers can choose meals from among 20+ locally owned food vendors, ordering from catering menus that O’Rourke helped develop.
But it’s not just a spot for big events. Since beginning her role on June 1, O’Rourke has also been planning smaller-scale programs, working alongside nonprofits and neighborhood groups to invite folks in for things like yoga classes or trivia nights. One recent festival celebrated the upcoming Brickyard Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located just a few minutes down the road from 16 Tech.
“We really want to engage with the community and make an impact,” she says. “We want this to be a place where our neighbors want to be.”
It was that community focus that brought O’Rourke to the AMP. That, and the opportunity to work alongside business owners who are taking a chance on following their dreams.
“The AMP is committed to supporting people who may not have been able to open a full brick-and-mortar restaurant in a big space with high rent costs. We give them a place to grow,” she explains. “At least half of our tenants are first-time business owners. More than 65 percent of the concepts are owned or led by women or minorities. It truly feels like an incubator startup in terms of who we have here.”
For example, first-time business owner Liza Christian sells bubble tea and bagels out of a pink shipping container called Boba & Everything. O’Rourke has loved getting to know and support Christian, whom she describes as “just so appreciative,” and she feels like the relationships she’s building with all the AMP’s newer vendors truly make a difference in helping the businesses grow. But the space also houses a few Indianapolis strongholds, like 15-year-old Circle City Sweets—owned by Butler grad Cindy Hawkins ’91.
Whether experienced chefs or restaurant newcomers, O’Rourke says all the AMP’s tenants are working together to make the place succeed.
“Chef Craig Baker, who leads the AMP, says it feels like a neighborhood. You’ll see somebody running over to help another vendor, or move equipment, or sign for deliveries,” O’Rourke says. “Everybody is just promoting one another, and it’s truly a community. What’s better than that?”
O’Rourke discovered this passion for serving communities while at Butler. She first had the chance to lead programming when she helped organize recruitment for the Alpha Phi sorority, and she loved the experience. She also appreciates the University’s efforts to get students involved within Indianapolis through volunteering, the SGA Out and About Committee (of which O’Rourke was a member), internships, and more.
“Butler makes sure you feel like you’re part of the community while you’re at school there,” she says. “Because, you know, the hope is that you will graduate and stick around to help move the city forward. I’m so grateful for my time at Butler, and the people I met there have been instrumental in providing connections throughout my career.”
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