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Terms of Art: effecting viral social change

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ArtThis column typically features attorneys who juggle artistic pursuits along with their professional duties. In the case of Indianapolis native Kenan Farrell, we find an attorney who changed course during his legal career in order to devote his talents and abilities to representing the underserved arts community. Through ardent civic involvement, inspired use of social media, community service and teaching, his efforts have contributed significantly to raising the profile of local civic arts organizations, teaching a new generation of attorneys to be “arts-minded,” and contributing to the cultural richness and appeal of our city.

There is a quote most often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Growing up in Indianapolis, Farrell often bristled when he heard people complain that there was “no culture” here. A creative person, he has always had an affinity for the arts. “Like many attorneys, I consider myself a writer. I’ve always been creative. I used to write poems, songs – I can get along better with creative people – I understand them,” Farrell says. The walls of his beautiful Mass Ave. office prominently feature his clients’ works.

Farrell earned his law degree in 2003 from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Upon graduation, he joined the intellectual property practice group at Bingham McHale. Irony of ironies, the law that protects creativity and cutting-edge innovation can be “very technical and dry.” Acknowledging that “there are all types of lawyers and all types of legal services that need to be done,” Farrell need look no further than his own brother – an international tax attorney who loves his work – to illustrate his point. That said, being a patent attorney “didn’t light any fires” under Farrell. A typical day as an intellectual property associate could involve meeting with a researcher to discuss his or her patent needs. With his undergraduate background in genetics, Farrell was certainly up to the task, but something was lacking.

In 2007, Farrell moved to California. He recalls that while in San Francisco, he observed local attorneys building their practices around serving the needs of painters, photographers, authors, graphic artists, web developers and other “creative entrepreneurs.” “I realized that this need wasn’t getting met in Indianapolis,” he says. Farrell returned to Indianapolis in 2009 and launched his solo practice. He now represents clients in music, film, theater, television, book publishing and the visual arts, both in the United States and abroad. He devotes his talents to empowering artists and developers in their efforts to advance and protect their works and innovations.

Farrell has a unique approach to client development, which dovetails nicely with his passion for community-building. He has long believed that Indianapolis has all the elements necessary for a Midwestern cultural haven. He explains that “[i]n Indiana, people work together, there’s a lot more collaboration.” Like many attorneys, he is in frequent contact with his clients; however, every few months, he hosts a party, providing an opportunity for his clients to network and socialize with one another. “I get to talk to my clients one-on-one all the time, but at the parties, I bring them all together, and let them talk to each other. It’s good creative energy to see a musician talk to a painter, or a writer talk to a hair salon owner,” he says.

He has even added the title of “professor” to his resume, teaching “Art and Museum Law” at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He says, “I recognize that I can’t do this by myself. In a class of 20 or 25 students, I know that they won’t all be arts lawyers,” but Farrell is ensuring that his students emerge from law school with an awareness of the needs of the arts community as well as critical knowledge necessary to serve those needs. Farrell also serves on countless civic boards and organizations, including Pattern for fashion industry insiders, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, and the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association. His efforts have not gone unrecognized. He has received various local awards, including in 2011 being named one of Indy’s Best and Brightest Finalists by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, Inc.; a Leadership in Law Up and Coming Lawyer by the Indiana Lawyer; YPCI Young Professional of the Year for 2011; and inclusion in the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 for 2012.

Farrell does more than his fair share to make his beloved hometown more hospitable to the arts and to the arts community. Gone are the days of feeling unfulfilled by work. Admittedly, he adds, “Patent attorneys make a lot more money, and if that was my driving goal, I’d probably still be a patent attorney. But that’s not what I wanted.” His advice to his law students resonates equally with seasoned practitioners – “Pick an organization, and get actively involved from day one.”

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

– From “The Collected Works of M. K. Gandhi”

Wandini Riggins is an associate in the Indianapolis firm of Lewis Wagner LLP. She concentrates her practice in the areas of insurance coverage and immigration. She can be reached at wriggins@lewiswagner.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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