• Indianapolis
  • Megan Jefferson
  • Michael Cloran
  • Monon

The Love Train / Department of Public Words

Indianapolis Love Train A couple years ago, I walked out of a meeting with DeveloperTown Founder/Partner Michael Cloran with my head about to explode (he’s one of the smartest people I know and quickly discovered that in order to absorb and follow his mental processes I need to toke up on dark chocolate and green tea about 30min prior for maximum absorption) and as I walked out of their building, I saw the mental balance I was needing after my meeting: art. Specifically, the Love Train mural created by the Department of Public Words along the Monon Trail between 52nd and 54th street. I breathed deeply, walked toward the long mural, reading all sorts of amazing messages of positivity that adorn it. Over 270 positive phrases are shared along the 600’ mural, which required 300 volunteers to create.

Megan Jefferson, one of the members of the Department of Public Words, was out that day with her stencils, spray paint and her boys, adding wheels to the freight cars.

Megan quickly became one of my favorite people and is involved with one of the best non profits in existence. Truly – I have a thousand and one reasons to support this…just ask me! (dpwords.org)

Megan is a compliment to her partners and DPW Founders, Dave and Holly Combs, who also fall into the “favorite people on the planet” category. Holly, Dave, and Megan are all equally gifted and talented in their own artsy super hero ways. Each are funny, brilliant, amazing, loving, and artistic beyond comprehension.

I’m so impressed with them and their work and feel that it needs to be shared and go viral that I might have written about them a few times:


and perhaps this:


The Department of Public Words was asked to be the April speaker for the #CMINDY Creative Mornings meet up. The topic was RISK. Each of them have their own story and have taken risks, and they are living their lives as artists and are earning a living by doing what they love. While I am already familiar with their story, I heard it differently that morning since I am a different person than I was a couple years ago when first introduced to them. Here are my takeaways:

Holly has a TEDx Talk on How Stickers Saved Her Life.

While Holly was making dinner one night, she was interrupted by her son who wished to share something with her. He drew a picture and wrote the words “I love you!” on the page and told Holly that people don’t hear this enough. So Holly and Dave made 100 stickers with “I love you” on them and let their kids pass them out.

Harmony DPW

Holly and Dave are legendary for their “ban comic sans” campaign. The best video depicting them on this topic is on the Huffington Post Influential Innovators site.

Another favorite project of theirs is the “Breath” mural on the north side of a building that faces DeveloperTown. The mural depicts an exhale, and if you really want to geek out about it, they embedded the words “technology” and community” in binary code! (I am NOT joking when I say these people are freaking cool!)

Another fun story about DPW: Dave is a Rose Hulman grad. While he was at school, he created fliers for a fictitious missing turtle who responds to the name “Roland”. He received calls. Not having the heart to share that it was a joke, he gratefully took in the turtles and let them go into the wild. (side note: I read a review of Rose Hulman by a female grad when my daughter was looking at schools and one read, “The odds are good, the goods are odd…”)

DPW is probably best known for their YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL sign atop the Murphy Building in Fountain Square. One day the Combs family was driving along 10th and Rural and Holly looked up and asked Dave to stop the car. She had an overwhelming feeling to paint “you are beautiful” atop a building immediately…like NOW. Holly knew that inner voice and listened. Dave went to buy a gallon of green paint while Holly walked inside to get permission from the building owner. The owner not only granted permission, he helped.

A few weeks later, Holly and her daughter were inside Starbucks after her daughter broke her arm. As they walked in, a man smiled at them. Holly told him he had a beautiful smile and made her day. She noticed he had a cast on his leg. Her daughter and the man talked while Holly was getting her order. Holly noticed his other leg was amputated. As Holly returned to the man and her daughter, she thanked him for speaking with her daughter and handed him a “you are beautiful” sticker. He said, “10th and Rural!”

Holly smiled and said, “yes”. He then shared that a couple weeks ago he was heading home to end his life and got off the bus at the corner of 10th and Rural and looked up and saw the sign “you are beautiful” and it gave him the courage to make it through his healing ordeal with having one leg amputated and one in a cast. It gave him hope that he was valuable and pushed him through feeling sorry for himself.

Holly, Dave and Megan don’t know all of the stories of the positive impact of their work, but they’ve heard enough to know that they are validated: what they are doing is important and impacting lives.

“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” – Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

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