Indy Like a Local: Marisol Gouveia

Who is Marisol?

Director of Membership and Engagement at the Indianapolis Zoo

Q. What does your role at the zoo entail?

A. I’ve been with the zoo for six years and in my current role for three years. I take care of the zoo’s 40,000-plus member and entry-level donor households, creating and sustaining meaningful relationships between the zoo and individuals, families, and the community to further our animal conservation mission. I manage publication of the zoo’s member and donor magazines, as well as its monthly e-news and e-mail marketing and communication program. I oversee the annual Naturally Inspired Paint Out event, geared at connecting people to nature through art. I’m also responsible for the GO! – or Greater Opportunity – program, which serves families who would not otherwise have the means to become zoo members.   

Q. What’s your favorite animal or exhibit at the zoo?

A. I am notorious for my appreciation and love of the walrus. They see me coming and say, “Here comes the walrus lady.” They are gentle giants, intelligent and beautiful. They understand what you’re doing. It’s pretty rare; there are not that many walruses in human care in North America. Most people don’t know how special it is to see a walrus. I am walrus ambassador No. 1. 

Walrus Painting at the Zoo

Q. You’re also the board chair of Slow Food Indy. What does that organization do?

A. Slow Food is a local chapter of an international organization. We advocate for good, clean, and fair food – food that is good for your body, healthful, not drenched in pesticides, and grown naturally using organic practices. Fair meaning everyone who was involved was treated fairly and animals were treated ethically. We try to connect consumers in Central Indiana with people who produce food and cook food according to those principles. Restaurants go through an application process for the “Snail of Approval,” so we can recommend places that follow these good, clean, and fair principles. 

Q. What are your go-to restaurants in Indy? Do you have a favorite dish at any of them?

A. I really love Rook. [Chef] Carlos [Salazar] is a sweetheart and anytime we go there, there’s something different to try. My wife and I, we love the Crispy Pata, the deep-fried pork hock. There’s just so much crispy skin to go around. I love pho so I think Egg Roll Number One on South Emerson is the best in the city. Bando Korean Restaurant on Pendleton Pike for barbecue. Plat 99, if I’m feeling fancy. The cocktails are great, and they have that truffle popcorn that is so good. So addictive. 

Plat 99

Q. If you’re in need of some fresh air, where might you go?

A. Closest to me is White River Gardens, which is part of the zoo. I’m a gardener at home, so it’s really fascinating to see all the varieties they have and styles of planting. I love Fort Ben. And 100 Acres. It’s the combination of art and outdoors, and it’s a thrill to go there and take selfies. If I really have time, Shades State Park. It’s far away, but so worth it. It’s beautiful.

Q. Do you have a favorite neighborhood or area where you like to hang out or spend the day?

A. Irvington is pretty cool to just chill out in. Black Acre Brewing Company is great. There was a time when I didn’t even have to order; they’d just put a drink in front of me. Around the corner, you can go to The Mug. I like to keep it to the east side, but I occasionally visit Fountain Square and SoBro. Twenty Tap has have the best beer list in town. It is really thoughtful. They have the best Indiana beer list. They’re really thoughtful about the beer and the variety they have. It’s nice to have a mix of styles and geography. Taxman Brewing Company is great. They have a good combo of good food and good beer, which is not always a given. I love Daredevil Brewing, especially Rip Cord Double IPA.

Q. Which festivals or annual events are always on your calendar?

A. I look forward to art fairs – the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, Penrod Arts Fair, Broad Ripple Art Fair, Talbot Street Art Fair, and First Friday, of course. We try to do something different, but we always end up at the Harrison Center. We love ArtMix; they have a great mission, and the people are so open. The artists always chat with you. There’s a really good energy in the Harrison Center and the Circle City Industrial Complex. Lick, the ice cream place, has their shop open on Fridays. You can go there under the pretense of art but also get ice cream.  

Q. Do you have a favorite arts organization whose events you enjoy attending?

A. I think the Arts Council of Indianapolis does good work, especially with Gallery 924. It always has an interesting show. Primary Colours always has interesting stuff, too. The Indianapolis Arts Center – I really enjoy their classes. I have a short list of “to do” classes. And I like their mission of bringing arts to underprivileged kids. And ArtMix. They enhance the lives of people with disabilities with the arts. 

Q. If you’re a shopper, what locally owned boutiques do you frequent?

A. Homespun. I know the owners personally. Between what they do at Homespun and the Handicraft Exchange, they’re pretty awesome people to have in town. I’m a book addict. Indy Reads Books is the best in town. I like to buy records, and I like Luna Music. They have a good browsing “flow” – some shops are just set up right. They do it right. And then of course, I’m a gardener, so I like all the great plant sales, like Perennial Premiere at the IMA. The Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society has a plant sale. And the best is Indy Urban Acres’ plant sale, but it’s mostly vegetables. There are so many tomato varieties that you don’t know what to do with yourself. There’s an organization called Don’t Sleep, and they organize black-owned business events throughout the year. They primarily do activism, but they also support black-owned businesses. 

Q. Have you recently discovered any hidden gems in the city?

A. On the Irvington Facebook page, they were talking about Phan’s Kitchen. She used to be an Irvington resident but opened up this spot in Washington Square Mall. There’s a Target and Buffalo Wild Wings, but also this little restaurant that serves Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian. It was revelation. You just work your way through the menu. She has the most awesome papaya salad. The Indiana Landmarks tours are pretty cool. We also toured the Naval Armory that’s about to be a school. I always keep an eye out for what’s next. They’re always doing something new and interesting.

Indiana Landmarks

Q. Where do you like to take out-of-town guests, especially if they have never been to Indy before?

A. The best introduction is the downtown stroll. Go to Monument Circle and people-watch there. Then I like to make them walk, especially up Mass Ave so I have an excuse to go to Indy Reads Books. I also love Natural Born Juicers – that’s the reward at the end of Mass Ave. Then all the way back down. We can stop at Homespun and Silver in the City. Then I like to go to Chatterbox and sit down and listen to music. I think that’s underappreciated by a lot of people. 

Q. Describe your ideal day in Indy.

A. We would do breakfast at Love Handle at 10th and Rural streets. They have the best biscuits and gravy, and he makes them vegan. Then we’d go to 100 Acres and wander around for awhile. We would turn ourselves loose on the west side. It’s the repository of all the best international restaurants in the city. You can get Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian. Literally the world is at your feet on the west side. You can eat your way across the globe. Then stop at Saraga to get some international groceries. Then I would probably head to Luna Music and/or Indy Reads. Then I’d probably go to Goose the Market and downstairs in the Enoteca. The people are awesome, the food is great, the wine is great. You don’t feel like a stranger. It feels like your spot. Then we’d end up at Footlite Musicals or the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Q. Do you have a favorite holiday memory or tradition? Are there any holiday events in town that you make it a point to attend every year?

A. Kwanzaa is not a tradition that I follow, but I’ve met friends who are involved in the Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee. They hold an event every holiday season. It’s really good for everyone. The principles they talk about are universal. There’s drumming and dancing and just a good feeling of community. That’s become an adopted tradition.  


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