Public Displays of Art
Take a tour of Indianapolis, where some of the nation's best artists display their most inspired installations, free of charge
BY BARBARA E. COHEN
INDIANAPOLIS HAS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH OUTDOOR INSTALLATIONS.
Julian Opie’s Ann Dancing Indianapolis, best known for the sound of revving engines, has an accelerating creative scene, too. You would have to go full-throttle to see all of the public art in one day, but with a well-mapped plan, you’ll be able to fit in the highlights.
Much of the art is located near Mile Square, the center of which is Monument Circle— which also marks the center of the city. To get a taste for the works on the west side of the square, start outside the Indiana Convention Center, southwest of Mile Square.
Indianapolis’ recent explosion of outdoor sculpture began with Tom Otterness and Julian Opie’s temporary public installations. Otterness’ representational bronzes Free Money, Female Tourist and Male Tourist were displayed on a short-term basis in 2005. th e whimsical sculptures were such a hit, they were given a permanent place outside the Indiana Convention Center.
Head west and take in the enhanced scenery in White River State Park. the biennial “Sculpture in the Park” exhibit, continuing through March 2009, showcases Indiana artists’ works, all of which are for sale. Permanent installations include John Mishler’s lightening-like Sky Waltz, which sits at the foot of the Old Washington Street Bridge walkway, and Rinaldo Paluzzi’s monolithic Totem, located in Celebration Plaza.
Just opposite Totem and next to Indiana State Museum is the Canal
Walk. Set below the street, the path lets you roam away from traffic, and it’s lined with fountains, statues, multimedia displays and murals.
You’ll arrive at the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Go up the stairs to see alumnus James Wille Faust’s colorful, abstract Herron Arch and the rotating display of three-dimensional works on campus. Venture back down to Canal Walk and walk east until you come to the multimedia Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial. Across the canal is the Eiteljorg Museum of Native Americans and Western Art, which has contemporary Native American sculpture in its gardens, including works by Douglas Hyde, Truman Lowe and Allan Houser.
Monument Circle NOW TO THE OTHER SIDE of Mile Square. Start by walking east on Michigan Street, keeping an eye out for buildings decorated with works like Zenos Frudakis’ Flying, a bronze figure in a free-spirited, ballet-like pose. You’ll cross the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District, full of traditional statuary—a historical counterpoint to the modern sculptures and murals along Massachusetts Avenue.
When Michigan Street intersects with Massachusetts Avenue, bend northeast and find the Lockerbie Square Historic and Mass Ave Cultural districts, home to Indy’s newest installation: Ann Dancing, by Julian Opie, is a four-sided, animated LED display on which a woman sways to the sound of traffic.
“Mass Ave was Indy’s version of a red light district historically, so to have a beautiful woman dancing high up on a plinth seems to nod—or wink—to the history,” says Mindy Taylor Ross, director of public art for the Arts Council of Indianapolis.
Ann Dancing is the first sculpture on what will become the Cultural Trail, a
7.5-mile path that will connect the five downtown cultural districts. th e Cultural Trail Commission will spend more than $2 million on site-specific public art in the years ahead. In the meantime, Ann Dancing is joined by James Tyler’s Brickhead 3—made from 550 bricks—and the abstract Viewfinders by Eric Nordgulen, which will eventually be connected to the completed trail.
“When Viewfinders was installed a decade ago, there was no other [contemporary] art there, so I made the piece to connect people to the surrounding architecture and environment,” says Nordgulen, who teaches at Herron School of Art and Design.
From Massachusetts Avenue, make your way back to Monument Circle and Meridian Street, where pieces by Chakaia Booker (see sidebar for more on her work) will be installed the week of July 14.
Finally, return to Monument Circle and climb the 330 steps of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (or take the elevator). Look toward South Street, where sculptor Don Gummer’s Southern Circle connects Indy’s art circle to the city’s other circle: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
AS AN ARTIST who works with tires, Chakaia Booker is a welcome addition in car-crazy Indy. Her sculptures, on view in nine downtown locations until April 2009, marry the city’s appreciation for art and the artist’s reverence for recycled rubber.
“A tire is a thing that helps with thinking in terms of upward mobility and expansion, [but] also play, because there are always tires in playgrounds,” Booker says. “So to see a tire transformed, I think people accept it, or are open to see it.
“Most people, when they come up and see the sculptures, a lot of times they don’t even understand what they’re looking at [in terms of the materials],” she says. “But they like the flow and the energy that comes from the pieces themselves.”