March Madness brings vibrant art and energy to Indianapolis

March Madness brings vibrant art and energy to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – It was a city full of colors. Masked people in light jackets strolled through Monument Circle here on Saturday, the light breeze blowing the women’s ponytails. Lively flute music played from the loudspeakers, dueling with “Party in the USA” from the shop window of the South Bend Chocolate Company. In the background, water rushed from the well of the soldiers and sailors memorial.

And in a city that saw empty streets a year ago and the shutters were tightly closed, nearly 50 living art and poetry installations filled previously empty windows and Indianapolis International Airport.

The Arts Council of Indianapolis recruited nearly 600 Indiana-based artists and creatives to install outdoor art downtown Thursday as part of a free three-week culture festival, Swish, held in conjunction with the NCAA 2021 NCAA basketball tournament that is beginning Thursday. The organization has partnered with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and GANGGANG, a local arts incubator that works to promote colored artists, to showcase more than 250 pop-up music, dance, and spoken word performances .

And even better news for the city’s creative class, thanks to a Lilly Endowment Scholarship of nearly $ 1 million to Indiana Sports Corp. Granted to promote Downtown, all artists and artists would be paid.

“Indy was created for this moment,” said Julie Goodman, president and chief executive officer of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, when the organization announced the project on March 8th.

On Saturday on Washington Street, 64 colorful basketballs by artist Meghan Curran were lined up vertically in a window next to Rob Day’s Mona With Cats, a parody of Leonardo’s famous painting. Further down the street, “MicroAffections,” a message posted on a fence on the corner of Pennsylvania Street and Washington Street announced, “I’m very happy to see you here.”

Also on Swish, four artists received $ 6,000 each to design 3 foot high basketball courts with ramps on the sides for people to step onto the clear, hand-painted surfaces to take selfies (the back) make is a printed vinyl banner). Each of the artists faced struggles during the pandemic, but some saw some triumphs, such as: Here are their stories.

Shaunt’e Lewis’ favorite art is the kind that catches your eye from across the street. The vibrant courtyard of the 36-year-old artist “For the Love of the Game: Live, Love, Ball!” At Lugar Plaza was inspired by a Muslim woman from her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. The woman, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, was a college player who dreamed of playing basketball abroad but was not allowed to wear her hijab in Europe. She sacrificed her career to challenge the rule in court. “I want people to be inspired not only by the art, but also by the story behind it,” said Lewis. “Especially girls who look like me. You don’t often see large-scale work by black women. “

Lewis worked full-time as a beautician and salon owner before the pandemic, but became a full-time artist after closing one of her two salons that year. She is happy that Indy is hosting the tournament. “I’m not too worried as people are getting vaccinated and the numbers are going down,” she said. “I just hope everyone can come together and stay cool about everything to make it a positive event and keep our city intact.”

Michael Martin, alias Kwazar, tried to stem the vortex of ideas that he had for “L-Levate”, his court at Monument Circle. Then the 39-year-old former tattoo artist had it: a dunk against a psychedelic city skyline. “I want you to know that Indy is where this is happening,” he said.

For the past four years, Martin had worked as a forklift driver and supported the event setup at Lucas Oil Stadium through a temporary employment service. But now, he said, he’s got enough work as an artist to work full-time. “I feel like I am giving something,” he says. “Even if it means that the money is balanced, in the end I prefer to spend my days working on my craft.”

Before William Denton Ray, 46, was a digital artist and wall painter, he was a skateboarder. His days strolling through a skate shop in Greenwood, Ind., Admiring the vibrant artwork on the boards, inspired Court Vision, the geometric orange, blue, and purple design whose squares with half-closed eyes made Pennsylvania Street blown to fans follow along. Although the vinyl background was digital, he found that painting the square was a challenge, “just trying not to step where I had already painted.”

He also works as an in-house artist for Sun King Brewing, where he designs graffiti-inspired cans. His career was hit hardest, he said, when the pandemic halted First Fridays, the monthly art show in Downtown Indy where galleries opened their doors. “I’ve lost thousands of dollars in the last year,” he said.

If you’ve wandered downtown in the past two years, you’ve likely spotted at least one Bean the Astronaut. Now the figure of muralist Joy Hernandez, named after Alan L. Bean, a painter who walked the moon, is the highlight of her “Shoot for the Stars” mural on Georgia Street across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Like her cheerful Bean, Hernandez, 39, has tried to keep track of a year that initially left her on an artistic funk. She had a slew of projects planned for 2020, including creating a banner for the Indianapolis 500 and a mural for the side of a Jiffy Lube. “That would be a payday of $ 5,000,” she said.

But she said she was lucky that her assignments were only delayed. And she knew exactly what to do with the $ 6,000 check she got for this job: pay off the remainder of her $ 77,000 student loan three years ahead of schedule. “I can get on with my life and not live from paycheck to paycheck,” she said.