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Archives feature ‘Public Art in Indianapolis’

hudnut - sculptureThen-Mayor William Hudnut speaks at the 1989 dedication of sculptor John Spaulding’s “Jammin’ on the Avenue,” commemorating Indianapolis’ jazz heritage. (University of Indianapolis Mayoral Archives image)

A new online feature from UIndy’s Mayoral Archives traces the efforts of Indianapolis leaders to employ the arts as a tool of urban renewal.

Public Art in Indianapolis, 1967-2007 pulls key images and documents from the archives to highlight the arts strategy that carried through the administrations of former mayors Richard Lugar, William Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith and Bart Peterson. The period includes the Urban Walls mural projects of the 1970s, the creation of the Arts Council of Indianapolis in 1987, the designation of Cultural Districts beginning in 1999 and the start of construction on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail in 2007.

The collection was assembled by history graduate student and research associate Lauren Judd, in collaboration with archivist Mark Vopelak and Professor Edward Frantz, director of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives.

“We first tried to piece together a timeline of public art in Indianapolis, from monuments to museums to actual pieces of public art,” Judd says. “Once we had a big timeline to work from, we started delving into the archives to see what that could tell us about public art as policy.”


Judd said her biggest surprise came from discovering just how important the arts were to the city leaders’ strategy.

“I knew about their sports strategy and downtown development, but just knowing how much they focused on public art, it was almost side by side with the sports,” she said. “It was something they kept coming back to and revising their strategy.”

The new digital feature is being launched in conjunction with this Friday’s Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership, Building Vibrant Cities Through Art, presented by the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives in partnership with Indiana Humanities and the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

The new Public Art in Indianapolis feature joins the previously released Building Indianapolis, which examines iconic buildings and construction projects that have helped to revitalize the city; Bringing the Colts to Indianapolis, which recalls the effort to attract an NFL franchise to the city; Unigov: From City to Metropolis, exploring the then-controversial consolidation of city and county government launched in 1969; and The Making of a Mayor, which traces Lugar’s early political career. These features give viewers an entry point into the vast archives, which also can be browsed or searched by keyword, date and other parameters.