There's a bowtie artist on the wall of the Double 8 grocery at 29th and MLK streets. You wouldn't expect to find him next to the ads for bargain milk and vegetables. But James Caldwell-Acha-Ngwodo is just where Malina Jeffers wants him.
Jeffers' I Am an Artist project is, as the official description goes, both a "photographic public art exhibition" and "advocacy campaign." It features 52 Central Indiana artists through 52 portraits, all photographed by Mallory Talty. They can be seen on walls throughout the city, from the usual suspects (Big Car Service Center, Madame Walker Theatre Center) to more unlikely spots. For instance, the nearly abandoned building at 30th and College that used to house Frog's Record Mart is now home to the contemporary dance troupe Create Freedom Arts Project.
That bowtie artist is on the Double 8 wall, according to Jeffers, because he's more likely to catch the eye of someone completely outside of Indy's art scene. Maybe a kid who can't imagine becoming an artist because he's never seen a working artist up close. Let alone a guy making bowties — because all artists are snobby painters, right?
Photos can also be found on the tail of five circulating IndyGo buses and on the back of weekend bus passes. And all 52 artists (about 30 are part of the public art component) are part of a playing card deck available from Silver and the City. They're also online at the project's site, ourmosaiccity.com.
Jeffers, who launched the arts consulting and programming outfit Mosaic City this summer, won a $10,000 grant at IndyHub's 5X5 event to realize her idea. "I wanted artists who live and work in Indianapolis, with a definite slant toward what I was calling alternative artists," she says. "A tattoo artist, a drummer, a chef. A guy who does pimped-out cars: He's a painter, and he just happens to paint on cars, but I can't see him getting a grant."
Jeffers started I Am an Artist by picking approximately 30 artists on her own, then opened up the selection process to suggestions via social media. That interactivity remains a big component of the project: Participants are encourage to tweet photos of installations with the tag #IamAnArtist. As for in-person programming, a guided walking tour of downtown photos will leave from Hilbert Circle Theatre Oct. 15 at 12:30 p.m. (sharp).