Last October Jesse Sugarmann was standing on the track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway watching the pace car make it’s second lap. Behind the wheel was one of 100 people who were chosen to take part in his exhibit — The People’s 500.
The show is Big Car’s first in the Tube Factory artspace near Garfield Park, a multi-use community and art center focused on bringing on housing artists, providing accessible workshops and creative spaces for neighbors.
But the story really began in 2012 when Sugarmann received a Creative Capital Grant.
“It’s purpose is to find emerging artists and put a giant megaphone in front of them and suddenly make them very visible,” says Sugarman. “That’s how I got hooked up with Big Car, they heard me through that.”
Shauta Marsh, chief curator and co-founder of Big Car, saw an installation that Sugarmann crafted in Detroit. His concept was to open what looked like an unsanctioned Pontiac dealership as a performance space and showcase for car related sculptures. Originally she approached him about bringing that work to Indianapolis. When he came to visit and discuss the show with Jim Walker, executive director of Big Car, Walker drove him around the city pointing out alternative corporate spaces that could be open to housing his work as an artist.
“I began to realize how strangely open the powers at be in Indianapolis were to art, says Sugarmann.
“People don't trust artists,” says Sugarmann. “In Indianapolis there was a surplus of trust.”
He explained that it seemed like business owners here see the benefit of activating spaces. Sugarmann began to wonder just how trusting Indy would be. He asked Big Car to help him reach out to the IMS.
“They have access to scale that I have never even had to think about before,” says Sugarmann. “They think acres and I tend to think in inches.”
And the scale kept getting bigger. The IMS gave him a weekend of access to the track, a pace car and racing suits (after crossing quite a few t’s with lawyers). Sugarmann put a call out to the public for people who wanted to be photo and interview subjects. The big draw of course was the opportunity to drive a pace car. Our own managing editor Ed Wenck couldn't even refuse.
“The pace car is the most representative element of the racing experience that is available to the public,” says Sugarmann. “You can’t go to a Dodge dealership and get something shaped like an Indy Car.”
He also wanted to give the pace car a chance to complete a full 500 mile race with everyday people behind the wheel.
Sugarmann noted that in the interviews — which will be playing in a video room to the side of the gallery — he was continuously supposed by the answers when he asked what the “moment” was for them with the 500. Overwhelmingly it was Danica Patrick being the first woman to lead Indy 500 on May 29, 2005. He called it a “diversity of awe.”
“I wasn't surprised that that came up as a theme for women, but I was surprised that it was a theme for men,” says Sugarmann.
For Marsh the entire show is a representation of what Big Car has taken on with Garfield Park in the Tub Factory, Listen Hear and the artist residencies.
“The scale of this project that we did with Jesse also matches the scale of the project we are taking on in this neighborhood,” says Marsh.
But on a purely artistic scale, the show sings through the vivid high resolution images.
“It’s a bell you can’t unring, says Sugarmann, discussing working with a camera with that kind of capability.
“[It was also] being able to produce at this scale, in terms of production quality and the opportunities that were afforded to me by Big Car and by IMS to accomplish that goal (and many other funders really) have elevated the quality of work, the type of work that I can see myself making in the future,” says Sugarmann “… It has relieved my fear of taking on things that are too big for me”
The People’s 500: Jesse Sugarmann
May 6- July 16, 2016
May 6, opening 6-11 p.m.
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St.