probably has been the most ambitious and most challenging project I have worked
been enlivening urban walls with works of art in celebration of the city's
hosting the 46th annual Super Bowl.
while the Super Bowl may be the pretext for 46 For XLVI, this project is about
a lot more than an operatically hyped football game. It has resuscitated
Indianapolis' faltering public art program, provided artists with meaningful
work and promises to make mural art a nationally recognized part of the city's
Lawrencecombines a cherubic demeanor with executive polish. Hours of board
meetings, fund raising calls and public presentations have not dampened his
capacity for enthusiasm when it comes to promoting the arts, particularly when
he sees an opening to — forgive the irresistible gridiron allusion here
— push the ball down the field ... for a big gain.
remembers a summer day in 2010. He was driving into work, thinking about how
the city was trying to come up with a plan to address the decaying murals that
were becoming eyesores on walls along Downtown's Canal Walk. City planners had
been trying to figure out what to do about these surfaces for over a year but
had not taken action. It occurred to Lawrence that the 2012 Super Bowl could be
the trigger to not only get the canal beautified, but launch an even larger
mayor had said he wanted us to act boldly," Lawrence recalls. He decided to
take Mayor Greg Ballard up on his challenge. During a meeting with Deputy Mayor
Mike Huber, Lawrence confided, "I've got a wacky idea." What if the canal
beautification plan was connected to Super Bowl XLVI through the creation of 46
murals — not only on the canal, but in neighborhoods throughout the city
— by local, state and even national mural artists?
immediately texted this idea to Ballard. In a matter of moments, his boss
texted back: "Love it."
46 For XLVI was born.
for the city
I started thinking about 46 For XLVI, the one thought I had was this really
needs to be a mural initiative for the city," Lawrence says today, "not just
the Super Bowl. It has to live above and beyond that."
idea started with a Super Bowl connection, but made an extra, important leap
that also linked the mural project with the Ballard administration's desire to
enhance and revitalize neighborhoods. This leap informed the Arts Council's
approach to site selection.
things started to ramp up for the Super Bowl, you started seeing articles in
all the media about city fix-it lists, things that needed to be done and areas
of the city that needed to be addressed," Lawrence says. "We began collecting
those. We also knew there were a lot of partnerships and organizations that
were already doing city beautification efforts that we could work with."
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
Indianapolis Beautifulwas an early partner that, in turn, involved the Lilly
Day of Service volunteers.
also saw 46 For XLVI as a way to rejuvenate the city's public art program.
During Bart Peterson's mayoral administration, a board of civic leaders called
the Cultural Development Commission was formed to serve as a nimble cousin to
the Arts Council. Funded largely by the Capital Improvement Board and Lilly
Endowment, part of the CDC's charge included creation of a public art
initiative resulting in, among other things, an annual installation of works by
such internationally recognized artists as Tom Otterness and Julian Opie.
a change in mayoral administrations and a tanking economy put the CDC in
mothballs and, with it, the public art initiative.
track of this," Lawrence says of 46 For XLVI, "was my desire to reactivate that
campaign, get public art happening again in the city, and bring all of those
players back together."
reconvened the CDC's Public Art Selection Committee, a collection of some of
the top curators, gallery owners and museum professionals in central Indiana,
to help with site selection and to adjudicate artist applications. Then, last
January, the Arts Council put out a national Request For Qualifications. "We
were looking for muralists from all over the country: local, regional,
national, to come and do this."
were over 150 responses. Among the artists who were ultimately selected to
participate, 58 percent are local and over 20 percent are artists of color.
of the things we were really key on," Lawrence says, "was not putting any
thematic restrictions on the murals. They didn't have to involve footballs or
corn or anything like that. ... We also wanted to bring the best practices of the
mural world, so we could make sure the building owner was protected, the artist
was protected, the artwork was protected at all points."
the outset, the Arts Council realized that its challenge would be to reconcile
a high level of ambition — Ballard's "bold" thinking — with a
relatively modest budget. Lawrence was able to cobble together $500,000 for the
project — $200,000 that had already been set aside for canal
beautification, $150,000 from the Capital Improvement Board, $100,000 from the
Boner Center and the East 10th Street Civic Association, with
$25,000 each from the Buckingham and Indianapolis Foundations.
meant defining a limited, yet acceptable, lifespan for the murals; determining
what paints and other supplies would last and weather well; and retaining the
flexibility to eventually create new works after the initial 46 murals were
of the murals, depending on materials and site, are expected to be up for 10
years. The paints being used should last 25 years. "Basically what we're doing is
creating 46 canvases throughout the city that, at a certain time, we'll be able
to turn over and create a new round," Lawrence says, adding that creating a
hard end date for the murals was necessary to avoid situations where murals
might deteriorate with no available resources to maintain or restore them.
what if — as is likely to happen — the public or a building owner
falls in love with a particular mural and it becomes a city icon? "There is a
clause that if the building owner is OK with it and wants to keep it up, then
we certainly don't have to get rid of it." The Arts Council, which will
maintain the murals for the first 10 years, is prepared to work to raise more
funds for further maintenance if need be.
46 For XLVI project represents somewhat of a departure for the Arts Council. In
the past, the council has facilitated the arts through a grant-making process
to individuals and other nonprofit organizations. Rarely has it played such a
prominent role in actually commissioning new and highly visible work. Lawrence
believes this advances the council's mission.
we created our strategic plan in 2010, one of the key tenets of that and
something that is my ultimate responsibility, is to raise the visibility of the
arts in Indianapolis and central Indiana. One of the beauties of this program,
and what public art does, is it puts the arts out there."
of course, is aware that the city has been embroiled recently in controversies
involving public art, including protests over the placement of a proposed piece
Indianapolis International Airport. Controversy is a risk he's willing to
accept. The murals, he says, have created worthwhile dialogue.
think even negative dialogue is still dialogue about the arts. If we're getting
people to talk about the arts and personal expression and community
beautification, I think those are positive things. Another tangible benefit (of
the project) has been to give folks a sense of ownership and a sense of pride
in either where they work or where they live. ... This really is a conscious
effort by us to make sure that it reaches neighborhoods in Marion County and
engages discussion and imagination of folks on a variety of different topics
and subjects. I've told our board, 'You're not going to like all 46 of them,
and that's OK. That's the nature of public art.' "
also thinks the mural project has become a case study in the benefits of
putting artists to work. "There are ways that creative people can be very
beneficial to solve community issues. I mean, that's what artists are: creative
problem solvers. When (the city said, 'We have all this money, we're going to
have to address the canal and we don't know what to do' ... let's get artists to
help us solve these sorts of issues."
through that process, create an opportunity for artists to have a decent
payday. Artists commissioned for the project are paid, Lawrence says, depending
on such factors as the size of the mural and materials used. The range for the artist
commissions spans $4,000-$30,000. The Arts Council was also able to establish a
relationship with Sherwin Williams, providing artists with a significant
discount on paint.
to Lawrence, involving artists from other parts of the country helps create a
positive image for Indianapolis. "We now have a lot of ambassadors out there
that are talking about their experience. They are going across the country and
we are getting a lot of national buzz about this program. Suddenly Indianapolis
is a mural city. It's someplace you need to come and see."
residents benefit, too, thanks to the ways the addition of a mural can turn a
neglected or underutilized space into an asset. "Murals and public art help
create public space. The Summit Realty building is a perfect example. They have
a courtyard that sits between their building and the Regions Bank building that
they'd like to make greater use of. I think the mural there helps define that
space and allows them to think of it as a place where things can happen."
points to a location that has long been one of Downtown's chronic liabilities,
the underpass at South and Capital streets. "For years the city and others have
tried to address that area," he says. The space suffered from poor lighting and
drainage problems. Now, with the addition of a new mural, as well as its close
proximity to the Cultural Trail: "All of a sudden, this dark, dingy corridor is
a safe pedestrian throughway that connects Lucas Oil Stadium to Downtown in a
way that didn't exist before."
for the Downtown stretch of the Central Canal — the location that began
the process leading up to the development of 46 For XLVI, Lawrence says,
"What's wonderful about the canal is it's really a sort of mini gallery. You
have 10 murals. You can go down there and you'll see 10 different works of
Lawrence, 46 For XLVI is just the beginning. The mural project is already
generating so much positive buzz that the Arts Council is convinced it's on to
something that can benefit the city well beyond the ten years originally
envisioned as the project's life span. "We really want to see this grow because
we've had such wonderful success."
says that plans for two more murals are in the works. "We're going to
aggressively go after more funding opportunities to continue this."
the public works that have been created by the Cultural Trail, including the
imminent completion of a major piece inside the Virginia Avenue parking garage
south of Maryland Street by internationally renowned artist Vito Acconci,
Lawrence sees the mural project as adding a dimension to the city's growing
portfolio of public art. The murals, he says, can, in effect, provide the city
with a special claim to fame.
we talk about convention visitors coming in there are must-sees," he says. "You
the Speedway. But you should also have to walk around and see the public art
program everyone's talking about."
beauty part to all this is that where, for example, commissioning a monumental
public sculpture like Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" (better known as "the Bean")
in Chicago's Millennium Park can cost millions of dollars, the city can find
itself bedecked with murals for a fraction of that cost while, at the same
time, finding a practical way to provide paying work for artists who, Lawrence
is quick to say, need jobs as much as anybody else.
knee-jerk reaction now is to say there's no money for public art, so let's get
an artist to donate it. We are opposed to that. I think it is critical that we
are paying artists for the work they do. We're showing that it is possible to
do a project without a lot of money, pay artists, celebrate them and have a big
impact. At the end of the day, I want people to see Indianapolis as an art
city, as well as a sports city."