story by ELIZABETH GRANGER
Public Art is everywhere throughout the state, in a variety of mediums and for a variety of reasons. To commemorate important events and important persons, or the everyday. To encourage joy or thought or action on pressing issues.
It started with apples. Soon there was an apple orchard.
Then flowers in a flower garden, dogs in a dog pound, woodland creatures in the forest, and bicycles in a bike rack. This year, love in the Tunnel of Love.
Welcome to the Art Path in Nappanee’s Stauffer Park where, artist Jeff Stillson says, 99 sculptures “put a smile on your face.” The plan is to create one huge sculpture for the 100th.
All of the sculptures, by theme, were in downtown Nappanee before being retired to the hiking/biking path. This year, “love is in the air” is downtown. Those sculptures will move to the Tunnel of Love on the path.
“Public art is an enhancement to the way we live,” Stillson says. “It adds enjoyment. The world without art is ‘eh.’”
And it’s freely accessible, funded in many cases by local governments. Bloomington is just one example. Erin White of Visit Bloomington says, “We’re really proud of our One Percent for the Arts program and love seeing how major pieces come to life as a result of the commitment to always growing the arts and culture community that exists here.”
In Madison, their Arts and Cultural District is one of only 12 such districts in the state, and earned the distinction because of its parks, galleries and studios, museums, art exhibits, and more. With more than 200 years of historic architecture, colorful gardens, walkable neighborhoods, and multiple artistic offerings, this beautifully- preserved town is an inspiration for artists to tell their story with art.
Some cities have created options to lease public art. In June, Sculptures Angola will unveil four sculptures that will remain in the Commercial Historic Downtown District for a year and then will be available for purchase.
Richmond has long touted its Mural Trail. It continuously adds more stops, many tied to the area’s history. There are now 88 murals.
The Midwest Music & Heritage Trail, focusing on musical artists that recorded at Richmond’s Gennett Recording Studio, is installing sculptures this spring.
Kosciusko County’s mantra – “art brings us together” – is showcased on its All Things Art Map. It encourages a visit with prizes through its Public Art Trail Challenge. “We have seen firsthand just how valuable art is in the community by bringing people together,” says Laura Rothhaar of the Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Public Art Trail in Fort Wayne, with more than 150 pieces of art, also offers a mobile-friendly option with the opportunity to win prizes. Jessa Campbell of Visit Fort Wayne says the public art scene “has blossomed
into a force of diversity, artistry, and inspiration, in the heart of downtown and off the beaten path.”
The Kokomo Sculpture Walk features nine large-scale sculptures located along downtown trails. A self- guided tour with information on each piece of art and artist is on the Visit Kokomo mobile app.
Within 11 days in 2020, 11 murals were created in 11 different northeast Indiana counties. It’s known as the Make It Your Own Mural Trail.
In Logansport, the Pop-Up Art and History Trail will lead visitors on a self-guided tour throughout downtown. Along the way, you’ll see and experience nearly twenty statues, beautiful murals, and more while learning about the community’s history and attractions.
Consider the REN ART WLK in Renssealer, Sixth Street Arts Alley in Columbus, NoCo Arts and Cultural District in Jeffersonville, Art Walk at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center in Porter, Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum in Solsberry, B&O Trail Tunnel in Brownsburg. Alleys in Kokomo, Elkhart, Goshen, Angola and Franklin have become art galleries.
In Huntington county, their public mural project is growing from their initial participation in the 2020 “Make It Your Own Mural Trail.” Be sure
and check out local artist America Carrillo’s work at 35. W. Market Street in Huntington.
For a small city, Rensselaer has a large public arts culture with over 50 murals in its historic downtown. There are growing mural collections throughout the region in Remington, Demotte, and Fowler, making this a trip worth a Sunday drive. Many of the murals are curated by Cameron Moberg of San Francisco who returns annually to inspire public art projects in the region. Each July, the Prairie Arts Council hosts Art in the Alley, a celebration of the city murals with tours, live music, and free art projects.
This year Art in the Alley is July 23rd. Art is up, down, everywhere. On utility control boxes in Muncie, Wabash and Valparaiso; sidewalks in Lafayette; a water tower in Jeffersonville; silos in Greencastle, even in roundabouts in Carmel. For years visitors have been able to become the “I” in Indy; now they can also become the “I” in Brazil. Indiana, of course.
Tetia Lee, chief executive officer of The Arts Federation in Lafayette, says public art can create meaningful impact that improves quality of life, community and economic development, workforce, and tourism. She says it’s “diverse, accessible, and world-class.” Lafayette and West Lafayette have more than 165 pieces of public art. One neighborhood, Wabash Avenue, has transformed more than 50 blank spaces “into professional pieces of art that
are dynamic in theme, diversity, and subject matter. Wabash Walls exemplifies how public art can create identity and engage community.”
So pick a city. Contact the visitors bureau. Ask for a map of public art. And then enjoy.