March Madness Brings Live Art and Energy to Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – It was a city full of color. Masked men in lightweight jackets wandered around Monument Circle here on Saturday, the light breeze blowing women’s ponytails. Over the speakers that played with ‘Party in the USA’ from the South Bend Chocolate Company’s store front, there are tribes of loud whistling music. Water from the fountain Soldiers and Sailors Monument storms in the background.

And around a city that a year ago saw empty streets and was very closed, almost 50 pieces of live art and poetry installations previously vacant windows and Indianapolis International Airport filled.

The Indianapolis Arts Council has recruited nearly 600 artists and creative professionals in Indiana to install outdoor art Downtown as part of a three-week free cultural festival, ‘Swish, ”Presented in conjunction with the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which begins Thursday. The organization has partnered with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and GANGGANG, a local art incubator working to elevate artists of color, to offer more than 250 pop-up music, dance and spoken word performances.

And even better news for the city’s creative class: thanks to a nearly $ 1 million Lilly Endowment award awarded to Indiana Sports Corp. to promote the center, all artists and performers will be paid.

“Indy was created for this moment,” said Julie Goodman, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, when the organization announced the project on March 8.

Saturday, in Washington Street, the artist Meghan Curran’s 64 brightly colored basketball is strung vertically in a window next to Rob Day’s “Mona With Cats,” a parody of Leonardo’s famous painting. Further down the street, “MicroAffectionsA message woven on a fence on the corner of Pennsylvania and Washington streets said, ‘I’m so glad to see you here. ‘

As part of ‘Swish’, four artists were each paid $ 6,000 for the design of 10-foot-high basketball courts, with slopes along the sides, allowing people to step on the brightly-covered, hand-painted surfaces to snap selfies (the rear part. is a printed vinyl banner). Each of the artists struggled during the pandemic, but several saw triumphs, such as eventually turning to art full-time, even when it was necessary, or experiencing greater creativity. Here are their stories.

Shaunt’e Lewis‘s favorite art is the kind you catch across the street. The 36-year-old artist’s live track, “For the Love of the Game: Live, Love, Ball!” at Lugar Plaza was inspired, she says, by a Muslim woman from her hometown, Springfield, Massachusetts. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, was a university player who dreamed of playing basketball overseas but would not be allowed to wear her hijab in Europe. She sacrificed her career to challenge the verdict in court. “I want people to be inspired not only by the art, but also by the story behind it,” Lewis said. ‘Especially girls who look like me. You do not regularly see work of black women on a large scale. ”

Lewis worked full-time as a beautician and salon owner before the pandemic, but after closing one of her two salons this year, she became a full-time artist. She is excited to see how Indy is hosting the tournament. “I’m not worried because people are being vaccinated and the numbers are going down,” she said. “I just hope everyone can get together and be nice about everything to make it a positive event and keep our city intact.”

Michael Martin, or Kwazar, tried to correct the whirlwind of ideas he had for ‘L-Levate’, his court on Monument Circle. Then the 39-year-old former tattoo artist had it: A dunk against a psychedelic city horizon. “I want you to know that Indy is where this is happening,” he said.

For the past four years, Martin has been working as a forklift and helping set up events at Lucas Oil Stadium through a temporary service. But now, he said, he’s got enough work as an artist to go to work full time. “I feel like I have something to give,” he said. “Even if it means you have to compare money, I finally want to spend my days on my trade.”

Previously William Denton Ray(46) was a digital artist and muralist, he was a skateboarder. Admiring his days by admiring a skate shop in Greenwood, Ind. . While the vinyl background was digital, he said the court painting was a challenge, “just not to step on where I had painted before.”

He also works as the in-house artist for Sun King Brewing, where he designs graffiti-inspired cans. According to him, his career was most affected when the pandemic First Fridays stopped, the once-a-month Downtown Indy art window in which galleries opened their doors. “I’ve lost thousands of dollars over the last year,” he said.

If you’ve been walking downtown for the past two years, you’ve probably seen at least one Bean the Astronaut. Now, the mural Joy HernandezHer character, named after Alan L. Bean, a painter who walked on the moon, is the highlight of her mural “Shoot for the Stars” in Georgia Street, across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Like her happy Bean, Hernandez, 39, tried to keep perspective on a year that initially sent her into an artistic funk. She had a full range of projects for 2020, including creating a banner for the Indianapolis 500 and a mural for the side of a Jiffy Lube. “It would be a payday of $ 5,000,” she said.

But she said she was happy that her assignments were only delayed. And she just knew what to do with the $ 6,000 check she got for completing this job: pay the rest of her $ 77,000 in student loans, three years ahead of schedule. “I can go on with my life and not a salary after a salary,” she said.

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