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Wilson sculpture prompts talk about race, art

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By now, many Indianapolis residents have weighed in on the freed-slave sculpture planned for downtown, but the discussion isn’t over.

The Chicago-based Joyce Foundation has granted $50,000 to support the Central Indiana Community Foundation’s ongoing outreach efforts around Fred Wilson’s “E Pluribus Unum.”

In case you haven’t caught local media coverage of public meetings, the hour-long discussion with Wilson on Amos Brown’s radio show, or the follow-up by art blogger Tyler Green, the issue boils down to this: Does the depiction of a freed slave harm African-Americans by reminding viewers of a low point in American history? Or does it transcend those circumstances?
 

OTB arts Architectural renderings of Fred Wilson’s “E Pluribus Unum” on the front plaza of the City-County Building. (Rendering Courtesy CICF)

Wilson is aiming for the latter. He drew his inspiration from the freed slave depicted in the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The sculpture he’ll create uses a similar figure, but the man sits in a more upright posture and holds a multicolored flag.

“It’s quite amazing that some people couldn’t get past the image of this freed slave as a slave,” Wilson told Green, author of “Modern Art Notes.”

CICF will use part of the grant to underwrite Wilson’s commission and the remainder for ongoing public outreach. One of the first steps was creation of a website, www.fredwilsonindy.org, where you can see renderings and videos. More discussions are being planned in conjunction with the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee.

Wilson will not alter his original design, but according to a press release from CICF, “The collective dialogue may influence when the art is installed, what’s around the art, where it’s located and what other artworks might be commissioned as a result of this project’s completion.”

CICF commissioned “E Pluribus Unum” as part of the $2 million public art program that goes along with construction of the Cultural Trail. The original plan was to have it installed this September outside the City-County Building. That’s on hold, pending the talks.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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