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Otterness sculptures on their way back: But officials are still deciding where they'll end up

May 21, 2007

Three bronze sculptures by Tom Otterness soon will be brought out of storage and shipped to Indianapolis, thanks to a private effort to raise money to buy the public art pieces that captivated the city in 2005.

The roly-poly statues-with a total weight of more than 4,200 pounds-will be hoisted by art moving specialists, packed in crates and sent on their way, likely within three weeks.

But what happens to them once they get here is still up in the air.

Myrta Pulliam and Maribeth Smith led an effort that raised more than $550,000 to buy the three statues-"Free Money," "Female Tourist" and "Male Tourist"- and set up a maintenance fund.

The pieces were part of an Indianapolis exhibit of 25 Otterness sculptures in 2005. They were installed together on Capitol Avenue, at the entrance to the RCA Dome and convention center, just south of Maryland Street.

"Free Money" depicts two figures dancing on a money bag while the much smaller "Female Tourist" takes their picture and the "Male Tourist" watches, balancing three pieces of luggage.

The Arts Council of Indianapolis oversaw the financial end of the effort. It bought "Free Money" in February 2006, then lent it to an exhibition in Grand Rapids, Mich. It bought the two others in January.

But since the purchases, they've been in a holding pattern as the council, city and state officials decide where to put them.

"Free Money" was on display in Grand Rapids through September, then put in storage at that city's Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The tourists have been in storage at Otterness' New York studio.

"There's been a bit of a delay, frankly, because we're negotiating about where they're going to live," said Mindy Taylor Ross, public arts director at the Arts Council.

Pulliam said the intent was to have them set up near the location where they were displayed in 2005.

"We want them to have a good public viewing," she said. "They looked so great there."

The only hurdle is that control of portions of that property is in transition. The owner, the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, will pass it to the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, the state entity created to construct Lucas Oil Stadium and the convention center expansion.

The state authority is set to demolish the RCA Dome in 2008 and complete the $275 million convention center expansion in 2010.

The Arts Council has asked whether the pieces could be included in final design plans for the convention center expansion, which are due to be released this summer, authority spokesman David Sease said.

"We also understand that [the Arts Council] has other locations in mind as well," he said.

Ross called the discussions "delicate" and declined to reveal the temporary and permanent sites under review.

In the interim, unless a temporary home can be found quickly, the statues will likely be sent to storage in the convention center.

In early 2006, after Pulliam and Smith kicked off their efforts, retired business executive Tom Jones purchased Otterness' "Boy and Dog" and put the bronze sculpture up for display on a lot he owns next to his home at the southeast corner of St. Clair and East streets.

He said he's heard nothing but positive feedback from the neighbors.

"There's some other artwork in the neighborhood that some don't like so I was nervous," he said. "But everyone is positive about it. They really are fun."

Pulliam said she's not peeved with the delay in displaying the other three pieces.

"This has gone on longer than we thought it would, but things always pop up," she said, comparing the process to a construction project she's in the middle of on her home. "Why would this be any different?"

Ross said she's optimistic a location will be found soon. She'd like to have a summer event to unveil them and celebrate their arrival.
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