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A&E: Indianapolis public art made easy

July 30, 2007

The guitar player slumping over White River State Park and the atfirst-fun-but-now-getting-annoying electronic pedestrians downtown will both be leaving Indy Sept. 1, ending the run of the "Julian Opie: Signs" exhibition. What will be the lingering effects of such a high-profile show? Perhaps one effect will be an increased likelihood that we will notice the public art that is already here, permanently.

To that end, I'd like to point you to publicartindianapolis.com, a new Web site that will, in turn, help point you toward works throughout the city. If you've wondered what that piece you walk by every day is actually called, try the site's "public art locator." For instance, I learned from the easy-to-use map (click on a dot and the info pops up) that the brick head outside of Elements restaurant just off Massachusetts Avenue is, in fact, called "Brick Head 3." And that James Tyler's creation is made from 550 bricks with a sound element activated by motion sensors. In the past, I hadn't gotten close enough to hear it. Now I'm curious.

The site allows you to easily narrow your search as well. Rather than click every dot until you find something of interest, you can select categories such as "19th-early 20th Century Artwork" or "Memorials to Historic Individuals" and the herd will be thinned for you. Sometimes the background proves more interesting than the art itself. Consider Daniel Edwards' "Landmark for Peace" sculpture at Kennedy-King Park, commemorating the site where Robert Kennedy gave a speech on the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

It's not just contemporary art that the site identifies. There's also info on such "oh-yeah, that's-art-too" pieces as the obelisk at Veterans Memorial Plaza and the mural on the side of Gleaners Food Bank (titled "The Gleaners"). And while there isn't an overt critical component to the site, it is interesting to note how little text there is in the item describing the "what-were-we-thinking" Wyland whale wall on East St. Clair Street.

Others may have already discovered Tish Lyndsey at The Jazz Kitchen or Rock Lobster or the Madame Walker Theatre. They might have even caught her opening for Tom Petty or Christine Aguilera.

My Tish Lyndsey awakening happened just the other day, in Indiana Black Expo's music lounge. Actress Millicent Wright, over at the Indiana Repertory Theatre's booth, told me I should stop in there to hear some solid talent.

Wright was right.

There, with no stage lighting and with a sound system best described as "challenging," was the Tish Lyndsey Project lead by her soulful seen-it/been-hurt-by-it/moving-forward I-am-here-and-I-matter voice. And those hands: Twirling, twisting, discovering her face and her microphone and her hips and throwing down her tambourine in righteous anger.

Lyndsey is more than just an enigmatic performer (you might see the influences of Stevie Nicks, Billie Holiday and others, but the special ingredient is herself) but also a solid songwriter. Visit ibj.comand click on A&E to give a listen to the sexy/knowing "In the Spotlight" and you'll know why I'm awaiting announcement of her in-the-works recording and her next set of gigs. You can find more info at tishlyndsey.com.

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You'd think that for a company that pulled off such a complex, emotionally resonant show as "Ragtime" not too long ago (with the same director), a piece of musical fluff like "The Will Rogers Follies" would be a cakewalk.

As many an experienced theatergoer can tell you, though, light subject matter isn't always easy-especially with a show this deceptively demanding.

I could itemize the production's missteps in this recent Footlite Musicals production (The annoying laughing-athis-own-jokes habit of its Will, the shrill charmlessness of its lead showgirl, the what-the-heck-was-that? Wild West Show, and on and on). But the core problem is the selection of this play for this company. No way, no how were we ever going to believe that the earnest but erratic do-it-for-the-love-of-theater talent in this show was really the legendary Follies girls. And this is a show very dependent on its showgirls.

Despite the joy in the slap-happy "Our Favorite Son" number, the sweet performance of Libby Bynam as Rogers' better half, and a worthwhile history lesson on one of the last century's largely forgotten superstars, this "Follies" proved strictly for friends and family.
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