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Six teams in running for public art award: Commission will choose two winners in January

December 10, 2007

Six finalists have pitched their visions for public art projects as part of the Arts Council of Indianapolis' second "Great Ideas" competition, aiming to inspire and educate area residents-and encourage them to slow down and contemplate life.

The contest kicked off in 2005, when two artists each got $40,000 in funding from the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission.

This year, a seven-person panel will weigh the proposals and select two winners, each of whom gets a $3,000 stipend and $15,000 to carry out the project.

Although the budget is smaller this time around, the ideas aren't.

"The finalists present ideas that make us reconsider public spaces ... as community assets," said Arts Council spokesman Mike Knight. "The proposal process alone helps us look at the city differently and, at the very least, helps us ask questions about what we want Indianapolis to be."

Finalists and their proposals are:

Carmel-based architect and sculptor Timothy Gray would install light-diffusing panels in a walnut grove in Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. Gray said he was inspired when biking in the area because the trees were planted on an exact grid. But the organic patterns of the foliage and the movement of the wind showed how nature could alter that grid.

"It's a very grand place with the feeling of being in a cathedral for me," he said.

Experimental performance group Susurrus would perform a site-inspired piece at the debut and when it's taken down.

Indianapolis-based sculptor Jeffrey Martin would build two silos along the Monon Trail near 25th Street. They would include a bench at the base where viewers could lie down and see the sky through an opening at the top. The silos-one 28 feet tall and the other 20 feet tall-would be lined with aluminum to reflect the sky's colors, giving the viewer "a brief reprieve from reality, to allow a loss of time and spatial relationships to occur and perhaps even trigger a memory of what it was like to be a child," Martin said.

He was inspired by his own memories of lying on the ground as a child, gazing at the sky. But Martin said he also wanted to tie into Indiana's agricultural heritage.

Indianapolis-based painter David Russick, who is also curator at the Herron Galleries at IUPUI, would use Marion County as the basis of a scale model of the solar system to inspire people to "think about the enormous size ... and the staggering emptiness of space compared to the richness of our city."

In the project, each city block would represent 36 million miles. Four 80-inch lighted spheres at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument would be replica suns, and 80 stands would be set up along the orbits of the planets in this scale. For example, a cherry would be the right size to represent Earth at City Market.

Indianapolis-based painters and installation artists Judith Levy and Artur Silva would build a 12-foot wooden boat to tell the story of the settlers who founded New Harmony.

The bolted-down vessel, potentially housed at the Indiana State Museum, would feature 20 television screens carrying videos and animation about the intrepid troupe who settled in the southwestern Indiana town in 1824.

"Our project underscores the hope, the commitment and the courage of the New Harmonists to not only imagine a better world, but to also employ all of their intellectual, fiscal and emotional resources to actualize their visions," the artists wrote.

Hammond-based painter and sculptor Tom Torluemke would do a group art project with neighbors around Kennedy-King Park near 17th Street and College Avenue. Community groups would identify a theme for the project, which would include oversized luminaries-55-gallon plastic drums with holes drilled in them-installed at the park and lit at a large celebration.

The project would serve to "bring people together for an uplifting, life-affirming event," Torluemke wrote. The luminaries would remain on display for a month and then either be kept in the neighborhood for occasional display or sold to fund another project.

Muncie-based composer and digital media artist Jesse Allison would create kiosks to display an interactive video montage of passersby and images related to keywords that observers could enter at the kiosk or online. Together, the images represent "our shared life experience" and the "thousands of private people together creating the micro-universe of public life," Allison wrote.

Proposal details are available online at www.indyarts.organd models will be on display through the end of December at the Indianapolis Artsgarden downtown. The winners will be selected in mid-January.
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