Two major public art installations announced for Gainbridge Fieldhouse plaza

FIELDHOUSE PLAZA
An arched sculpture titled “Together,” created by artist Herman Mejia, is seen in the foreground of this rendering of Bicentennial Unity Plaza north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse. (Image provided by The Capital Improvement Board)

The public plaza under construction north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse now has an official name as well as plans for two public sculptures created by Honduras-based artist Herman Mejia.

Bicentennial Unity Plaza, named in reference to the 200th birthday of Indianapolis in 2021, will be home to a large arched sculpture titled “Together” and a dome-like installation titled “Sphere.”

Amenities including the sculptures, a community basketball court/ice rink and public restrooms are being funded through a $28.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The Capital Improvement Board, which owns Gainbridge Fieldhouse, announced the plaza’s name and art installations Friday as part of ongoing renovations to the downtown arena, 125 S. Pennsylvania St.

In addition to being a site for pickup basketball games in mild weather and ice skating during winter months, Bicentennial Unity Plaza will be used for community programs, civic conversations and artistic performances.

“It’s a great event space, and 80% of those events are going to be community-based,” said Andy Mallon, executive director of the CIB. “We’re really focused on creating a destination that benefits all of central Indiana. Downtown Indianapolis is everybody’s neighborhood. Everybody has ownership in downtown.”

Construction of the plaza is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Mejia’s sculptures likely will be installed in early 2023, Mallon said.

The larger artwork, “Together,” will be 30 feet tall and 110 feet long. Made of stainless steel and limestone, “Together” features two rising arcs that are nearly aligned but need a third component, a limestone keystone, to join in the middle.

“It’s a symbol of, ‘We don’t always get it square, but we keep trying,’ ” Mallon said.

Mejia was partially inspired, Mallon said, by the “Landmark for Peace” sculpture at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 1702 Broadway St., in Indianapolis. “Landmark for Peace” features depictions of King and Robert F. Kennedy, two leaders assassinated in 1968, reaching toward one another.

Mirrored alcoves at the two bases of “Together” are designed for visitors to capture photos.

The “Sphere” sculpture is primarily geared for visitor interaction. Two screens inside the artwork will display live images of people at the plaza as well as photos of Indianapolis landmarks. In a nod to basketball played inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse, “Sphere’s” height is 23 feet, 9 inches, or the distance between the NBA 3-point line and the basket.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment will manage the plaza.

According to the CIB, the present allocation of the Lilly Endowment grant breaks down as:

  • $10.18 million for artwork and landscaping;
  • $6.5 million for site preparation and utilities;
  • $4.95 million for plaza elements including the basketball court/ice rink;
  • $2.5 million for restrooms and concessions building;
  • $2.38 million for a canopy above the basketball court/ice rink;
  • $1.26 million for storage and connectivity;
  • $700,000 for miscellaneous costs.

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7 thoughts on “Two major public art installations announced for Gainbridge Fieldhouse plaza

  1. Wow! What a financial outlay for “artwork” and “public” amenities. Its hard to put down or disparage what is very generous funding of a very worthwhile endeavor.
    However, this seems to be yet another example of what I call a “lack of confidence” in our own local artistic and design capabilities. As a result we rarely if ever get a truly unique or once in a lifetime artwork that will be remembered for generations.
    We don’t get unique building design or unique artworks. In yet another situation, what the central Indiana community gets is something that is “SAFE.”
    Possibly making such publicly important and visible projects as one like this competitive and more open to artists, architects and designers might generate something more unique and dramatic than what we settle for.

    1. Have the courage of conviction. You are criticizing the grant, so go straight to your criticism without the insincere “it’s hard to put down” preface.

      Also, the Lilly Endowment is free to do what it wishes with its own money, provided the organization follows its charitable guidelines. The City is welcome to refuse the grant and instead use taxpayer money to fund public art, and then it can apply whatever selection criteria it sees fit to the bid requests.

      Moreover, it is improper to use quotation marks around words when they are used according to their commonly accepted meaning. If you want to state your opinion, just state it outright instead of resorting to bad grammar to passive-aggressively suggest your disagreement. You may not care for Mr. Mejia’s sculptures, but they are still artworks. Now, instead if I were in a fit of anger to throw my plate of food against the wall and leave a mess, you might sarcastically congratulate me on the “artwork” I created.

      Finally, I am not sure why art in a public plaza outside a basketball arena needs to be edgy or otherwise avant-garde to have artistic merit? That said, I am not sure on what basis, aside from your own personal preferences, you deem Mr. Mejia’s artworks to be “safe” (quotes are proper when quoting someone) or otherwise unexceptional.

    2. Gee, quote much?

      As someone who works, and will soon live downtown, I’m very excited. Its going to add so much in terms of public space, family and social activities with the ice rink, and a terrific spot to lunch outside, and meet after work or on the weekends. Really excited about it.

    3. Christopher B. I am not sure what made you the grammar king here; however, for your information, we use quotation marks with direct quotes, with titles of certain works, to imply alternate meanings, and to write words as words.

      I feel that Neil B does have the courage of conviction because his purpose was to state an opinion that, it appears, ignited debate in your head, enough so, to have penned a response with your convictions to counter his.

      There is room for both arguments here and neither requires diminishment by another through the challenging of conviction and/or proper use of quotation marks (for which, it seems, you wish to apply your own rules).

      The real point is, the project is a step in the right direction to embrace our outdoor spaces in downtown Indianapolis and provide a platform for community coming together to engage in all that the space allows. Thank you to the Lilly Endowment and CIB for continuing to support both unique and “safe” space for the public.

  2. I agree, It is great to see the city improving it’s appearance and becoming a place people want to live!

    Perhaps, just a “thank you” Christopher, would be a better response! Unless you want to reach into your own pocket and then you can make the call!

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