Friday, September 14, 2007

Temporary Public Art in Indianapolis

This article from Indy Insights with Bill Benner helps to illustrate the importance not only of public art, but of temporary public art and supporting the arts in general.

Bye-bye, Opie (And Dear Sarah); Hello, Romans

Opie is leaving, and I'm sad. But the Romans are coming, and I'm glad.

Actually, it's artist Julian Opie's works of public art that are disappearing from the downtown landscape. The exhibit, titled "Signs," could be seen at numerous locations. My favorite was "Sarah Dancing," my little LED girlfriend softly swaying to the beat at the corner of Illinois and Maryland streets.

Like the Tom Otterness sculptures that preceded Opie, these public displays give our city an amusing, beguiling quirkiness that sets it apart. The good news is that some Otterness pieces are returning, and that Opie's works will be replaced by something new and different.

Still, Sarah, I'm going to miss you.

In the meantime, our robust Indianapolis Museum of Art is preparing to bring in Roman Art from the Romanart Louvre. This will be the first display in the United States of this traveling exhibit, quite a coup for the IMA. Nearly 200 pieces of Roman art will be on display. Beginning on Sept. 23, you can take a little trip back in time ... like 2,000 years!

Public art, the under-construction Cultural Trail, the IMA and many, many other offerings underscore the investment made in the arts and how it enriches the life of the community in general. Yes, there is a definite financial kick: the Arts Council of Indianapolis estimates direct annual spending approaching nearly $500 million annually.

But it's more than that. In an enlightening, thought-provoking presentation peppered with humor at last week's sold-out Start With Art luncheon, keynote speaker and international advocate for the arts Sir Ken Robinson reminded the audience of the important role arts plays, citing a city's need to be "diverse, dynamic and distinct."

In a relatively short time, Indianapolis had made great strides in those three areas. But complacency would be a mistake. As Hizzoner, Mayor Bart Peterson said, "The thing I love about Indianapolis in general and the arts community in particular is that we never say, 'it's good enough ... or that we're done growing or getting better.' Arts are strong here, and getting stronger."

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