By: Hadia Shaikh
[Editor’s note: This article, which originally appeared in NUVO on Nov. 9, takes a look at the work of Beatriz Vásquez, a Herron School of Art & Design alumna and a 2019 recipient of an IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute artist residency grant. Corey Robinson, a professor of furniture design at Herron and a member of the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Council is, like Vásquez, a participant in Art & Seek, and you can find an article about his work here.]
I visited some of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s art installations in early October. With over 100 art installations to choose from, I chose three particular pieces that piqued my interest in that gloomy fall day. Indy Art & Seek pieces can be found in areas like Irvington, Fountain Square, South Broad Ripple — the art can be found in multiple parts of Indianapolis. To find it, I downloaded the Otocast Mobile App recommended by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. This app allows visitors to go on an interactive guided tour of the public art, providing a more enriching experience.
Indy Art & Seek is a project involving Indianapolis artists recruited to create engaging and accessible public art of all media throughout Indianapolis. It’s a self-guided public tour that features more than 100 art installations, performances, literary pieces, large-scale installations, and individual artworks. If you visit Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s website, it will show you many pinpoints on a map of each installation or art location with a detailed description provided.
An art intervention is an artistic installation or action such as performance art that changes an area’s perspective. They are usually temporary and small-scale, according to Indy Art & Seek. The art interventions can be many different mediums such as physical installations, live performances, visual, theatrical, dance, street art, literary, etc.
My first stop on the miniature version of my Indy Art & Seek self-guided tour was to see “Immigrant Monarch” by Beatriz Vásquez at Christian Park. Vasquez’s paintings of monarch butterflies, in bright colors and thick bold lines, cover six picnic tables. One of the tables features a quote, “En honor mi sangre corre por Rio Grande.” [In honor, my blood flows through the Rio Grande] Migration is a natural human need. Immigrants bienvenidos.”
With recent policies that affected immigrant communities and continue to do so, Vásquez’s vision was to create a space that encourages Latinx communities to feel welcome and safe when congregating in public. The imagery of the monarch butterflies symbolizes the generational migratory patterns of immigrants seeking a new life in the United States.
My particular favorite, my second stop, was an old house turned into a canvas. It was most likely unlivable or abandoned, now used as a space for an art mural.
Maria Iqbal painted this mural, “Spring Season,” in 2019. It’s an inviting and bright mural on the house that celebrates opulent home gardens. I really enjoyed the colors that Iqbal used and how wide-scale the mural was. The art entails sunflowers, greenery, flowers, and bees that leave the viewer thinking about how positively art such as Iqbal’s on old houses can impact neighborhoods to come. The flowers remind me of henna patterns but also portray a cartoonish yet organic appearance. While this is just one mural painted on a house, I imagine the city could benefit by facilitating similar interventions throughout Indianapolis.
To finish my self-guided tour, I visited “Building Beauty together” by Heather S. Nuber. This piece is made from marine canvas, thread, and brass. The work consists of different colored fabrics stitched together and hung off a wired fence on North Sherman Drive. “Building Beauty Together” represents a community as a quilt. It serves as an analogy that the community is a quilt; many separate and different pieces are stitched together to create something beautiful. Paramount to this quilt, is the large patchwork that represents the Little Flower Community. The piece represents a celebration of diversity and how each individual within the community adds their own flare and touch.
This work says that it’s good to be different — to have different styles, perspectives, ideas, and be from different backgrounds. Diversity is beautiful and it is gratifying to see Indianapolis work to gather community through Nuber’s installation. Overall, I was impressed by seeing how Indy Art & Seek has brought such an invigorating change through art in the city. The art interventions did what they were meant to do, and altered my perspective about how Indianapolis looks and should look. Over time and in the future, it will be interesting to see where Indy Art & Seek takes these particular areas and how they will impact Indianapolis.