An Unlikely Arts Mecca
Four arts facilities—and their landscapes—open in Indianapolis.
By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA
Would you believe Indianapolis is an arts town? True, the
city’s biggest draws are its auto races out at the Brickyard. And it is far
better known as the birthplace of basketball. And its football team just won
the Super Bowl. But Indy is in fact an arts town: if not in repute, then in
sheer variety. Indy (as this crossroads-of-America city of 780,000 is most
commonly nicknamed) has a neo-Victorian glass Artsgarden hovering above a major
downtown intersection. It eschews paint-a-cow plop art in favor of
commissioning one internationally known artist to scatter new works throughout
the city (Julian Opie’s 12 Signs will
be up through 2007).
When it comes to art, however, the year 2005 was Indy’s
coming-out party. That summer, a city-sponsored “big red arrow” (18 feet long
and weighing around 700 pounds) traveled the city to point out the grand
openings of four arts facilities expansions. “We never intended it all to occur
at once,” says John Vanausdall, president and CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum of
American Indians and Western Art. The Eiteljorg had expanded its building and
outdoor spaces with the help of landscape architects and architects at Browning
Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects (BDMD). That same firm also designed the new
grounds at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Herron School of Art and
Design’s new sculpture garden. Farther north, the arrow pointed at the
Indianapolis Art Center’s brand new ARTSPARK, designed by landscape
architecture firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA).
Two of these new outdoor arts facilities (ARTSPARK and
Eiteljorg) have won awards from the Indiana chapter of ASLA and, along with the
sculpture garden at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, are as different as
landscapes come. Together, they describe a cross section of the Indy arts
scene, while raising questions about landscapes for art. What types of
experiences should (or do) outdoor arts facilities provide? Do well-designed
landscapes accentuate the art-viewing experience, or even the art itself? Are
these gardens themselves art?
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