By Sam Elliott
Two new public art projects in the heart of downtown Fishers’ Nickel Plate District, one already in place and another on the way this fall, are the latest in an arts-minded city looking to add some creativity to its public spaces.
“We’ve got give a lot of credit to the Fishers Arts Council and our city council members, who a few years ago (in 2013) adopted a Fishers Arts Master Plan,” Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath said. “In that plan, it really spelled out a vision for how to incorporate art into our city.”
That document was a first for Hamilton County, and the city’s latest public art projects include other firsts, as well as Fishers’ largest public art undertaking yet.
BRIGHTENING RAIN-SOAKED SIDEWALKS
Visitors to the Nickel Plate District’s Central Green between City Hall and Liberty Plaza may have already walked right across the city’s newest public art project without even realizing it.
Fishers artist Jessica Springman designed and implemented the “INvisable Art” installation, which the Fishers Arts Council believes is the first of its kind in Indiana. The project utilizes Rust-oleum’s NeverWet Multisurface paint, which causes the art to only be visible during and after rain or if water is poured over the designs.
The geometric designs, 76 in all, range in size from 17 inches by 17 inches to 34 inches by 34 inches and line the two 120-foot sidewalks along the Central Green.
“I used a compass and a ruler to lay out the general designs, and then I took an Exacto knife and cut out the stencils,” Springman said. “We brought them out, taped them down and with the paint you spray it down and the first step basically seals the concrete. What it’s doing is basically making it so that when the concrete gets wet, the design stays dry.”
The project, made possible by a 2015 City of Fishers grant, will be visible for up to two years, depending on foot traffic and other wear and tear on the sidewalks and paint.
“I saw something online on what on the public art blogs I follow about a project like this in Seattle and looked into it and thought, ‘I don’t think anyone’s doing this here. It would be really cool to have Fishers be the first to do it,’” Fishers Arts Council President Lisa Sirkin Vielee said. “For this particular project we knew Jessica’s work, she was an exhibitor at Art in City Hall and has been a longtime resident in the area, and we knew that if she was willing to do that this was the perfect style for this.”
ADDING PIZAZZ TO PARKING GARAGE
Fishers’ next public art project will be its largest, as The Edge building’s parking garage will house a set of seven panels, each measuring 23 feet tall by 10 feet wide, to welcome visitors to the Nickel Plate District with splashes of eye-grabbing color.
“We’re proud of this project and the opportunity we have to bring a really outstanding project that will be the entrance to the Nickel Plate District,” McGrath said. “I think the artists we’ve selected are really going to be able to embody the vision of Fishers in a unique way.”
Three area artists will each design a set of seven banners, with Fishers’ Rachel Johnson’s being the first to hang from the garage this October. Her banners will focus on the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“I really wanted to try and maybe expand that definition of an entrepreneur and then also tie it back to individuals in the community and really use this opportunity to celebrate all the amazing things that residents of Fishers are doing every day,” Johnson said. “I’m working with the city on that right now, and I’ve put out a call on Facebook and Instagram for people if they’re an entrepreneur in Fishers if they know somebody who kind of exemplifies this entrepreneurial spirit and whatever that means to them to nominate themselves or someone they know. For each individual we select to be a part of this series, I plan to interview them and photograph them and talk with them and then use the information about them to create an abstract piece representing them. You won’t necessarily be able to tell it’s them, because I want it to be abstract so that if somebody sees it they can kind of relate to it and identify with it.”
Nominations for local entrepreneurs to be highlighted in Johnson’s public art project can be made at townoffishers.formstack.com/forms/the_edge. Johnson’s set of banners are scheduled to be unveiled in early October.
In February of 2017, a new set of banners by Warren Miller will hang from The Edge building’s parking garage, followed by a set by fellow Indianapolis artists Kyle Ragsdale in the summer of 2017.
Miller, a former graphic designer, will focus his banners on Fishers being inclusive and a place for everyone. Miller, who is deaf, has experienced that welcoming spirit firsthand.
“I came to Fishers several times and always felt welcome. They set up an interpreter for the deaf for me and were very, very nice,” he said. “I’ve never done something like this before with my art, putting it up in the public eye like this. As a graphic designer I’ve done things for companies before, but this is more personal and I’m very excited and thrilled that my art is going to be up there and exposed to the public.”
Ragdale’s set of banners will play on the theme of the city being one community and the gatherings that take place within it.
“I think I kind of want to focus in on sort of that area and some of the great things to do — eating and hospitality and people getting together and having fun,” he said. “The banners are real long and narrow, so they’ll be kind of splashes of big color and little vignettes of people enjoying the area.”