African American Art on the Cultural Trail

October 2013

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Below, you will find information on the process for the African American Art on Indianapolis Cultural Trail project, the five artist finalists, and a forum for public feedback.


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    The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC) and The Arts Council of Indianapolis are commissioning a substantial piece of public art for the City of Indianapolis. The piece will reflect the proud and distinct history of the African American community in central Indiana. The piece selected for this project will be a thoughtful investigation of who we are as a city and a community and will represent the Indianapolis African American community in a thoughtful, insightful, creative, and positive manner.

    The chosen artist will work closely with Arts Council staff and city and Trail to ensure the final artwork is integral to the identity of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick, the neighborhood in which it resides, and downtown Indianapolis.

    More information on the Cultural Trail can be found at

    See the proposals in person!

    The five proposed scale models are currently on display at the Arts Council of Indianapolis offices through January 2014.

    For questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC) and the Arts Council of Indianapolis (ACI) called together a public art selection committee to review submissions garnered through the artist Request for Proposal (RFP) process that was launched in Spring 2013. The selection committee is comprised of steering committee members; visual art professionals from galleries, museums, and other visual art institutions in Indianapolis; artists; and community representatives/designees as recommended by the Cultural Arts Committee and partner institutions.

    The first task of the selection committee was to narrow the field of artists/proposals based on the criteria established by the Cultural Arts Committee and outlined in the RFP process to five finalists. Each finalist was provided with a small stipend to create and produce a maquette (scale model) of the proposed artwork for public display and comment. Following this opportunity for additional public feedback, the selection committee will reconvene to consider the public feedback and will make a final recommendation to the Cultural Arts Committee.

    The Cultural Arts Committee will present the winning design/artist to GIPC’s executive committee and the board of Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. for input and approval. The final decision on the artist and artwork will be made by the Cultural Arts Committee following approval by all governing bodies and at the conclusion of the work of the selection committee.
  • January 21, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Community Forum - Crispus Attucks High School
    January 28, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Community Forum - Interchurch Center
    February 2, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Community Forum - The Legacy Center
    February 4, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Artist Forum - Indianapolis Art Center
    February 9, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Community Forum - Arlington High School
    May 2013  - RFP released
    May 8, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Meeting
    June 19, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Meeting
    July, 8, 2013  - Deadline for RFP
    July 10, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Meeting
    July 18, 2013 - Public Art Project Steering Committee Meeting
    Selection Panel reviews entries and narrows to 5 finalists
    August 2013 - Finalists notified and began creating maquettes
    October 2, 2013 - Cultural Arts Committee Meeting
    October 4, 2013 - Final maquettes arrive
    October - December 2013 - Public presentation of proposals and input/meetings/discussion

    January 15, 2014 - Selection committee selects final artist
    January – June 2014 - Artist begins fabrication
    Summer - Fall 2014 - Installation and dedication: (artist returns for lectures/community talks, educational opportunities etc.)

  • Cultural Arts Committee - Steering/Leadership Group Roster 


    Dave Lawrence
    Bill Shrewsberry


    Patricia Castaneda
    Denise Herd
    Reggie Jones
    Kamau Jywanza
    Wil Marquez
    Regina Marsh
    Harry McFarland
    Kären Haley
    Patricia Payne
    Ash Robinson
    Yvonne Shaheen
    Kisha Tandy
    Ernest Disney-Britton
    Shannon Linker
    Matt Hendrix
    Toby Miller
    Suzanne Rothenberg

  • Cultural Arts Committee - Art Selection Subcommittee

    Cultural Arts Committee

    Pat Payne
    Regina Marsh
    Reggie Jones
    Ashley Robinson       
    Community Representatives
    Wilma Moore (Indiana Historical Society)
    University/Higher Education
    Malcolm Mobutu Smith (IU Bloomington)
    Vance Farrow (IUPUI)
    Kären Haley (Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc.)
    Shannon Linker (Arts Council of Indianapolis)

    Visual Art Institutions
    Mark Ruschman (Indiana State Museum)
    Jennifer Complo McNutt (Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art)
    Robert Chester (Crispus Attucks Museum)

    Ex-Officio/Non Voting
    Toby Miller (GIPC/RCRLN)
    Matt Hendrix (GIPC)
    Ernest Disney-Britton (Arts Council of Indianapolis)
    Bill Shrewsberry
    Dave Lawrence



1. Reginald Adams - Houston, TX

Mosaic mural and benches

From the artist's proposal:

The Historic Mile, 2013
Concrete structural wall with mosaic mural

"Each colored piece of glass, stone, and tile incorporated within the mosaic mural will be symbolic of the people of Indianapolis.  Varied in shape, size, and color, the tiles reflect the diversity, endurance, and vitality of the community as it evolves and changes for the better.

Adams proposes to create a unique work of art for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Adams' concept is a 50' long by 10' tall glass ceramic tile mosaic mural that will be incorporated along the Trail. The mural would feature portraits of men and women, both historical and contemporary, who have contributed to the advancement of the Indianapolis African American community.

Adams will begin the design process by initiating a series of dialogues with the community regarding the history of Indianapolis and the African American community.  

To forge the final design, Adams will facilitate presentations to various organizations and community stakeholders, all of which will help to shape the design of the artwork.  Adams will work with community stakeholders to lead the effort in compiling a list of historical figures. Area stakeholders will vet the list and assist in researching biographical information and collecting images.  Designated figures will be featured as focal points in the mosaic mural and additional porcelain enameled portraits on 4" by 4" tiles will be installed along the seating area of the benches that are incorporated into the mural wall."




Artist bio:adams

Reginald C. Adams is a public artist and community developer. He is best known for his brilliantly colored tile mosaic and painted murals and sculptures, which are strategically located in some of Houston's most historic and underserved neighborhoods. His creativity and approach to his artwork is inspired by his travels to more than 24 countries around the globe. Adams fundamentally believes that everyone deserves access and exposure to the arts and strives to engage the general public in the design and production of his public art projects.

Over the past 11 years he has served as President and CEO of the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston (MOCAH), which is a non-profit art corporation that he co-founded in 1999 with his wife and art partner, Rhonda Radford-Adams. Through MOCAH, Reginald has facilitated the design, coordination, and production of over 100 public art projects across the Houston area. More than $3M has been reinvested back into Houston communities through these public art projects and programs. These projects have been co-created with the involvement of over 15,000 area youth, 90 international, national, and local artists and hundreds of community stakeholders.
Adams is actively involved in bringing new and quality affordable housing to Houston through his role as the President of the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA), a nonprofit corporation that acquires chronically tax delinquent properties throughout Houston. As President of LARA, Reginald has helped guide and grow the organization towards being the largest nonprofit property owner in the city of Houston with an inventory of over 1,000 lots ready for development with annual revenues of over $12M. Over 250 affordable homes have been built through LARA over the past 4 years.
He was recently honored by the Houston Press with their annual 2010 Mastermind Award, an honor recognizing creative professionals that are making a significant impact on the city of Houston through the arts.

2. Vinnie Bagwell - Yonkers, NY

Bronze Sculpture

From the artist's proposal:

The Griot at the Sacred Place of My Ancestors, 2013

"I imagine a Griot – a historian, a master storyteller. She is a repository of oral tradition with the power to reach out across the centuries, strike the heart, and exalt our stories of hope, inspiration, and unwavering courage. Spellbinding, the Griot is captured in mid-sentence while holding a mask, as an invisible wind propels her skirt freely about her. Her knowledge of Indianapolis African American luminaries, history, and landmarks is delivered prominently in the context of the greater story of Africans in America. Rich, narrative details in superb bas-relief extemporize the institutions that sustained us through slavery, segregations, violence and oppression. Our families (real and extended), the church and our civic organizations provided the foundation for communal strength, individual triumphs, and rewarding lives in the face of overwhelming odds. Text, braille, and (Adinkra) symbols add visual intrigue, tell a story, and give a sense of time and place."

The 6' high sculpture will be cast in bronze, with a dark-chocolate patina. It will stand on a 5' diameter disc of polished granite, incised with a compass rose. 

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Artist bio:

BagwellVinnie Bagwell was born in Yonkers, New York. She displayed a remarkable gift for drawing at an early age and developed a passion for painting, photography, and writing in high school. A graduate of Morgan State University, she is a writer and graphic designer.

An untutored artist, Vinnie began sculpting in 1993. In 1994, her commitment to the arts aided in the co-founding of Art on Main Street/ Yonkers, Inc., a non-profit, multi-cultural arts organization was instrumental in heightening the awareness of the arts as an agent of social, educational, and economic revitalization for the city.

The following year, the City of Yonkers commissioned Vinnie to create a life-sized sculpture of Ella Fitzgerald to enhance the downtown-waterfront district. Five students from a local arts-magnet high school were chosen to participate as apprentices to enrich their exposure to media and experiences not provided in the regular curriculum.

In 2003, Vinnie Bagwell was selected as a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Circle Public-Art Competition for Central Park NW, in New York City. In 2004, the Highland Beach Historical Society in Maryland commissioned Vinnie to create the first edition of the "Frederick Douglass Circle" sculpture for the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center. Then, in 2008, Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, commissioned the enlargement of "Frederick Douglass Circle" (a 6.5-foot bronze figure) for a plaza on the South Campus.

Now, Vinnie is working with the City of Yonkers, to lead in the conception and development of a project titled "The Enslaved Africans' Rain Garden," a series of public artworks that will pay tribute to the first enslaved Africans to be freed by law in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. The project is documenting historical information that is not widely published to make it accessible through public art, a commemorative book, and a documentary film.



3. Michael Puryear - Shokan, NY

Bronze sculpture and granite pavers

From the artist's proposal:

Dan Chair, 2013
Bronze chairs and etched granite pavers

"The genesis of my proposal came about from the experience I had with another commission. Historic Wood of America, a salvager of trees and woods from historically significant sights, commissioned me to make a piece of furniture from some of this wood. The project provided me with the opportunity to acknowledge and honor the contributions of African American slaves to this country. Like my own ancestry this heritage began before the founding of the United States. African Americans have fought with honor and loyalty in every war of our nation. They have significantly contributed economically, socially, culturally and politically to America.

The piece I propose I call the Dan Chair. It is an interpretation of a style of chair found among peoples of West Africa, of what was historically known as the Slave Coast. One of those groups is the Dan. It was for me, an expression of my pride in being a descendant of slaves. In Africa the chair can be a symbol of nobility and honor. It was that symbolism combined with using woods from plantations of historically prominent American slave owners that clarified for me the importance of the impacts slaves and their descendants have on the United States. A chair can convey meaning beyond its function as a piece of furniture. On the legs I produced whip marks through a technique called, ukibori which produces raised patterns in wood, representing the scars of bondage and the pain and struggle of the African American experience.

I feel this project has particular significance for Indianapolis, with its long African American history and having been a significant stop on the Underground Railroad. It is the home of the Crispus Attucks Museum and the Madame C.J. Walker Theater and has a history of memorials second only to the nation's capitol.
The work is simple. A circle truncated top and bottom, consisting of granite pavers with the outlines of the east coast of the United States and the west coast of Africa etched into the surface and lines representing the slave trade routes from Africa to the United States. On each continent will be a bronze replica of the Dan Chair. They would be identical except for one aspect, on the North American chair would bear the fore mentioned marks and the African one would not."

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Artist bio:

PuryearMichael Puryear is a nationally recognized designer/furniture maker who has been practicing for more than 30 years. He is self-taught, learning his craft through reading and experimentation. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the country including the Museum of Art & Design in NYC, Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC and the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA. His work has been published in many books. Most recently in 500 Chairs, 500 Tables and 500 Cabinets published by Lark Books, Makers: A History of American Studio Craft published by the University of North Carolina Press and Furniture with Soul: Master Wood Workers and their Craft published by Kodansha. His work is found in the collections of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Rockefeller University, and the Newark Museum, to name a few. In 2009, he won the Silver award at the 27th Annual Smithsonian Craft Show.

At present, Michael is an associate professor of woodworking at SUNY (State University New York), Purchase, NY. He has also taught workshops at Penland, Arrowmont, Anderson Ranch, Haystack, and the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.
He is a member of Furniture New York, The Hudson Valley Furniture Makers, and a former trustee of the Furniture Society. He maintains a studio in the Catskills Mountains of NY.

4. William Rasdell and Atsu Kpotufe - Indianapolis, IN

Interactive/educational sculpture featuring music                                                                                                     

From the artists' proposal:

Tribute to Jazz on Indiana Avenue
, 2013
Painted architectural grade aluminum, impact-resistant, non-clouding acrylic panels, LED lighting, audio

Historical Context
• African Americans settled the Indiana Ave. area as early as 1870.
• As Jazz developed and flourished as a unique American art form, Indiana Avenue became the place to see and hear the great performers of this music.
• Night Clubs and the Walker Theater lined the "Avenue" (as it was and music was heard late into the night for decades.
• This history is unfortunately lost to most people including locals and tourists.

"This work of public art is a giant musical note. It will be made of acrylate (plexiglass), and of Alucobond, which is a material used mainly in architectural building cladding. The proposed site location is the 600 block of Indiana Avenue on the site of the last jazz club, Al's British lounge. This is the wedge shaped piece of land just west of the Walker Theatre. The structure is rises from a height of a few inches to a peak of about 8 feet. As it rises, the sides of the structure transition from the Alucobond to the transparent acrylite.

As one walks around the piece, the rich history of the Indiana Avenue cultural scene including the famous musicians, clubs, and events from the era are presented as etchings in the acrylate which will be lit from the ground by LED embedded within the brickwork of the base. The brickwork will be laid in a pattern that represents the musical staff lines on which the musical note is placed. A computer powers a set of speakers and motion sensors, which trigger the audio element of the experience as the viewer approaches. The audio component will include both music and narration concerning the history of music on Indiana Avenue and will showcase musicians of the era. The entire experience is one that blends the whimsical nature of a work of art with the functional and informative use of historical data within the piece itself. This will serve to entertain, inform, and stand as a landmark to bring increased attention to the area."

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Artist bios:

As a photographer and digital artist, at the core of William Rasdell's work are issues related to migration as a transforming agent in cultural evolution.       

For much of his career, he has focused on the enriching impact of the African presence throughout the Americas. He strives to interpret the ways cultural relationships were established along the path of the slave trade and creates pictorials that bear witness to Africa's legacy of elevating influences and retentions in daily life and custom in those places.His images have distinction, in great part, due to the two independent creative processes that occur. While his initial photographs document elements of cultural integration across the United States and locales like Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and South Africa; employment of digital technologies allow him to give the photographic image broader creative expression. Since 2008, he has pursued a study of post-apartheid South Africa. His images explore the complexities of this highly diverse society as they struggle to achieve Nelson Mandela's vision of the Rainbow Nation.

atsuAtsu Kpotufe a graphic designer with 11 years of experience in print and design, web layout, brand strategy, signage design, and environment branding. He has worked at various design firms in Indianapolis, for clients including the City of Carmel, the NCAA, Vectren, and Purdue University.



5. Bernard Williams - Chicago, IL

Steel sculpture

From the artist's proposal:

Talking Wall
, 2013
Powder-coated steel

"The collection of symbols is an open-ended conversation about the Aftrican American history of Indianapolis. I'd like to think that elements may be added to this work as it moves towards its final presentation. Even after the sculpture lives for a while, other elements may be added. The sculpture is a conversation, a "talking wall" of sorts.

Viewers would walk through and interact with a group of large standing graphic shapes, which are attached to steel bases, square tubing, footings, or other steel elements. Multiple shapes are attached to one another to create highly dimensional moments in relation to many flat shapes. Shadows will be cast in multiple directions suggesting a "walk in the shadow" of influential culture and heroic ancestors.

As an artist I work with a large inventory of images, signs, symbols, and word elements. Outdoor situations offer an exciting moment to enlarge and play with symbols, shapes, and form. I am suggesting a collected group of very large symbols for a dramatic outdoor display.

Much of my previous work engages American history and gives voice to often neglected or ignored people groups within the complex American story. I have arranged some potential symbols and word elements based on the African American focus of the project. I have used actual African sculptures or masks from traditional cultures in Gabon. One of the large circular symbols has roots in Kenya. These wood-based ancient art forms would be translated into steel. Referencing Indiana's great steel presence, the traditional and ancient art is set into a conversation with current steel labor and technology. Symbolism around music (Black music specifically), architecture, broader culture, and African-American personalities with roots in Indianapolis will intersect at this site."

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Artist bio:Williams

Williams is a professional studio artist who often leads projects with communities and schools in the Chicago area. He enjoys the process of sharing his art practice with youth and introducing them to ideas within contemporary art. Williams received his BFA from the University of Illinois, and his MFA from Northwestern University. He has taught both sculpture and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented by galleries in Chicago, New York, and Detroit and consistently shows work at all three. Williams has received many awards and residencies including, most recently, A Studio in the Woods, New Orleans, LA in 2011 and Socrates Park Residency, NY, NY in 2009.


Please share your thoughts on the 5 finalists’ proposed artworks.  The feedback section is moderated Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.   



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