HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY,
Indianapolis is known for its grand sports arenas, famous Indianapolis 500 race and so many mighty steakhouses, but the arts is literally at the heart of it all.
Central downtown’s Indianapolis Artsgarden celebrates its 25th birthday in 2020, marking a quarter century of sharing the full spectrum of creativity. It all happens inside a building that is its own work of gleaming glass and powerful steel art.
Discover 2½ decades worth of inspiration in these 25 cool facts about the Artsgarden.
- The Artsgarden took time to build. It opened in 1995 but the complex wasn’t completed until 2012 when the fourth connector was added just in time for, you guessed it, Super Bowl XLVI. The connectors serve as walkways for hundreds of people moving daily between Circle Centre, PNC Center and Conrad Indianapolis hotel.
- Stairs and escalators help all those people maneuver the Artsgarden, but how do you get an IndyCar race car up on the balcony for private events? There’s a secret elevator, of course.
- When it’s cold and snowy in Indianapolis, the Artsgarden glistens like an enchanted ice castle. That’s because the structure’s design was Inspired by the famous 10-story, glass-vaulted Winter Garden Atrium in New York City.
- If you were born in 1962, you have a special connection to the Artsgarden. Builders pieced together 1,962 panes of glass to create the atrium’s six domes.
- Lay out all the glass used to build the Artsgarden and it would cover the Pacers home court nearly seven times. That’s 32,000 square feet of glass.
- Standing underneath the Artsgarden feels like waiting for a staircase to descend from the Starship Enterprise. The 110-foot, free-span floor length is just 17 feet above the road. What supports it all? Four 185-foot plate girders bracing a network of arched steel trusses reaching as high as 75 feet.
- You could say some out-of-this-world performers have staged shows at the Artsgarden, like il Troubadore, better known as bomwI’pu’ on the planet Qo’noS. On stage during GenCon 2016, the band’s mission was to boldly go where no earthly band had perhaps gone before: the complete musical catalog of the Klingon Empire. Someone crank up the “HIvje’ bom.”
- From repurposing the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House in New York City to sketching Top of the Bund in Shanghai, New York City-based architectural firm Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects gets around, but it considers The Artsgarden and adjoining Circle Centre among its greatest achievements.
- The Artsgarden was such as undertaking, Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects didn’t do it alone. They collaborated with Indianapolis designer Walter Blackburn, whose legacy is even greater than his role in this masterpiece. The late African American architect also designed Malcolm X Institute at Wabash College and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, but he was equally renowned for his philanthropic work supporting youth. The Walter Blackburn Scholarship Fund has assisted under-served and under-privileged young people since 2004.
- The Artsgarden has always been a center for celebrating the history and cultures of people of color. From the beginning, it has hosted Art & Soul, which annually showcases more than 100 local African American artists during Black History Month, everyone from rappers to painters to dancers and spoken-word artists.
- The Artsgarden houses one of the tiniest, most mysterious pieces of art ever. The 2-inch tall Buddha-like bronze face tucked inside the crook of a stairwell baffledthe Arts Council for years. In early 2020, Indy artist Dominic Sansone revealed that he placed the statuette in 2009. The itty bitty work was part of what Sansone called “Hidden Monuments.” He tucked wee sculptures all over downtown in contrast to typically large monuments like, well, the Artsgarden, proving art really is everywhere.
- The Artsgarden cost $12 million when the Lilly Endowment funded the landmark’s 1995 construction. That’s $20.4 million in 2020 dollars.
- The Artsgarden may look short and mighty among the surrounding high rises, but it’s seven stories high.
- The tallest section of the Artsgarden would stretch from the 25-yard line to the goal post across Colts Field at Lucas Oil Stadium, which is sitting-pretty distance for a field goal.
- No doubt, Indy is thick-and-thin loyal to the Colts, but Hoosier Hospitality runs just as deep. The Artsgarden hosted events for the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl XLVI because we’re just nice that way.
- When the NCAA men’s basketball tournament comes to Indianapolis, players hit the hardwood at big venues like Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, but ESPN likes the Artsgarden. The cable sports channel has broadcast twice here during Final Four action in the city.
- Did you know that the Olympics has official fabric designers? One of them, Todd Dalland, created the Artsgarden’s dramatic white canopy, sunscreen and acoustic panels.
- The Artsgarden doesn’t just gleam like a perfectly cut diamond ring. Dozens of proposals have happened here, and a lot of people said yes. The space has hosted nearly 300 weddings in the past 13 years.
- Buzzfeed listed the Artsgarden among America’s 22 coolest places to get married.
- The Artsgarden hosts more than 300 events per year. That means someone is doing something artistic here just about every day.
- Former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits turned out for a publicity stunt as Artsgarden construction got underway. Wearing his blue and gold warm-up suit, he symbolically signed the first steel beam before it was hoisted into place by crane. Smits was exactly as tall as the beam: 7 feet, 4 inches tall.
- The Artsgarden’s max capacity is 600 people, standing-room-only, but the small space has still attracted internationally known artists including Penn & Teller, Chris Isaak, Cirque du Soleil, the Vienna Opera Ball Orchestra, Josh Kaufman and the alternative country band American Aquarium.
- Some 80,000 musical dreams have started at the Artsgarden. That’s how many kids in regional school choirs, bands and orchestras have performed at the venue’s annual holiday Mistletoe Music Festival over the past 23 years.
- With entrances available on four corners and floating in mid-air over a crossroads, Google mappers probably had a hard time figuring out the exact address for the Artsgarden. For the record, it’s 110 W. Washington St.
- How many panes of glass make up the Artsgarden? How do you get an IndyCar series car inside a glass dome 17 feet off the ground? Where’s the tiny bronze face? You might think these are the most-asked questions about the Artsgarden, but no. According to Artsgarden cultural concierge Kate Oberriech, visitors mostly want to know “Where is the bathroom?”
In honor of the Indianapolis Artsgarden's 25th anniversary, a new mural by local artist Shamira Wilson has been officially dedicated, complete with a champagne toast. Titled Lepidoptera, Wilson was inspired by the shape of the space and it's "wings" extending up the stairs. Experience this new artwork for yourself on your next visit to the Artsgarden.
Photo by Emily Schwank
ABOUT The Indianapolis Artsgarden
Indianapolis Artsgarden COVID-19 Safety Plan - updated July 28, 2020
Owned and operated by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Artsgarden is a destination for arts and culture in the heart of downtown. The structure is a seven-story tall glass and steel icon over the intersection of Washington and Illinois Streets. The Artsgarden presents more than 250 free and public performances each year, along with monthly visual arts exhibitions by central Indiana artists. It is also rented for private events, including weddings, corporate receptions, and nonprofit events, which support funding for public arts programming.
The Indianapolis Artsgarden also serves as a visitor’s center that provides resources for arts and cultural activities throughout the city. The Cultural Concierge desk is stocked with brochures and performance schedules for many of the arts organizations and venues in Indianapolis. The desk is staffed Monday - Sunday during regular Circle Centre mall hours to help visitors and residents plan their next art excursion.
The lunchtime music series, Garden Jams, presents a variety of genres and styles for public entertainment throughout the year. All are welcome to bring lunch and enjoy these casual one-hour performances. Special programming throughout the year includes Art & Soul: A Celebration of African American Art & Artists in Indiana in February, the Mistletoe Music Festival in November and December, an annual holiday music festival featuring performances by school bands and choirs, and National Poetry Month in April complete with poetry readings and partner exhibitions.
Visual Art Exhibitions
The Indianapolis Artsgarden has monthly visual arts exhibitions on display for public viewing. We curate shows from central Indiana emerging artists, student groups, and cultural and social organizations looking to share their artwork with the community.
The Indianapolis Artsgarden serves as a sophisticated venue for hundreds of private events, including corporate receptions, weddings, nonprofit events, press conferences, and more.