Shawn Michael Warren, who is based in Chicago, earned his BFA at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. He uses historic themes or narratives to communicate essential human truths, and to initiate uncomfortable conversations surrounding race, socio-political subjects, and culture. His most notable work, In a Promised Land…, brought to life the tragic history of the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The district, which was known as “Black Wall Street” for its high concentration of wealthy Black Americans, was burned to the ground in the Tulsa race massacre of 1921.
Warren was one of 54 artists from 21 states who applied for the Major Taylor mural commission. His design features a triple-portrait montage that captures Taylor in three stages of his athletic career—as a youth, as an adult during his competitive peak, and upon his return to racing after a two-year hiatus.
“It was important to create some form of a narrative that not only depicts Major Taylor as a world-champion cyclist, but as a stoic, unwavering individual who faced the ugliest forms of racism,” Warren said. “It’s imperative that those who view the mural understand the difficult task Major Taylor took on to represent and win in a sport for a country that viewed him as an inferior person. The three portraits display Taylor as hopeful, courageous, and determined. His humanity is just as significant as his accomplishments as an athlete.”
Indy-based painter Boxx the Artist will assist Warren, as part of a program to help artists learn to create large-scale civic murals. In partnership with Indiana Humanities, the Arts Council will also commission an Indiana poet to reflect on Taylor’s legacy. An outdoor dedication ceremony for the new mural and poem is planned for late summer.
In September 2020, the Arts Council kicked off the Bicentennial Legends mural series to celebrate the City of Indianapolis' 200th birthday. Internationally recognized cyclist and racial justice advocate Marshall "Major" Taylor (1878-1932) will be honored with the first public mural in 2021 in a prominent downtown location.
The project will build on Indy's already-iconic murals of Hoosiers, which include author Kurt Vonnegut, poet Mari Evans, and former Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller. New murals will depict individuals who embody the Bicentennial Commission’s guiding principles: History, Civic Pride, Innovation, and Legacy.
We Need Your Help!
With support from the community, artists, and property owners, we can honor and celebrate many other Legends over the next several years.