Bicentennial Legends: Major Taylor


In 1899, Marshall "Major" Taylor, who was born and raised in Indianapolis, became the first African American world-champion professional cyclist. He was also the U.S. sprint champion in 1899 and 1900, and became a pioneering role model for other athletes facing racial discrimination. 

The Arts Council identified Major Taylor as the first Bicentennial Legends portrait mural subject in partnership with the Major Taylor Coalition, an informal group of Central Indiana residents who are passionate about seeing Taylor honored in his hometown. 

The mural will be installed in 2021 on the Barnes & Thornburg building, 11 S. Meridian St. Lead funding support is provided by the City of Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission, Barnes & Thornburg, Glick Philanthropies, the CIBA Foundation, and public donations to the Major Taylor Coalition, matched by SRAM Corporation.

Image courtesy of La Vie Au Grand Air magazine, issue from May 11, 1907.

Project Timeline

We invite you to review the concepts below and provide your feedback.  


Proposal by Rafael Blanco, Aurora, IL

Blanco’s concepts include three variations on each of two design options: one with bands and splashes of color, one with an American flag background, and one a simple rendering in sepia tones. The design options for the figure both show Taylor in action on a bicycle, with one facing forward and the other facing sideways.

The artist also suggests including a quote from Taylor’s autobiography, which could be added to any of the designs. Blanco’s process includes on-site painting over the course of several weeks. 


Proposal by Michael “ALKEMI” Jordan, Indianapolis, IN

ALKEMI’s design proposes an image of Taylor on a bicycle, facing forward, with an American flag backdrop and his name in gold lettering in a semicircle above his head. This is the first image of Taylor the artist ever saw, and feels is still the most iconic. The portrayal of Taylor in full color, as a proud American, is at the heart of his concept. 

pdf ALKEMI Proposal for Major Taylor Mural (400 KB)

Proposal by Shawn Michael Warren, Harvey, IL

Warren’s two concepts for the mural design include: a triple-portrait montage, capturing Taylor in three stages of his life (as a youth, as an adult during his athletic peak, and upon his return to racing after a 2-year hiatus); and a single-portrait option, which simply is a half-length portrait of Taylor at his athletic peak.

Either option would include a quote from Taylor’s autobiography, and the artist would solicit feedback from the public to select the quote. The mural would be painted on Polytab fabric in Warren’s home studio, and then brought to Indianapolis and attached to the wall using a strong gel-like adhesive.

pdf Shawn Warren Taylor Mural Proposal (11.78 MB)

About the bicentennial legends project

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.

Indianapolis Bicentennial

Nominate a Bicentennial Legend

We are seeking nominations from the public for individuals whose talent, courage, and humanity and helped make Indianapolis/Indiana the vibrant place it is today. We are especially interested in those who made important contributions but were overlooked because of their race, gender, economic status, or social class.


Each Bicentennial Legends mural is a unique private-public partnership that will involve the building owner, community partners affiliated with the Legend, the neighborhood hosting the mural, and the public. There will be opportunities to participate in public forums, volunteer, and donate to support this effort. Questions? Please contact the Arts Council’s Director of Public Art This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Thank you to our funders

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Indiana Arts Commission
Clowes Charitable Foundation