Arts & Sports Infusions
During the Tenth Pan Am Games, held in Indianapolis in 1987, a group of arts leaders worked with the city and the entire community to stage a Pan American Arts Festival all over town. Over 60 arts and cultural organizations participated and spent about $4M on programs, events, and performances. There were over 1,000 opportunities for residents and visitors to learn about the arts and cultural heritage of the participating countries. Not only did this spectacle catalyze a new strategy to focus on sports as an economic development and tourism draw, it proved that the arts could contribute to urban vibrancy and economic development as well. And, not coincidentally, 1987 was the year that the Arts Council of Indianapolis was founded.
When the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission launched in 2002, its mission to make the arts part of both cultural tourism and daily life resulted in funds set aside to “infuse” key sporting events with the arts, in collaboration with the Indiana Sports Corp. Beginning with the 2004 FINA World Swimming Championships that were held in Indianapolis, and moving through the 2005 “cultural convergence” year, hosting several NCAA Final Four series games, and the 2008 Olympic Diving Trials among others, local arts and artists figured prominently in the form of commissioned public art, choirs singing national anthems, and community events of all types including exhibitions. For Super Bowl XLVI (2012), the Arts Council launched 46 for XLVI, a half-million-dollar program to commission 46 new murals throughout the city by the day of the big game.
The Arts Council’s spearheading of arts and sports infusions continued through the 2014 Final Four series, which commissioned a temporary work of art from a local artist that visitors could not help but pass through, USA Gymnastics’ 2015 P&G Championships with a participatory mural-making event, the Indy Ultimate Urban Adventure Race (begun 2016), which had participants experience a concentration of visual art, music, and theater along one segment of the course; and the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, for which the Arts Council developed a special public art and cultural event project called Welcome Race Fans.
Thirty years after that initial “one-off” event, the Arts Council of Indianapolis has led the way in drawing arts and sports fans together.