Art Trip: Indianapolis | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

episode of the Art Assignment is supported by Prudential. We’ve spent quite a bit
of time exploring art in other people’s
cities, so we thought it was high time we gave the
same treatment to our own. But how does one attempt
tourism in one’s own town? First, I recruited Stuart
Hyatt, fellow resident and also superb sound artist, who
has done quite a bit of city exploring as part of his work. Second, we met up
at a coffee shop to ditch our primary
modes of transport, and see how much we
could accomplish in a day without a car. And third, well, coffee. We ordered Americanos
at Kaffeine Coffee and sat down to plan our route. We wanted to go full
analog and use a paper map and did a fair bit of plotting
that way until, well, it would have been silly not to
use our magical devices at all. We then walked down the
road to pick up rental bikes at the closest Indiana Pacers
Bikeshare pickup location. You need to bring
your own helmet, but the rest is fairly simple. You’ll see in the
background the first of our many encounters with
the work of past Art Assignment contributors. Nat Russell of Fake Flyer
fame was commissioned by a real estate
development company to create a temporary
public artwork to disguise slash beautify the
construction site behind it. You’ll notice a fair bit of
construction in this video because downtown Indy is
in a bit of a boom cycle when it comes to development. And a good portion of
this development boarder’s one of the city’s newer
amenities, the Cultural Trail, an eight mile biking
and walking path that connects neighborhoods
and cultural districts. And the bikeshare
is part of it too. Along it, you’ll pass a
number of public artworks, including this mural of
Indianapolis-based poet Mari Evans by artist
Michael Alkemi Jordan. One of her best known
works is her 1970 poem “I am a Black Woman.” And it feels appropriate to
recite its concluding stanza here. We kept going along
Massachusetts Avenue and passed Julian
Opie’s “Ann Dancing,” and Ann really is
always dancing. There is something supremely
comforting about Ann dancing morning, noon, and night,
through snow, rain, and presidential transitions. That Ann, she never quits. Just beyond, we encountered
another literal literary giant. This one a 38-foot tall
Kurt, Vonnegut native son of Indianapolis. Vonnegut said in
1986, what people like about me is Indianapolis. So it’s nice that he’s
here, although it hasn’t gone unnoticed that he
spent very little time here after leaving for
college in 1940. Then we rode over to
“Prairie Module’s 1 and 2,” created by the art collective
M12, which Stewart is part of. They make works heavily
informed by the context or place where they’re working,
and here, the trust formed structures
reference both the covered bridges that parts of rural
Indiana are known for, as well as the interstate
infrastructure that gives Indianapolis its
tagline, Crossroads of America. Its green roof
grasses are reminders of the surrounding prairie
and its solar panels return power to the grid. On we went to City Market,
outside of which we found an artist design
book share station that’s part of an art and
literacy project called the “Public Collection.” This really awesome,
excellently functioning one made by Brose
Partington was inspired by agricultural equipment
and the linotype machine. Stuart and I each
picked up a book. I snagged “My
Daddy was a Pistol, and I’m a Son of a
Gun,” by Lewis Grizzard, for obvious reasons. And Stuart picked up the classic
“The House of the Spirits,” by Isabel Allende. Here’s us comparing the
last lines of each book, and I’ll spare you the
suspense and tell you mine won the contest. I just hope heaven
doesn’t run out of camels and fried chicken. Having extracted all we
needed from our finds, we biked a few blocks
to monument circle and returned the books to
another lending station. This one designed by Brian
McCutcheon of Customize It fame. Columns support an 1894
quote by Mark Twain extolling public libraries as
the memorials that really last, preserving names and events,
and also outlasting them. A fitting sentiment for a city
full of traditional memorials. Then we headed south
to the Alexander Hotel, home to a remarkable gathering
of artworks commissioned specifically for the spaces. You’ll find an installation
by Paul Villinski of birds cut from vinyl records
emerging from a turntable. Here, we also admire the work
of Sonya Clark of our Measuring History’s assignment,
who created out of over 3,000 comb’s a
portrait of Indianapolis his own Madam CJ Walker,
a haircare tycoon known as one of the first
self-made millionairesses in America. There are a number of
other excellent works here but the piece de resistance
is the bar and lounge by Jorge Pardo, who
designed the colorful array of light fixtures that trail
from the lobby into the lounge, and recall a school of
fantastical sea creatures. Pardo was also responsible
for the patterned cement tiles and most of
the furnishings, but he was not responsible
for the amazing cocktails this place serves, which I was
very sad we were too early for. We then locked up our bikes
and hopped in the car with Mark because Stuart got
a tip from a friend that there was a lunchtime
concert in 10 minutes over it at Eskenazi Hospital. The new named campus of this
public hospital opened in 2013, and along with featuring
a number of artworks, it hosts a music
program that on this day brought us the outstanding
musical stylings of Indiana soul legend Lonnie Lester. This concert, offered
free of charge to whomever happened to be
at the hospital that day, was thoroughly
appreciated by those of us who stayed a while,
as well as those who let a smile slip as they
hurried on to an appointment. The unexpected pleasure
of Lonnie Lester, coupled with our walk through
the gardens and plaza outside, made the hospital’s stated
goal of lifting spirits and promoting healthful living
seem less like marketing and more like truth. As we drove away, we enjoyed Rob
Ley’s parking structure facade, inspired by
camouflage techniques and composed of
thousands of metal panels that shift in
appearance as you pass. It was then back to our
bikes and the Cultural Trail, which we followed
along Virginia Avenue to experience an artwork
by Acconci Studios led by Vito Acconci, who
will never live down his renown for masturbating
underneath the floor of an art gallery with visitors
above in 1972. Lucky for us, his work has
taken a turn for the much less controversial, and
he now leads a studio that realizes architecture
and public space projects like this one. In what used to be
one of the darkest and most terrifying
passageways in Indy, there is now Swarm
Street, which activates as you pass through and
illuminates thousands of LED lights embedded
in the pavement and in a framework above. You not only trace
your own path, but you can see the paths
of others generating either a sense of camaraderie
with their fellow passers by or a helpful signal
to pick up your pace. It was beyond time
for lunch when we made it to Fountain Square
and stopped at Wildwood Market to ogle at all of the goods
we couldn’t carry with us and enjoy their delicious
sandwich of the day. With our blood sugar back
at a functioning level, we were ready to see
more art and headed to Indianapolis Museum of
Contemporary Art, or IMOKA, as it’s called around here. They were hosting an
exhibition titled Unloaded. Here at the Murphey Building, as
well as at their other location back near the
Alexander, presenting works by a variety
of artists all in some way exploring the
form, image, and impact of guns in contemporary culture. Mel Chin’s “Cross
for the Unforgiven” drew us in immediately,
a Maltese cross made from cut and welded
AK-47 assault rifles. I also appreciated
the dissonance of medium and subject matter
in Stephanie Sy Juco’s crocheted rifle, as well as
my very visceral reaction to Andrew Ellis Johnson’s
finally detailed sculptural rendering of the maxim
see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. There’s a lot of good
work in this show, demonstrating the bottomless
diversity of responses to a most American of issues. We then headed upstairs
in the Murphy Building, where you can find an eclectic
and changing collection of artists studios, shops,
and arcade, and music venues. We were there to pay a visit to
the tiny and mysterious Museum of Psychphonics, which occupies
a small nook and contains, among other curiosities, a
spaceship prop that was once part of Parliament Funkadelic’s
Mothership Connection stage show. The museum is the brainchild
of a group of local artists and musicians aiming
to make a place that explores the interconnectedness
of music, mystery, spiritual realms, pop culture,
sci-fi, and the extraordinary. It’s exactly the kind
of specific oddity that a bland leaning,
chain restaurant loving city like
Indianapolis needs. While there, we also
ducked into People for Urban Progress, an excellent
nonprofit organization that rescues discarded materials
and redesigns them for public benefit. This has meant salvaging
old stadium seats and repurposing them at bus
stops throughout the city. And it has also meant
finding new uses for the 13 acres of fabric
that used to serve as the roof for the former
RCA dome here in town. I decided it was high time I
ditched my saddle backpack, so I purchased a
lovely new drawstring bag made from dome
fabric Super Bowl banner mesh and reclaimed seatbelts. Although I did
create a new problem of how to repurpose my old one. Is there an Art
Assignment for that? Then we made a quick
stop across the street to General Public Collective,
an artist run project space and concept shop, which was then
hosting an exhibition called Mr. Sad Apple Skin Jacket, of
amusing and impressive works by artist Lisa Berlin. We enjoyed it, but then a sign
told us it was OK to exit, so we did. Back on our bikes we trekked
on to the Garfield Park neighborhood to visit
the new headquarters for Big Car Collective,
who offered us the what, how, where assignment. It’s called the Tube
Factory, and it’s housed in, you guessed
it, an old tube factory. It’s a community center as
well as an exhibition space, and we caught the
tail end of Detroit based artist Scott Hockings
show, which was magnificent. Continuing the repurposing
theme of the day, Hocking’s exhibition
brought together materials found in a building
that was once an RCA factory, and was most recently
a recycling plant. It was filled with
materials that had been left there
unrecycled until Hocking came along and spent
weeks sorting through them and arranging selections of
them in the tube factory space. Massive hunks of
burned Styrofoam form a mountain in the far
end of the main gallery, and on the surrounding walls
are mounted enthralling multi-hued plastic blobs. Artists spent hours,
days, months, and years pursuing the kind of formal and
textural effects created here through the accident
of industrial waste. Hocking brings it together
with brilliant economy. Big Car is developing several
buildings on this block, including the sound
art space Listen Hear, which was still hosting
Pablo Helguera’s “Libreria Donceles,” when we filmed the
assignment Combinatory Play earlier in the year. By this point, we were beat,
so we biked to the nearest drop off point, and once
again took comfort in Mark’s gas powered ride. We drove north and stopped by
our favorite periodical shop Printtext, run by Benjamin
and Janneane Blevins. They’ve hosted a series of
exhibitions here organized by curatorial collective
AM called Syntax Season, featuring artists
whose practices engage in various kinds
of language games. We were there for the month show
with Jesse Malmed, whose show included daily called in
excerpts from late night talk shows, as well as a
theme song that plays out of a standing microphone. The light and our
spirits were fading, but we revived with iced
coffee as Open Society and decided to end our day at
100 Acres, the art and nature park adjacent to the main
campus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Full disclosure, I am
the opposite of objective about this particular
space since I dedicated six years of my life
to working for this museum and had a hand in the
creation of the park. It opened in 2010, and the
whole idea of this place is to reconsider what an art
park is supposed to be and do. Called 100 Acres because it
occupies 100 acres, the park features site specific
installations, a visitor center designed by
architect Marlin Blackwell, and a series of pathways
designed to guide visitors through a landscape much less
tamed than most museum parks. The works here were
created by artists from all over the
world, each of whom had vastly different approaches
to their contributions. Very little in the way of
text is provided on site, as you’re meant to interact with
what you find and seek answers online or in brochures,
if you’re so inclined. I’ve had the
privilege of getting to know this park over
the course of many years, before there was art
here, walking through it with artists on site visits,
and as construction unfolded. And now after, as it’s become
a valued refuge in the city. So, yes, I am biased
toward it, but isn’t that always the case in the
place where you live? The longer you’re
there, the more ties you have to the
people and places and objects that inhabit it. So I couldn’t look at
this city with clear eyes, but I did have a
great day within it. I spent time with a
friend, explored life without a car in this
car dependent city, upped my backpack
game considerably, and despite having visited
all of these places before, still had surprises
along the way. After it was over, I realized
nearly everything we visited had been created within
the past 10 years, which made me equal parts grateful for
this city’s present and hopeful for its future. Thanks to Prudential for
sponsoring this episode. It’s human nature to prioritize
present needs and what matters most to us today, but when
planning for your retirement, it’s best to prioritize
tomorrow’s needs over today’s. According to a Prudential
study, one in three Americans is not saving enough for
retirement, and over 52% are not on track to be able to
maintain their current standard of living. Go to
and see how if you start saving more today, you can continue
to enjoy the things you love tomorrow.


  • Natashia Gushue

    I love the art trip videos!

  • firewordsparkler

    This was so wonderful! I love how much public art was in this video.

  • Ayar Zeev

    This was wonderful. I hope you do my home city of Atlanta eventually!

  • Yeahthumbsup

    please come to baltimore. we are a very underappreciated city

  • The Media Guy

    Great video, Sarah! I've lived in Indy for 14 years and didn't know we had so many little galleries!

    Some of my favorites are the city's two Dale Chihuly installations: "Fireworks of Glass" at the Children's Museum and "DNA Tower" at IUPUI. Also! Love Tom Otterness! "Boy and Dog" lives just off of Mass Ave and I believe "Free Money" still resides at the steps of the Convention Center.

  • Dliess Mgg


  • Aimee Aikins

    I love seeing my city featured! I lived downtown during the construction of the Cultural Trail and am a frequent visitor of the 100 Acres Park. I was excited to see places in Fountain Square that were unfamiliar and now I want to visit The Alexander even more than before. Thank you!

  • Leonardo Ruiz

    Very Cool

  • maggieedna

    I spend a lot of time in hospitals (not because Im sick because of my job, no sympathy needed, except for capitalism) and I am slowly developing a fondness for hospital art.

  • Gabby K

    Alfredo Jaar's Park of the Laments in the 100 Acres Park has been the site of some of my most delightfully scary (…admittedly illicit and after hours) adolescent memories. Thanks for helping to facilitate those!

  • Evvi Magpie

    I think the most I want to visit that park!

  • MsFredWeasley

    I love the art trip videos, though they do make my travel bucket list longer and longer. I would love to see how you would explore Philadelphia and our juxtaposition of the modern with old, well as old as our young country can offer.

  • Sarah Carman

    Awesome art trip! It was so cool to learn about art installations that I see almost every day, and really cool to discover some new things too! Makes me want to explore Indy and see some of these things in person.

  • Daniel Anosh

    I love this channel! you make amazing work!

  • Alison Carson

    I would love to see Philadelphia in an Art Trip video!

  • emily

    all of the stops were amazing but you should of stopped by herron!! there are some pretty cool little galleries there

  • KC Katalbas

    AH I love this. Come to Nashville plz

  • itsbeenapleasure

    I visited the US last year and I wanted to visit Indi so bad! I am disappointed I didn't make it there, but I hope if find myself there in the near future and now I know there will be so many great things to see.

  • Carly Butler

    I've lived here my entire life but I had never realized how amazing the art around the city really is! definitely hopping on the cultural trail sometime soon. thanks for this beautiful video.

  • Mark Dowdy

    Cool! This awesome trip reminds me that I live in a cool city too (Harrisonburg, VA)and I should hit up art more often. Let's start with once per month. 🙂

  • Kendall Lynn Murphy

    This makes me so happy. I just moved up to Indianapolis and it feels so good to see all the wonderful things the city holds.

  • Kennedy Franklin

    Hi I live in Indy!! As an art student at Herron, I love this city ?

  • Mark Hatlestad

    Welp, looks like I have to make a trip down from Bloomington soon…

  • Empty Disco

    The industrial waste exhibit reminds me of the band Loone's new music video (where they go through the wreckage of a demolished building to decorate their house)

  • scozio

    I almost spotted two middle age men doing squats and lunges in that park!

  • Travis Poling

    I've been waiting to see an art trip for Indy! My list would include Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I still need to visit IMA.

  • Xenolilly

    Car-free that's my life 🙂

  • 99thTuesday

    The crocheted rifle reminds me of the traditional Afghan rugs which now feature Military aircraft. I think Seeker did a video on them

  • Beatrice Miloiu

    Do Paris please

  • photosinensis

    I have to wonder: where is that creepy guy that used to follow her around? Did she finally ditch that stalker?

  • Jake Harris

    I really enjoy how these videos show off the often overlooked sides of well-known cities. You guys should come do an episode on the quickly emerging art scene of NW Arkansas, especially in May during the Artosphere Festival!

  • Mark W. Gray

    This was great. I was born in Indy, but, like Kurt Vonnegut, I guess, I've never spent more than a couple weeks at a time there since college. I'm shocked how hip and lovely it seems now. Since my Mom is finally selling her house there and leaving this year, I probably only have 1 or 2 more chances to see all this stuff. Thanks for this.

  • Jose Jeffery Mendoza


  • Robert Blokzyl

    I don't know if the bias crept out of the video but the way Indianapolis was showcased made me instantly fall in love with a city that I have never been to, never planned on going to, and now really want to.

  • Holy Juan

    I love Stuart. I love him as Stu, but I'll take him as Stuart.

  • Alex T

    Come to Columbus, Ohio! Please??

  • Ambrose Reed

    I really need to go to that art park.

  • adan fernandez

    I always love your videos, I know it would be very difficult, but I live in the mexican city of Monterrey, and i think you would have a very pleasant experience exploring and discovering the art in the architecture, the music, the people and the food if you could come. You are more than welcome and it would be very fun since I know there´s a lot of fun stuff that even we that live here ignore or don't get to appreciate like we should and this video made me think about that, i will start to try and enjoy more of what the city that I live in has to offer. Thank you very much!!!!

  • Sana G

    This was beautiful! I wish I could live in a city like that!
    Thanks Sarah.

  • Chris Waters

    Thanks for repping Indy so well, SUG. Awesome video!

  • Walter Chambers

    Two notes.1) Bike helmets are not required in Indy. 2) the term "crossroads" of America was coined before highways, and referred mostly to railroads. Freeways in DT Indy are actually a problem, not a good thing.

  • Fathima Moolla

    May I just say, your city is beautiful!

  • Mage of Void

    Ayyy nice Against Me! poster at 7:28

  • chelseaoklahoma

    Yes yes yes!!! Plus – the Canal, the murals, the Monon, Broad Ripple, the Art Center, the Memorials, the library, the sensory art on the Cultural Trail (smell and Care/Don't Care), White River State Park! This truly scratched the surface of a place I miss so dearly!!

  • CrumpArt

    The light fittings! The tiles! ???

  • Ali Markus

    I love this! I was hoping throughout that y'all would be going to Crown Hill since at the beginning you used the shot from James Whitcomb Riley's grave–that is my absolute favorite spot in Indy, with such a weird history and a beautiful view. Plus I just love wandering around Crown Hill looking at all the monuments.

  • Oliver Bollmann

    Wow, that is incredible, there is a lot of great stuff in Indy! What really struck me over and over again was how many were site- and context-specific — really wonderful. That cultural trail is great, prairie modules 1&2 are fantastic, the book shares are both wonderful and playful!, that the Alexander hotel hosts so much art is cool, I really want to see that parking garage (how often do you hear that? :P), PUP, Marlon Blackwell, and the pieces in the 100 Acres… you've got me convinced. I wanna go to Indy to check it all out. 😀

  • constance19551

    Thank you for this tour of what I call "the creative vortex" of Indy artists. I have escaped Indianapolis many times during my art career but always get pulled back here because of the truly superior art thinking and art making. You showed me some new things, too!

  • p0wn

    Love these videos and the case for videos. Keep 'em comin! This is what the people need.

  • Sylvia Morris

    "And Ann really is always dancing. There is something supremely comforting about Ann dancing morning, noon, and night through snow, rain and presidential transitions. That Ann, she never quits." – I had a very strong sense that I was in Night Vale during this section and it was joyous.

  • Rod Swanstrom / SKYLIGHT STUDIO

    INdianapolis – cool ! Makes Boudler, CO a shallow shanty town + retirement shaming LOVE IT!!  Lets get going everyone – time is a wastin' ….

  • Sophia Hoiseth

    I'm visiting Indianapolis this coming summer and I can't wait to go to some of these spots!

  • Zeta Reticulum

    What about California?

  • Kajetan Czerwiński

    The worst ratio of subs to views i've ever seen

  • ARTiculations

    There's a Julian Opie near where I live too in Toronto! Although it's not Anne dancing, but People Walking. You guys have such great art in Indianapolis! I passed through there about ten years ago but never really got to see much of the city. Would love to return for a longer visit some time. Now I'll have lots of great places to check out.

  • That girl Lillie

    Can't believe you didn't shoot some of the blown art at the Children's Museum. You have two kids and live in Indy, surely you have a membership. Come on, Sarah 😉

  • Tony Jackson

    this was a great and awesome video and your voice meshed perfectly with it.

  • Mapplio

    You should totally take an Art Trip to Cleveland! So much great work here.

  • Gabriel Lutterbach

    Great Episode, one of the best ! congrats to the channel

  • Chris Helms

    Thanks for featuring some locations I have yet to visit in my closest large city. And it was really cool to see you biking around town with my friend Stuart! (He is the coolest, isn't he?!)

    I have one of the People for Urban Progress wallets (that I got from Silver in the City on Mass Ave) and it has been going strong for over 5 years now! I love it! It's so good what they have been able to do with upcycling the materials they acquire.

  • Arnav N

    Do San Fran!

  • Surya YouTube

    love this art trip! had no idea indianapolis had so much going on. after hearing so much about the 100 acre park from john and tfios, now i really wanna visit after watching this.

  • Surya YouTube

    could you do Birmingham?! I spent year interning there and grew to love it, would also be nice to see you and john back in your old stomping grounds!

  • Eren Mortel

    You helped build a park. Leslie Knope would be so proud

  • rollership

    :O that art park is breaktaking

  • 18p3pi

    You need to make a trip to Sao Paulo

  • Robert Jeffery

    Great video for a wonderful place to learn and discover.

  • Alexis Gauger

    I would be interested in exploring how gentrification is connected to all this beautiful public art. Cincinnati doesn't have quite as awesome art infrastructure, but it has a lot of similar things… boutique art hotels, museums, outdoor spaces, bike shares, murals, hospital architecture, parks, farmers' markets, etc. However, so much of this art is located in areas that have been taken over by gentrification or are about to be. How do these things connect? Are we justified in taking over spaces to create art that benefits and beautifies the city?

  • Liz Holbrook

    So I never realized the dancing woman actually had a name. Good to know it's Ann so I can now call her by her name! I also didn't realize the Alexander had so much art on display as well. I've never set foot in there though because it seems to fancy for a lowly college student like myself. Actually there is so much art in Indianapolis I haven't known about. Sad I won't have enough time to explore more before I graduate in early May. Probably won't be in Indy past then sadly.

  • Joshua Chronstedt Englar

    Great video, music choice was a bit distracting.

  • Roman Riesen

    I REALLY need this for zurich, where I live for studies. (I find this city mostly boring atm, hopefully because I don't know the awesome places).

  • Stephen D

    Please do Santa Fe, New Mexcio !!!!!!!!!

  • J P

    awesome job! and i love indy 🙂 <3

  • scorpioninpink

    Indianapolis looks so hip and clean. It actually looks more welcoming than Chicago or NYC.

  • foot foot

    please do atlanta!

  • Elisaí Otero-Figueroa


  • La Ninfa Pimentel

    How can you see so much art in just one day?? I would be emotionally exausted.

  • Paige Del

    Indianapolis looks like such a nice city!

  • Lawrence Calablaster

    Funky Bones!

  • Lucian David

    I used to live in Indy and I would like to visit again.

  • Kevin Powell

    I’ve lived and traveled to many cities while serving in the navy. I’m originally from Indy and I’m ashamed to say that I never knew my city had this much to offer in art. I would put Indy firmly in the middle of the pact in the art category and it’s elevating its game every time you turn around. I think the city should support the arts even more and have an actual day that’s specifically dedicated to art. I’m starting to view Indy through a set of new lenses now. Excellent video and I highly recommend the locals to rediscover their city.

  • Kasey May

    @TheArtAssignment – if you haven't already, please stop by Garfield Park Art Center right by the Tube Factory. They have different exhibits featuring local artists throughout the year. Along with the conservatory and the beautiful park itself, it's really an underappreciated place. 🙂


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