Nation’s largest art census in Indy

A mural of two people on the side of a building
You'll find this mural on the side of Cleo's Bodega & Cafe. | Photo via Rokh Co.

A first of its kind map has just pinned down all the public art in Indianapolisand we mean all of it.

The Indy Arts Council, Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Art Strategies + Rokh Research & Design Studio collaborated to make the nation’s largest public art equity census and we’re painting a picture of what that means for Hoosiers

How it started

This is the most inclusive + comprehensive census of public art the city has ever had, with inventory and analysis of more than 3,000 public art works within Marion County. It was a real boots on the ground effort, with teams surveying the city block by block between May and August 2021 — for context, that’s 6,500 linear miles. If you can see it in someone’s yard, on the street or inside an establishment, it’s fair game. The Public Art For All Census includes everything from traditional murals and sculptures to graffiti, manhole covers, playground equipment, sound art, and lighting.

The project was spurred by the desire to make public spaces more accessible, welcoming, and equitable

Seeing artwork that validates your history, culture, experiences, and concerns in a space you move through makes that place feel more like you belong there,” said Julia Muney Moore, Director of Public Art for Indy Arts Council.

At the end of 2020, the council started investigating ways to understand how equitable the current public art landscape was + framed out a process that started with a good public art inventory. The project took off in 2021 with partner Rokh and the final product was released last week.

A white bike decorated with flowers
Even personal memorials like this one are included in the public art census. | Photo via Rokh Co.

The findings

According to Julia, “We now know where [public art] is — and where it isn’t — what it is, who it’s by, what condition it’s in, and how different variables intersect so that we know who has access to public art and who doesn’t.”

The inventory created a launch pad for the community to see public art as essential community infrastructure. Based on the report, it’s found that:

  • More than one third of all public artwork was found in downtown zip codes
  • 18 artists account for 35% of the authored artworks
  • 83% of the works found did not have an identifying sign
  • Roadside memorials are illegal in Indiana, yet they outnumber memorials + monuments
  • The most common art form is murals, but they are the least invested in

The report also explores the relationships between art + crime, walkability, residential ethnicity, and topologies.

Graffiti by train tracks
Graffiti was documented in the census as well. | Photo via Rokh Co.

What’s next

The Arts Council has come up with a to-do list for Indy’s art future. It includes the following action items:

  • Create a more inclusive definition of public art
  • Prioritize funding for public art deserts
  • Host community conversations about public art’s value
  • Increase the visibility of artists + communities while lifting up underrepresented stories
  • Bring awareness to all public art by including it in the Public Art Directory
  • Accurately document the self-identities of artists
  • Maintain existing + new public art to improve community well-being

How you can get involved

Are you in a neighborhood with next to no public art? Maybe you’re excited to watch an already thriving art scene grow. Well, Public Art For All has a starter kit that does exactly that. It not only has tips for how to get your neighbors involved in a community project, it also has info about how to maintain the artwork you have and explains the public art permit process.

Plus, Hoosiers now have an opportunity to hop on a public art walking tour. The downtown tour is set for Sat., July 30, and there will also be a tour of east side art on Sat., Oct. 15. Next year, a Black Diaspora Art Walk is set to take place on Sat., Feb. 11. Sign up.