Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on June 24, 2015. Some formatting changes differ from the original version.
One of the most difficult challenges when organizing an established annual event is the pressure to keep things fresh while staying true to the vision that made the event a success in the first place. This dilemma proves constant for arts organizations, which rely heavily on events for funding and attracting audiences to wider programming efforts.
“When I joined the board, there was discussion that they were going to table Installation Nation,” Indianapolis Art Center President Patrick Flaherty says of joining the team at Primary Colours a couple of years ago. “I was really surprised to hear that, because it was one of the things I was excited about when I came on board.”
In his first year as Chair of Primary Colours’ board, Flaherty transitioned Installation Nation from the industrial confines of the shipping containers that defined the parameters of the event’s early iterations to the spacious grounds of IAC’s ArtsPark.
“What’s neat here in the park, is that you can see multiple installations at once,” Flaherty says. “As you’re interacting, experiencing or checking out one, you’re subconsciously, or consciously, looking at the next one. They overlap and talk to one another.”
On Friday, Primary Colours will switch the format for Installation Nation again. For the first time, students from two IPS schools will contribute an installation to the event alongside the 12 contributing artists.
“I don’t feel like artists with a capital ‘A’ should be something intimidating to people,” says Installation Nation board member Laura Harris. She led the charge to incorporate students into the mix this year.
“I just like the idea of all of them coming together to be part of something and then seeing where they fit — or even that they do fit — in a larger artistic community, and that it’s out there for them,” Harris says. “Just seeing those connections … the community to the schools and the schools to the community, I think it’s just such a win-win situation to make everybody more aware of what’s out there, and how they can be part of each other’s lives.”
Students at IPS 91 will contribute a peace pole that coincides with the school’s Montessori curriculum, one which promotes peace within the students themselves, the school, the community and the world at large. The structure stands 8 feet tall and is adorned with about 40 ceramic plaques with different words and symbols representing the kids’ interpretation of peace.
After its two-week stay at the Art Center during Installation Nation, the peace pole will return to IPS 91 to reside permanently in the school courtyard.
“I have what I call my ‘Lunch Bunch Kids.’ They’re intermediate kids that don’t like recess,” says IPS 91 art teacher Kim Thaxton. “So, they’ll come to my room during my lunch period. Then they stay in for recess. So, we’ve been doing a lot of things for our courtyard. I’ve been calling it the ‘Courtyard Club’ … because the courtyard is in the center of the school and it had been looking really bad.”
The other student-led installation was created by Sidener Academy. Sidener’s contribution centers around a 4×4-foot plywood board with the word “life” cut out of the center, serving as the installation’s negative space. The second part of it features hundreds of crayons upon which students wrote words that are important to them about life. “A lot of them wrote ‘family’ or ‘mom,'” Harris says. “Not as many ‘dads,’ unfortunately [she says laughing], but some, definitely some.”
The crayons were then glued onto the board. The goal was to place the structure in the sun, causing the crayons to melt and their colors to drip into the word “life.” Unfortunately, the crayons proved stronger than Indiana’s late-spring sun, and blow dryers were needed to start the melting process. The installation should continue evolving during the next two weeks in the hot summer sun.
Flaherty hopes the potential for the installations to evolve throughout its run will serve as an incentive for visitors to return beyond Installation Nation’s opening night. “We’re hoping that a lot of people will come back,” he says. “Maybe come to the opening, check out the party, have a good time, meet some of the artists, but then … come back 10 days later when it’s less crowded and see what happened to them.”
Installation Nation will open in the ArtsPark on Friday, June 26 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The 12 contributing artists, as well as students and teachers from the participating schools, will be on hand to discuss their installations with visitors. The event is free and open to all ages. Deejays from A-Squared Industries will curate the musical backdrop, and food trucks will be parked outside.
“It’s just so cool for the Art Center to be able to collaborate in this way, because it allows us to activate our park in a perfect way,” Flaherty says of IAC’s partnership with Primary Colours. “So you turn our nine and a half acres of beautiful land on the White River into something that echoes what we’re trying to do (which is promote the arts). It’s a really good example of the partnerships that I would love to see more of in this community.”
Written by Rob Peoni