CICF News / 2011 / December / News Post
December 15, 2011
Brian Payne's remarks from announcement of Fred Wilson Public Art Project

Read the complete transcript of Brian Payne's remarks from Tuesday's announcement regarding discontinuing the Fred Wilson public art project here.

Good afternoon. I am Brian Payne, President and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation. We have concluded a very thorough series of community discussions and everyone who cared deeply about this topic had a chance to participate. Over 100 people took part.

Based on these very thoughtful and respectful community conversations—in which over 90 percent of the participants were against the project –the Central Indiana Community Foundation's Board of Directors and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc's Board of Directors both voted unanimously to not move forward with the public art project E Pluribus Unum by Fred Wilson. When Mayor Ballard was consulted he praised the process and fully agreed with the decision.

A number of major themes emerged from these community conversations. One was the significant differences between public art and art in museums. In public art, you cannot choose on whether to engage with the work and it is a much more difficult to grab people's time and attention to provide an educational context to the piece. Another theme was that – though Fred Wilson intended otherwise—the proposed figure very powerfully promoted a biased late 19th Century and negative image of African Americans and in no way represented or honored the progress and present achievements of African Americans in Indianapolis, in Indiana or in the United States of America.

Our intention in approaching Fred Wilson and other artists of color to do a project was to engage the best American Artists in the country and be fully inclusive and diverse in our artist selection. Fred Wilson's work had been celebrated by African Americans in the past we all expected that to be the case with this project. As it turned out, this proposed art piece caused many people a great sense of anxiety and pain. For this I am very sorry.

So now we move forward. With the $175,000 remaining of the Public Art budget, Central Indiana Community Foundation is prepared to support The Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network and the African American community advocates that participated in this past discussion as they lead a new process that will hopefully culminate in a memorial of which the African Americans in our city and all of our citizens can be proud.

Click here to read the announcement, Fred Wilson Public Art Project Discontinued.