INDIANAPOLIS, IN – E Pluribus Unum, a proposed public art project by New York-based artist Fred Wilson for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick has been discontinued following unanimous votes by the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. Boards of Directors. The decision came after the conclusion of a two-year community input process. CICF will instead support a new public art/memorial project to be located on the Cultural Trail that will be led by a group of community advocates who participated in the process.
The project featured a reproduction and “repurposing” of an African-American man whose image is currently found on The Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the center of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.
Wilson’s artwork proposed repositioning the nameless figure and having him hold a flag of the African diaspora as means of reimagining the man’s identity; the artwork was initially proposed to be located on a section of the Cultural Trail on Washington Street which travels beside the Indianapolis City-County Building, but in July, 2011, CICF and the City of Indianapolis (co-lead partners for the Cultural Trail) announced the project, if it moved forward, would no longer be placed in that location.
In the four “Community Matters” public discussions held by CICF in consultation with the Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network, a committee of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, over 90 percent of the participants requested that the project not move forward. This was consistent with the other public input that was received by CICF over the past 12 months.
“This has been a long and challenging process,” Brian Payne, the President and CEO of CICF said. “Our intention was to be inclusive and commission artists of color, including Fred Wilson, who is acknowledged as one of the great American contemporary artists and an artist whose past work has been celebrated by African Americans across the country. Regretfully this proposed work has inflamed a number of long-standing sensitivities within our African-American community,” Payne said. “Through community input, and many thoughtful community discussions, and conversations with our stakeholders, we clearly learned that it would be inappropriate to move forward with this project. This has often been a painful journey for many in our community, and I apologize for causing that pain. But it has also been a journey of connecting and learning from one another. We can now move forward together to create a new public art/memorial project for the Cultural Trail for which we can all be proud – which has always been our intent at CICF. It has been an honor to get to know Fred Wilson, an artist of immense talent and vision, who has exuded class, grace, and patience during these past two years of community discussions," Payne said.
In all, CICF held seven community meetings, one large town hall discussion and created a website (fredwilsonindy.org) to support education, discussion and input about the project. CICF has spent $75,000 on realizing design concepts and coordinating the public input process and has budgeted $175,000 to be used to support the development and creation of a new public art/memorial project which will be overseen by a group of African American community advocates that participated in the earlier public process. A kickoff meeting for that work will be scheduled in early 2012, and will be promoted widely throughout the community and through www.indyculturaltrail.org.
About Fred Wilson/E PLURIBUS UNUM:
Fred Wilson is a conceptual visual artist who has worked with museums and collections around the world. He is best known for rearranging art objects and other collectibles into unusual displays to portray the under-represented perspectives of people of color. Wilson’s compelling, site-specific installations draw upon standard curatorial practices to tease out connections between objects, people, places, and local or national histories. Wilson has a long list of honors and awards that includes a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award (1999) and the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2003). Wilson is on the Board of Trustees for the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Academy in Rome. He has represented the United States at the International Cairo Biennale (1992) and the Venice Biennale (2003) and his work is held in numerous collections worldwide, including the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City and The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from Northwestern University. Fred Wilson is represented by The Pace Gallery, New York.