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Imagine a pathway … but not just any pathway. This extraordinary walkway not only gets you out of your car and stretching your limbs, but has a separate lane to ride your bike.

Along your trek of this eight-mile corridor, you are able to see artwork created specifically for the trail and discover Indianapolis as you’ve never seen it before. The good news is, this pathway is real – The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick.

“This is unique because it has an emphasis on art and design and an emphasis on returning a lane of vehicular parking back to the pedestrians,” said Mindy Taylor Ross, director of public art, Arts Council of Indianapolis and the trail’s curator.

The purpose of this urban bike and pedestrian path is to connect neighborhoods, cultural districts and Indianapolis entertainment, and serves as a hub for the entire Central Indiana greenway system.

The trail touches areas such as Alabama Street, Mass Ave., 10th Street, The Monon Trail, Indiana Avenue, the Fountain Square District and White River State Park. Still in the construction phase, the Cultural Trail is expected to be complete by the beginning of 2012.

Furthermore, Taylor Ross was allotted $2 million of private funding to integrate public art into the project. Artists such as Julian Opie, Sean Derry and the Herron School of Art and Design will lend their talent to the trail, however many in the community are buzzing about New York artist Fred Wilson.

Although Wilson has traveled the world, he is quite familiar with Indianapolis. During a 1993 visit to the city, Indy’s vast number of monuments and memorials caught his attention.

“We just drove around looking for inspiration, but the monuments were what I remembered,” said Wilson. “I didn’t want to do what I did before, but I came back around to my initial thoughts about Indy. Those monuments are very emblematic of the city.”

Wilson chose the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is the only visible monument in the city to feature an African-American figure. The figure is a freed slave sitting half-clothed on the ground with his hands raised up with broken shackles.

“Growing up, I was the only Black person in my neighborhood, so I am always aware of that one Black person,” laughed Wilson on how he was able to spot the male figure. “It’s more than just racial. I want to reveal what I’m seeing that maybe people are missing.”

Wilson’s project entitled “E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One)” takes the African-American male figure and transforms him into a historic representation and a symbol for Black Indiana to revisit their connection to the Diaspora or the movement of African descendents throughout the world.

Wilson has decided to remove the shackle from the male figure’s hand and replace it with a flag that is a convergence of Black African Diaspora countries looking similar to an African quilt. By changing the context of the figure, he has changed the meaning of the figure.

The statue will also be created out of Indiana limestone.

The artist wanted to place “E Pluribus Unum” within a certain proximity from the original monument, one with ample space, no visual clutter and where people will stop and look. He found that location at the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis.

“I don’t know the back stories behind some of the buildings downtown. I just wanted a great spot for my sculpture,” said Wilson. “Also, this piece is not meant to be the last work about or for the Black community. I hope this inspires other artists.”

Wilson’s concept still requires extensive research and community outreach with hopes to educate residents on the African-American experience in Indianapolis and Indiana. His project is slated to be complete by September 2011.

“We’re going to inject this and six other permanent public art projects into the community, but will be looking to other community entities to provide artwork. This is much more than a sidewalk and is a blank canvas for the community,” said Taylor Ross.

For more information on The Cultural Trail, visit www.indyculturaltrail.org.

You can e-mail comments to Jessica Williams-Gibson at Jessica-recorder@indy.rr.com.

Fred Wilson Mines the Museum

Born in Bronx, N.Y., artist Fred Wilson won national and international acclaim for his exhibit in the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore entitled “Mining the Museum.”

Wilson was given free rein of the museum’s archives and used them to demonstrate how museums ignore or misrepresent the cultural and historical contributions of African-Americans making visible the subtle ways these attitudes affect the decisions that museums make about what to collect and how to display it.

Parts of the exhibition included a Ku Klux Klan hood resting in a turn-of-the-century baby carriage and iron slave shackles alongside a fine silver tea set.

It is said this exhibit forever changed the field of museology.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail public art projects

Glick Peace Walk

Poet’s Place

Ann Dancing by Julian Opie

Care/Don’t Care by Jamie Pawlus

Chatham Passage by Sean Derry

Prairie Modules 1 and 2 by M12 ®

Herron School of Art and Design Project

Moving Forward by Donna Sink

E Pluribus Unum by Fred Wilson

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