Hoosier Historia to shed light on Hoosier Hysteria during NBA All-Star Weekend

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"Hoosier Historia" is a public art installation featuring 24 six-foot basketball sculptures depicting All-Star moments in Indiana Basketball History. (Photo provided/Jourdain Brown)

As the city gears up for the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend, the Indy Arts Council is sharing some of Indiana’s greatest moments in basketball history through public art.

Entitled “Hoosier Historia,” the public art installation features 24 six-foot fiberglass basketball sculptures depicting some of Indiana’s All-Star moments dating back to as early as 1911. Once completed and placed, the sculptures will remain at the Downtown Home Court for the duration of the All-Star Weekend, said Julia Muney-Moore, director of public art for the Indy Arts Council.

“I think art has a way of getting to people’s emotions in a way that like a newspaper article or, you know, something that’s a little bit more literal just can’t,” Muney-Moore said. “And this is something that kind of when you approach it, and these are quite large … you really understand how amazing this history is and how much we believe in it. So, the emotions that the art stirs in you are the emotions that it stirs in us.”

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Basketball has been a part of Indiana’s DNA for a long time, Muney-Moore said, which is part of why hosting the 2024 NBA All-Star Game is so special for Hoosiers. With the city’s rich basketball history, Muney-Moore said the art installation is a good way to convey this history and culture to visitors while celebrating the sport.

Indy Arts Council had an open call to artists from across the state and asked the community to vote on a number of historic basketball moments until they narrowed the selection to just 24. Muney-Moore said artists were matched up with a moment in history they might have a personal connection to. 

Jourdain Brown, an art student and basketball player at Indiana Wesleyan University, posing with his sculpture for Hoosier Historia, which depicts the gym race between Seymour and New Castle. (Photo provided/Jourdain Brown)

Jourdain Brown, a senior art student and basketball player at Indiana Wesleyan University, said Hoosier Historia was the perfect opportunity to combine his two passions. Growing up homeschooled in Brownsburg, Indiana, Brown said he spent most of his time playing the game.

In 2019, Brown got into illustration and character design and decided to pursue a degree in art, inspired by animation and the lack of Black and brown characters in popular media. His personal style is geared more toward digital painting and Afro-anime inspired.

“This felt like the perfect thing for me because I spend the majority of my life playing basketball,” Brown said. “I recently got into art a couple years ago, so for me … it’s the perfect opportunity to just put together everything that I’ve been doing, really, my entire life.”

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Indiana is home to some of the largest high school gyms in the country, and Brown was challenged with depicting the race between New Castle and Seymour to have the Nation’s largest gym. Although both gyms have more than 8,000 seats, Brown said New Castle is currently in the lead, beating Seymour by approximately 200 seats.

Although Hoosier Historia presented a new challenge with its sheer size and unique perspective, Brown said the painting process went smoothly and he enjoyed working with the “behemoth” of a sculpture to create an inspiring retelling of part of Indiana’s basketball history.

Indy-based artist and educator Gary Gee’s sculpture for Hoosier Historia depicts the life and legacy of Indiana’s first Mr. Basketball. (Photo provided/Gary Gee)
Indy-based artist and educator Gary Gee’s sculpture for Hoosier Historia depicts the life and legacy of Indiana’s first Mr. Basketball. (Photo provided/Gary Gee)

“I had struggled with the ideation phase for a while, but I decided to use the perspective of the ball to my advantage,” Brown said. “I really wanted to make an emphasis on the crowd and the people involved because, I mean, that many fans, you can’t make anything happen unless you have massive amounts of support. It’s really just like a kudos or salute to them.”

Indy-based visual artist and educator Gary Gee has been drawing “wherever he was in life” since the age of four. Having been influenced by the different parts of his life, pop culture, cartoons and comic books, and the golden age of rap and hip-hop, Gee describes his style as “weird” and a mix of “street art and gallery aesthetic.” 

Hoosier Historia presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to Indiana artists of all backgrounds, but with his hodge-podge combination of emotions and experiences, Gee said he was interested in the uniqueness and the challenge Hoosier Historia offered. Upon his selection, Gee said he was given the first Mr. Basketball in Indiana.

Indiana’s first Mr. Basketball was a Black man named George Crowe. Although Crowe was awarded for scoring 13 of Franklin High School’s 22 points during the state championship game in 1939, Gee said he was not inducted until 1976 — nearly 40 years after his team lost the state championships to Frankfort.

“I tried to highlight the team around there, you know, ‘39, because in the article I read, he was like — that he was grateful to be the first Mr. Basketball, but he would have rather won the game with his team,” Gee said. “Then some of my stuff is kind of like a merger where I had grayscale, kind of like ghost him in, and then it’s like bright vivid pops of colors.”

Each artist was sent a template in Procreate, which was used to plan and sketch out the designs. Once his outline was complete, Gee projected the image on the basketball sculpture and began painting, starting with the background. Projecting an image onto a 3D round surface was not a perfect science and many things needed to be tweaked, but Gee said the more he worked on it, the more he was able to push himself and work differently.

“You want to be your best, but it’s not like you’re competing with each artist. ‘s like you’re competing with yourself to push yourself on this,” Gee said. “It’s my first time painting on fiberglass. It’s my first time painting a six-foot basketball. It’s my first time painting a big, round shape. And it’s my first time painting for the All-Star … I got to push myself to figure it out.”

“Hoosier Historia” will be on view around Downtown Indianapolis throughout the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend. For more information about the 24 Hoosier Historia stories, visit nba.com/pacers/nba-all-star-2024-indianapolis/hoosier-historia.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.