With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to look at some MLK-inspired public art in Indianapolis. Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Indy visibly celebrates the battle for civil rights with several interesting works of art. One is a colorful mural on the walls of a building next to the park’s swimming pool, and the other is a two-piece sculpture of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy called “Peace Memorial.” The memorial marks the spot in which Kennedy gave a speech the night MLK was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Here you can listen to an NPR story explaining the historic night, 41 years ago, when presidential candidate Kennedy delivered the news of MLK’s death to shocked residents. His words calmed the city, and it has been noted that as a result, Indianapolis did not see the violence other cities experienced that night. The landmark and great significance of this place is a must-experience.
But even with a bit of searching in Indianapolis, it was difficult to find public art related to the civil rights movement, black history or MLK. Indiana Avenue, Randsom Place, Walker Theatre and Crispus Attucks were several of the places I looked, from the outside. There is a Crispus Attucks Museum which includes “treasures from the first all African American high school in the state of Indiana and highlights its’ history-making African American community that produced such legends as basketball great “The Big O” Oscar Robertson; Grammy award winning super star, Kenny ‘baby face’ Edmonds; jazz great, Freddie Hubbard; and opera sensation, Angela Brown.” There are also plans to build an Indiana Museum of African American History, to open in 2010 in the White River State Park.
Even Washington, D.C. has yet to fully realize a National Memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. A memorial designed by San Fransisco-based ROMA Design Group is under construction on the north east corner of the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln Memorial (where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech) and Jefferson Memorial. Started in 2006, its completion is scheduled for 2010 and is dependent upon raising $120 million.
The Memorial is conceived as an engaging landscape experience to convey three fundamental and recurring themes throughout Dr. King’s life – democracy, justice, and hope. Natural elements such as the crescent-shaped-stone wall inscribed with excerpts of his sermons, and public addresses will serve as the living testaments of his vision of America. The centerpiece of the Memorial, the “Stone of Hope”, will feature a 30-foot likeness of Dr. King.
Some museums are already taking steps to document and celebrate the first African American President of the U.S. Fulfilling MLK’s dream of equality, Barack Obama will be sworn in as President on Tuesday. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has acquired a poster of Barack Obama by artist Shepard Fairey for its permanent collection. You can read my May 2008 post about Fairey for more on political portraits.
We will be celebrating MLK Day at the IMA on Monday, January 19. Join in, take a moment to realize this landmark celebration, and be sure to comment if you know of anymore Indianapolis MLK-inspired public art we should visit.