CIB to add iconic public art installations, community programming at newly named Bicentennial Unity Plaza next to Gainbridge Fieldhouse with support of $28.47M grant from Lilly Endowment
Capital Improvement Board to add iconic public art installations, community programming at newly named Bicentennial Unity Plaza next to Gainbridge Fieldhouse with support of $28.47 million grant from Lilly Endowment
- Public plaza, already under construction, will be home to significant sculptures that connect Indianapolis’s past and present
- Pacers Sports & Entertainment to manage plaza; collaborate with community groups on special events, diverse cultural and artistic programs
INDIANAPOLIS – The Capital Improvement Board of Managers of Marion County presented plans to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission Thursday for a bevy of planned interactive and community-inspired elements for the newly named Bicentennial Unity Plaza, located just north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Bicentennial Unity Plaza will be home to a community basketball court that will be converted to a seasonal ice rink, community-based public programming, and new public art thanks to a $28.47 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.
The Capital Improvement Board is thankful for Lilly Endowment’s investment in creating the Bicentennial Unity Plaza as a place for the community to come together, celebrate our city, and to infuse more cultural opportunities into the downtown core. This is a public entity, and our stakeholders are the citizens of Marion County. We are excited to work with Pacers Sports & Entertainment and other community partners to activate this public space for our residents.
Andy Mallon, CIB Executive Director
A large portion of the plaza will be under a permanent canopy system, which extends its use throughout the year. At least 80 percent of programming on the plaza is reserved for community activities and public performances. As previously announced, the plaza will offer a permanent community basketball court that will be converted into an ice-skating rink during the winter.
Unlike other outdoor public spaces in the Mile Square, Unity Plaza will offer public restrooms for daytime use and when the ice rink is open. Grant funding will also be used to build a permanent building for concessions and rental of ice skates and other recreational equipment.
Indianapolis is fortunate to have a number of wonderful public spaces. Bicentennial Unity Plaza will complement other downtown amenities, and we are heartened by CIB’s commitment to ensure that it will be a lively public place that is affordable, accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.
Ronni Kloth, Vice President for Community Development, Lilly Endowment
The centerpiece of Bicentennial Unity Plaza will be a 30-foot tall, 110-foot-long arced stainless steel and limestone sculpture entitled “Together.” According to artist Herman Mejia, the piece has a “philosophical connection to the Landmark for Peace memorial at Kennedy King Park.”
“Not only will Bicentennial Unity Plaza create another destination for residents and visitors to gather for entertainment, community, and conversation, it will serve as a reminder of the resiliency of our city and how, throughout our history, we have been strongest when we come together in unity. This sculpture, in particular, will be an important visual reminder of how and why we must bridge our differences and celebrate our diversity,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
“Together” spans the width of Bicentennial Unity Plaza with two arcs that reach toward each other, coming together at a keystone made of Indiana limestone. The arcs do not meet fully, which is intended to signify the need for continued resiliency in working together to bridge divides and unify our city and communities.
In addition to serving as the gateway to the plaza, visitors will be able to engage with the sculpture using two mirrored alcoves designed for reflection and capturing photos. The sculpture also will include programmable LED lighting that highlight the custom limestone and trigger lighting effects at night at the alcove entrances.
The second public art installation, “Sphere,” gives visitors an opportunity to interact from within the sculpture as well as around it. This dome-like installation will be fabricated with the same stainless-steel elements of Together and includes two kinetic screens that can project live images of visitors as well as randomly selected photos of landmarks located across Indianapolis. The projection system is also programmable for special events. In homage to the adjacent home of the Indiana Pacers and Fever, the height of the domed art installation will be 23 feet, 9 inches, matching the distance from the NBA 3-point line to the basket
“’Sphere’ is a blank canvas for storytelling,” said Mejia. “It will engage plaza guests in so many ways.”
The two public art pieces also connect to each other, creating one cohesive installation. If visitors stand at a particular spot across Maryland Street, “Sphere” can be viewed at the exact center of “Together,” an effect Mejia refers to as “the eclipse.”
An Ongoing Goal of Community Activation
In addition to serving as a destination and key connector across downtown’s cultural assets, Bicentennial Unity Plaza will provide a flexible space for diverse community programs, civic conversations, and artistic performances. Pacers Sports & Entertainment will manage the plaza, collaborating with a governance committee including the CIB and other diverse community groups.
“Bicentennial Unity Plaza represents a call to action to celebrate our history and diversity, engage each other, and collaborate on programming that brings to life our collective vision of a unified and inclusive community,” said PS&E Chief Executive Officer Rick Fuson. “I am so grateful to Lilly Endowment and the CIB for their leadership and commitment to our city and state, and I look forward to working alongside our incredible local organizations to ensure the Plaza lives up to its name.”
The CIB and Pacer’s Sports & Entertainment will also work with the Arts Council of Indianapolis to add a large mural to the plaza as part of the Gainbridge Fieldhouse Legends program.
Construction on Bicentennial Unity Plaza, including the public art installation, is scheduled for completion in early 2023.
About the Capital Improvement Board
The Capital Improvement Board (CIB) is a municipal corporation of Marion County created in 1965 by the Indiana General Assembly pursuant to the provisions of Indiana Code 36-10-9, and authorized by the statute to finance, construct, equip, operate and maintain any capital facilities or improvements of general public benefit or welfare which promote and serve the commercial, industrial and cultural interests of Indiana and its citizens. The Board may assist, cooperate and fund governmental, public, and private agencies and groups for these purposes. The CIB operates and/or owns the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field, Virginia Avenue Parking Garage, and Hudnut Commons, all located in downtown Indianapolis.
About Lilly Endowment
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.
Meet the Artist: Herman Mejia
Originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Herman Mejia is an interdisciplinary design entrepreneur working in architecture, industrial design, painting, and branding. His industrial public art and mural projects are located in his home city and country; Toronto, Canada; and the Queensway Tunnel in London. Mejia strives to create authentic experiences and products unique to an area to bring communities together. Working with a wide variety of clients and partners on projects of all scopes, his goal is to engage end users at a higher, more sustainable level, culminating in lasting relationships. He finds inspiration in the simple things in his everyday life and from his travels to soak in and appreciate the details of other’s lives that make the human experience special. Learn more at HermanMejia.com.