From the dancing lady to the many shops and restaurants on Mass Ave, the neighborhood has quickly become a place where residents can enjoy Indianapolis culture and art. One of the distinct pieces along this trendy route is the Kurt Vonnegut mural, honoring the late Indianapolis native who authored the best-selling novel "Slaughterhouse-Five" and other works. Soon, the larger than life Vonnegut will be joined by another Hoosier icon, poet, artist and one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, Mari Evans.
The three story mural is currently being painted by artist Michael "Alkemi" Jordan, on the Davalan/Hoosier building located at 448 Mass Ave., and will recognize the accomplishments of Evans, who is known for her works such as "I Am a Black Woman" and "Where Is All the Music?"
"I feel very honored to paint Ms. Evans on Mass Ave," said Jordan, who has lived and worked in the city for more than 40 years. "She is simply a legend."
Helping to make the mural possible is Big Car Collaborative, The Indiana Arts Commission (as part of the Indiana Bicentennial Celebration) and The Efroymson Family Fund.
In 2015, Shauta Marsh, Big Car Collaborative chief curator, began meeting with Evans to brainstorm on community projects. Jim Walker, the executive director of Big Car, who had worked with the artist a number of times, introduced Marsh to Evans' work.
'We thought it was time the Indianapolis community honored her in the same way as Vonnegut. I see Mari Evans as the ideal woman and equally important as Vonnegut to our city," she told the Recorder.
Marsh also noticed not enough people in Indianapolis are aware of Evans' artistic contributions.
"Mari's work paved the way for minority writers. She truly represents the diversity of our state as a powerful role model for young people," Marsh said in a release. "While male artists like Kurt Vonnegut and Wes Montgomery are memorialized in public art pieces around Indianapolis, Mari's legacy was not yet visible. We're thrilled to be able to help change that."
When it comes to the timeline of the project, the completion date is set for mid-August but Jordan told the Recorder he had his own agenda.
"My clients gave me one month, I gave them three weeks and I gave myself two weeks...after day 21, I'll call it complete," he said.
The artist said there weren't many challenges with the mural as he has completed more than 40 of them in his career including one for the Arts Council of Indianapolis' "46 for the XLVT' initiative during the 2012 Super bowl.
"The painting was fairly easy since I had already painted a 30 by 40 version of the mural last November for Ms. Evans."
Despite Jordan's smaller challenges in making the mural come to life, Marsh and those at Big Car had another hurdle.
"The mural was very costly and difficult to raise the funds for. The wall needed repairs and had to be resurfaced. You have to pay the artist, provide quality paint and a lift. The grants we received didn't cover the costs of it. After the mural is up, I'm going to have to pound the pavement to raise more money for this project," she said.
The progress of the mural has been documented by Jordan and has received positive feedback. In November, Big Car's Tube Factory art space will host an art exhibit honoring Evans.
For more information, visit bigcar.org.
ABOUT MARI EVANS
As a monumental figure in education and poetry, Mari Evans also played a role in shaping women's history politics, music and drama. She was born on July 16, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio and her mother passed away when she was just 10 years old. Her father immediately felt the need to encourage her in any way he could, cultivating her talent for writing which would later serve as her main career focus.
After attending public schools in her hometown, Evans attended the University of Toledo in the 1940s where she studied fashion design but left without a degree. Her interests shifted to writing poetry and by 1969, she was a writer in residence at IUPUI where she taught courses in African-American Literature.
In 1969, she published her first work "Where Is All the Music?" followed by her more famous "I Am a Black Woman" (1970). During this time, Evans also worked as a producer, writer and director of "The Black Experience" (1968-1973), a history documentary which aired on prime time television in Indianapolis. Evans served as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts, from 1969 to 1970. Source: blackpast.org.
"WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?" BY MARI EVANS
Where have you gone
with your confident walk with your
why did you leave me
when you took your laughter
are you aware that with you went
all light and what few stars there were?
where have you gone with your confident
walk your crooked smile
the rent money in one pocket
and my heart in another...