Common Threads Between Indy and Tijuana

A textile artist fashions Indy’s obscure link to Tijuana into a new exhibit.

The dramatic capes appearing around town this month won’t give their wearers any superpowers, but the fabric does hold a secret. Designers Rocio Rodriguez Salceda and Jace Clayton sourced the material for the capes (which will be worn by a handful of residents roaming the streets) both in Indianapolis and a place it once inspired: Tijuana, Mexico.
It turns out that the border town modeled its street plan after the Circle City’s in 1889. The artists from New York discovered this little-known fact last winter, when the publishers of Indy’s We Are City newsletter hosted them for residency. The duo’s goal was to live here for a month, absorb all they could about Indianapolis, and later produce a capstone project reflecting their thoughts.
The couple traveled to Tijuana in the middle of their residency. Any visual similarities between the two cities have disappeared in the urban sprawl, but Salceda and Clayton learned that the physical layout wasn’t the only bond. “The mood we found in Indianapolis was interesting,” Clayton says. “It was like, ‘Together we are determining its future.’ In Tijuana, they felt the same way.”
Salceda and Clayton purchased some fabric for their project in Mexico and connected with a group there called Torolab that’s similar to We Are City; the latter brought architects, artists, and other visionaries together for its annual idea summit on Aug. 21. The capes were on display at the Indiana History Center that day and quite likely spotted on the streets around the same time.
Just as the capes blend Tijuana and Indianapolis fabric, the colorful, flamboyant pieces also both draw attention to and conceal their users, thanks to a Mylar lining that disrupts cellphone signals. It’s a play on being both visible and invisible.
“We were in [both] Tijuana and Indianapolis in December, and it was like two different worlds, and then we saw all of these connections,” says Salceda, who helped introduce the Torolab team to We Are City’s. “I like to think about the capes as a form of bridge.”
Photo by Corey Olsen