Indy Art & Seek Is Hiding In Plain Sight

Maria Iqbal with her Spring Season mural.

Photo by Tony Valainis

Some public art events aim for a big splash with in-your-face, large-scale work in high-trafficked areas. Indy Art & Seek isn’t that kind of show. Instead, the collaboration of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and the Arts Council of Indianapolis was designed to accent lesser-known neighborhoods and unexpected locations with 100 “art interventions.” These projects, most small in scale, were planned with their surroundings in mind and have been created by artists connected to the communities. Ready to go on a hunt? A mobile app (available at is available now. We surveyed 10 of the early risers that popped up before the official opening.

1. Caution Trees

Artist: Lisa Elliott
Where to find it: 2425 West Michigan Ave.

In this installation, Elliott depicts the world’s fragility with dead trees wrapped in caution tape. And, to be clear, no oaks or maples were harmed in the making of the work. “The Arts Council, KIB, and I researched the best way to create these figures while remaining true to their mission,” says Elliott. “So the pieces are actually made from dead limbs taken from very large trees and then wrapped. I hope it will catch people’s attention and invite them to consider the state of the planet.” This is hardly Elliott’s first wrap, or her first work with trees. She used canvas sails to drape the veranda of what is now Riverside High School, and she installed more than 60 solar lanterns in the trees of Wapahani Grove in White River State Park. “Still, it wasn’t until this project that I brought wrapping and trees together for one purpose,” she says.

2. Haughville Butterflies

Artist: C.S. Stanley
Where to find it: Behind IPS Wendell Phillips School 63. 1163 North Belmont Street

Got some extra agua in your water bottle? Spill it on the ground here and you’ll activate the art, thanks to hydrophobic paint that stays transparent and invisible when dry but appears lighter when interacting with liquid. “I enjoy the idea of leaving something special within my city, a hidden interactive gift for those who find it,” says Stanley, who knows the area well. He moved to Haughville in 2015 and lives just a few blocks from the school. “My daughter enjoys playing on the playground, and we check out the butterfly gateway as we make our way to the White River,” he says. “The location worked out well, as it’s a place I often visit and it gives me the opportunity to update the work as it fades.”

3. Not A Drop to Drink

Artist: Kimberly McNeelan
Where to find it: Riverside High School, 2010 North White River Parkway

Young artists from the Riverside neighborhood and Riverside High School joined forces with McNeelan to create this porthole-shaped frame inspired by the location’s former function as a naval armory. The youth contingent worked on the water droplets that hang inside the opening of an abstract larger droplet, underlining the fact that water influences just about everything we see.

4. Elements of the People

Artist: Michael “Alkemi” Jordan
Where to find it: I-65 underpass at Clifton Street and West Congress Avenue

Highways can divide neighborhoods by creating foreboding barriers. Here, Jordan, whose work includes the Mari Evans mural on Mass Ave, brightens up a highway underpass with abstract shapes in African-flag colors and images of everyday moments. A father and son knot neckties. A woman’s hair is carefully cornrowed. A child skates. Together, they transform a potentially dank tunnel into a museum of everyday joy.

5. Spring Season

Artist: Maria Iqbal
Where to find it: 822 East 23rd Street

Inspired by community gardens near an abandoned house at 23rd Street and Guilford Avenue, this work is Iqbal’s first mural. “I’m an illustrator and designer by trade, so it was an overwhelmingly different experience for me,” she says. Iqbal biked around the Reagan Park neighborhood for weeks looking for an idea. “I thought it was awesome that almost every house had some sort of flower bed or vegetables in the yard,” she says. Aside from providing something pretty to look at, Iqbal hopes her mural sparks conversation in the area about gardening. “Maybe it could inspire a few people to start their own,” she says.

6. BRASS Flag

Artist: Philip Campbell
Where to find it: 2807 East 10th Street

A St. Clair neighborhood resident, Campbell placed donation boxes around the area last year not for cash, but for fabric. From those donations, he sewed a quilt-like flag symbolizing the way individuals combine to create a community. “I don’t remember how many pieces were donated,” he says, “but my favorites were the ones found by contributors in the streets of the neighborhood.”

7. Atlas Flowers

Artists: Mike Graves and the Bridge Collective
Where to find it: 1514 North Emerson Avenue

Two panels of art went up on the north-facing wall of the Shi-Kay Lounge this summer, and they transform as you approach them. From a distance, they’re depictions of calla lilies against an abstract blue sky. But get closer and you’ll see that the lilies are collaged onto sheet music and maps of the Little Flower neighborhood in which the paintings reside.

Online: Basura y Tesoro

Artist: Eduardo Luna
Where to find it: YouTube

One of the more unconventional installations, Luna’s video of two Lucha Libre characters—El Camaron Electronico and Melt-Face—is also among the funniest. The characters stroll into Hawthorne Park and first wrestle with, then properly dispose of, trash. Soon, more wrestlers arrive and are recruited into do-gooding—while also taking time to whimsically revert to childhood on the playground equipment. Music—Juventino Rosa’s “Sobre las Olas,” arranged by Eric Salazar and performed by Salazar and Corey Denham—becomes part of the mix in this celebration of the neighborhood. “We all live on the near-west side, a section of the city that used to be known as ‘Little Mexico,’” says Luna of his partners in the La Sardina Gallery collective. “We wanted to show the fun of our culture and the care that Luchadores have for their communities.”

Photos by Tony Valainis.