Our Love Letter To “Ann Dancing”

At the corner of Mass Ave and Vermont Street, adjacent to Bru Burger Bar and Starbucks, a woman has been swaying her hips for more than 10 years. Since January 2008, through rain, sleet, and the 55-inch snowpocalypse of 2014, she’s shimmied on, her animated LED body shining like a foghorn through the sea of white. But the past decade has taken a toll on her. Her screens peter out when the mercury creeps up the thermometer; her internal fans—so old parts are no longer available for them—are unable to keep up with the sun’s scorching rays. In just over a month, she’ll finally stop dancing. She’ll put her feet up; take a well-deserved break from the sea of selfies and scooter-riders.Now it’s up to us to make sure she returns.


Dear Ann (after 10 years, we can dispense with the “Dancing,” right?),

It seems like just yesterday that your LED outline was being craned into place at the corner of Mass Ave and Vermont Street. You were a revelation. The first artwork installed on the 8-mile, $63 million Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which connected Indy’s six cultural districts. The brainchild of British artist Julian Opie, then an up-and-coming sculpturalist whose work would go on to grace the National Portrait Gallery in London. The first— and only—one of his LED figures to be four-sided, strutting and sashaying from all angles.

You’ve looked out over the same intersection for a decade, watching as Marsh changed to Needler’s in 2017 and bikes were supplanted by scooters in 2018. You’ve tolerated young ruffians tramping through your landscaping. You’ve never complained about having phones shoved in your face (#AnnDancing). Your “guts” have groaned on through 120-degree heat, your internal fans sometimes working so hard they short out and your screens flicker, then fade to black.

It poured. It thunder-snowed. Birds took aim. You swayed on.

Now it’s our turn to treat you to a long-needed upgrade. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail kicked off a 30-day crowdfunding campaign in your honor today, with the goal of raising $262,800 for repairs by June 29. They’re looking for your fans from all over the country to kick in $5 and $10 donations, rather than a single sponsor financing your repairs in one fell swoop.

But don’t worry — you’ll still look the same after your face lift, we promise. You’ll get new internal hardware (so you won’t short out on hot days when your fans overheat), display screens (but you’ll still have the same vibrant orange outline), and a new base (one a little more durable than your current mulch circle). No one will even be able to tell you’ve had any work done—it’ll be our little secret.

A “Keep Ann Dancing” sticker, available at Silver in the City

The folks at the Indianapolis Cultural Trail are also creating a maintenance fund to make sure we don’t have to do this again in another 10 years. We know you don’t love going to your “Ann doctor” (or paying the bill for those visits), so we’re trying to cut down on those “Her left hip is out again!” calls.

And shhh—don’t tell them I told you, but your friends are planning a big surprise for you: They’re taking you on a farewell tour around Indianapolis in June (because looking at the same intersection for nearly 4,000 days gets old fast, am I right?). They’ve volunteered you to tweet and Instagram your adventures around the city, from popping up in the lobbies of nonprofits to surveying plaza vistas.

And they’ll even house-sit for you while you’re gone. A sign will go up at your corner to tell people where you are and how they can donate to your repair fund. (At the very least, it’ll assure would-be dancers that Star-Lord didn’t abduct you for an intergalactic dance-off.)

But wait, you might be asking: Farewell? I thought I was just getting a refresh? Later this year, a big flatbed truck will come rumbling down Alabama Street, a new Ann Dancing unit in tow (we’ll call her Ann 2.0). You’ll be craned into the bed of the truck, and Ann 2.0 will be installed in your place.

Don’t think of your decommissioning as a demotion: There can’t be two Anns (your friends at the Cultural Trail say that’d be like having two Mona Lisas). Face it: It’s time to retire. Your fans are shot. Your screens nearly take more days off in summer than they work.

Oh, sorry, this was supposed to be a love letter. Let’s get to that retirement party.

Your friends on Mass Ave. are hosting a happy hour at Tavern at the Point (401 Massachusetts Ave.) on Monday, June 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. to get your repair campaign started. Coat Check Coffee (401 E. Michigan St.), Hotel Tango (702 Virginia Ave.), and Gavel (902 Virginia Ave.) have each created Ann-inspired drinks available through June.

On June 29, the Alabama Street and Mass Ave intersection will get its glow-up as a free dance party, with DJs spinning records in a “WFYI-mixed-with-a-Jerry-Lewis-Telethon” bash with a beer garden from 4 to 9 p.m.

Silver in the City (434 Massachusetts Ave.) is selling “Keep Ann Dancing” T-shirts ($26), totes ($15), buttons ($6), and stickers ($3).

But it’s not time to take off on that Indy tour just yet. First, we have something we need to say: Thank you.

… for that time you jived with Jimmy Fallon during Super Bowl week in 2012.

We all know who won that dance-off (his moves had nothing on yours). And remember the time you shimmied with restaurateur Kimbal Musk when he opened his new 130-seat Hedge Row restaurant at 350 Mass Ave? We have confidence that if Justin Timberlake ever dropped by, your dress would give his suit and tie a run for their money.

… for the year you inspired the best Halloween costume in Indy.

Again, we’ll give you the edge on the dance moves. But you have to admit, Halley O’Malley was pretty good. (After 20 hours, 340 lights, and 51 batteries, she kind of had to be.)

… for giving us a second chance when we were initially underwhelmed.

Some of us underestimated you, and we’re sorry. Even Indianapolis Cultural Trail Executive Director Kären Haley thought, “Is that really all she’s gonna do?” the first time she saw you. But you knew you were cool—the rest of the city just hadn’t caught up yet. Now Haley and her kids make special trips just to dance with you. (Thanks for being patient.)

… for putting up with all the selfies.

It didn’t matter whether you were having a bad hair day or the photographer was sporting sequins and a pineapple bikini (perk of being immobile: Great view of the annual Cadillac Barbie Parade). You never turned anyone away. And now your parents at the Cultural Trail have given you your very own Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @keepanndancing.

… for showing us the importance of maintaining public art.

It’d be unthinkable to replace you (and we certainly won’t try). After the old you is craned out, the new you will be lowered into place, an iconic mainstay of Mass Ave restored to her rightful perch. Downtown dwellers love you. Carmelites know you. Julian Opie fans fawn over you. It takes a lot of visits to the “Ann doctor” to take care of you. But without them, you’d be wheezing in pieces.

Yes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has already claimed the month of May in Indy. But June? Let’s call it the “Month of Ann.”

And in that spirit, we’re here to say: It’s OK. You can stop dancing.

We got you.




How to “Keep Ann Dancing:”  You can donate to the “Keep Ann Dancing” campaign at keepanndancing.org, or text “Ann” to 243725 to give. Silver in the City (434 Massachusetts Ave.) is selling “Keep Ann Dancing” T-shirts ($26), totes ($15), buttons ($6), and stickers ($3) in June, which are also available online at keepanndancing.org. You can also share your Ann photos on social media with the hashtag #KeepAnnDancing and tag the @keepanndancing Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.