Indianapolis' arts and sports communities are merging for the next First Friday open house at the Harrison Center for the Arts.
That's because the center's latest show celebrates Indy Eleven, the state's new professional soccer team.
Everything about the team name, adopted to honor the 11th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers from the Union Army during the Civil War, and its symbols were influenced by Hoosier-centric places and colors -- something that inspired Harrison Center Executive Director Joanna Taft. The central image on the team's crest is "Victory," the sculpture on top of the State Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown, and its colors are red, white and blue -- those of Indianapolis' flag.
"I had no idea everything they thought about when they crafted their team," said Taft.
Opening on Feb. 7 during the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association's monthly First Friday event, the Harrison Center show has four components:
- Interpretations of soccer scenes.
- An exhibit of Soldiers and Sailors Monument-inspired pieces, honoring Indy Eleven's crest with its homage to "Victory."
- Twenty-four wooden soccer ball-shaped cutouts that artists have reimagined.
- A celebration of the neighborhood around the Harrison Center, 1505 N. Delaware St. Two pleinairists working outside to create their pieces, illustrated scenes from the area, (on the north side of downtown) and incorporated its soccer fields and Civil War history.
Meanwhile, a billboard that goes up at 16th Street and Delaware is a larger-than-life version of one of Kyle Ragsdale's pieces, titled "Indy Eleven First Flight" for the show.
Having rented the billboard for a year, center leaders plan to cover it with work from their artists through 2014. Neighbors in the area regularly complain about the advertising on the billboard, so the artwork is a welcome substitute, according to Taft, who also lives in the area.
"February's billboard work was specifically created with the soccer team and the neighborhood's history in mind," said Ragsdale. Some of his other pieces in the show are more abstract, including one that illustrates various angles a soccer ball can be kicked.
"I think the show is going to be really interesting," he said. "What's interesting, too, is the way people have explored it, thinking of abstraction, velocity and angles."
The show, which will intersect sports and art, is perfect for the new soccer team, according to Guy-Jo Gordon, community relations director for Indy Eleven. Plans for the team, which has already sold 7,000 season tickets, are to connect to Indianapolis' diverse segments, including arts enthusiasts.
"It's a fan-driven sport so we wanted to empower the community and reach out," said Gordon.
He said team members won't be able to attend the First Friday opening, because they will be traveling. But there are plans for them to see it.
Soccer, which is referred to as "the beautiful game," has a natural connection with art, in part because of Tifo banners - elaborate signs used to support a soccer team, according to Gordon.
The connection is good for the center, too, because it allows its leaders to draw in new audiences.(A soccer clinic is also slated as one of the First Friday events.)
"It allows us to cross-pollinate a lot of different audiences," said Taft.
But the concept isn't a new one.
In sports-centered Indianapolis, two years ago during Super Bowl XVLI, IDADA's contemporary TURF presentation of experimental art and design was a hit in the former Indianapolis City Hall.
But even back in ancient Greece and Rome, artwork often centered on athletics of the time, according to Ragsdale.
"It's gone back a long time," he said. "It's not something everybody does, but it definitely has a long, long tradition."