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Study looks at inclusivity, equity in Marion County's public art

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Posted at 8:58 AM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 10:21:29-04

MARION COUNTY — In a first of its kind study, researchers have completed a public art equity census in Marion County.

Researchers say Marion County has the nation's largest public art inventory with 3,090 public art works and the census was designed to analyze how Marion County can create equitable public spaces for everyone.

Rokh Research & Design Studio partnered with the Arts Council of Indianapolis and other groups for the nine month project, which looked at all of the visible artwork from the public right of way within the county.

"Through this, we were able to identify gaps in equity, public arts deserts and much, much more," Danicia Malone, principal urban planner and researcher for Rokh, said. "Our hope is that this report will be a tool of individual and collective action towards creating a public arts landscape that welcomes and acknowledges everyone."

MORE: Read the Public Art for All report

The report found that Black, Latino/a/e, Asian and Indigenous residents as a global majority account for 47.2% of the Marion County population but as creatives, collectively, they only account for 26.5% of the attributed works found.

Only 537, or 17% of the works, were marked with an artist signature, something researchers said hampered their ability to further study equity, inclusion, and representation.

"The Arts Council is committed to acting on the findings and recommendations that are detailed in the report, and this is part of our mission to support full creative life for all in our city," Julia Muney Moore, Indy Arts Council's Director of Public Art, said.

Moore says the Council plans to improve artist information and recognition at the locations of public art, addressing public art deserts and more.

Overall, the study suggests two distinct recommendations:

  1. Enact policies that seek to hire local creators who are caretakers within these areas. 
  2. Develop guidelines that support the incorporation of a public art system that acknowledges the history and heritage of a neighborhood.

"Public art has always made Indianapolis special because of the artistic elements of our landscape. [They] have the power to create culture and space," Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas said. "The pandemic served as an undeniable proof that no matter what, this city needs artwork that reflects the vast arrays of experiences and cultures in our community."

Rokh says future phases of Marion County's efforts to build an equity audit include public art tours, a campaign to credit artists, community conversations about the findings and more actions to increase equity and spatial justice for public art.