INDIANAPOLIS — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. At WRTV, we celebrate the diversity in our community every day, and today we’re introducing you to one man who you might not know, but whose work helped preserve big pieces of Indiana history.
Inside the Gurdwara Sikh Satsang, one of the oldest Sikh temples in Indianapolis, you’ll see vibrant colors, hear soulful music and meet many people, including Kanwal Prakash Singh, or as friends call him, K.P.
He identifies himself as, “an architectural artist, writer, scholar and a public servant and public speaker.”
K.P. came to Indy in 1967, and at that time he was introduced to the community with a question mark.
“So, it was a challenge at that time, in terms of the afternoon paper carrying a blurb. Did you see a turban and beard and man?”
He came here from India, to work for the city as an architect and city planner.
“It was a tough deal early on because they said we are a melting pot. And we want to ... we need the old building; we need a parking lot right next to this historic building,” said Singh.
So, he put his pen to paper and created drawings that inspired people to preserve places that are a big part of Hoosier history.
“But those historic churches, those historic homes, those historic buildings, they are like the jewels in a city. And a city needs those,” said Singh.
In one ten-year span alone, he completed 500 drawings. His writings, along with the drawings, sealed the deal. Singh said, “But the words that we put in, including those incorporating those drawings are also worth 1000 images.”
Exactly 90% of his work was commissioned. He helped keep sites from being demolished, like Union Station, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and President Lincoln’s log cabin.
Now you’ll see his work across the state and the world. His life is a living testimony of the “American promise” that's paving the way for others, including Chirjeev Kaur Oberoi, who also immigrated from India.
“Members of the Sikh community like KP and Melinda Ricci and so many others, who had laid the foundation for us,” said Oberoi, who's also part of the Sikh community.
Oberoi said, “We are sometimes call very loud. But we, when we celebrate. We celebrate the max.” She said a lot of people from the Sikh and A.A.P.I community choose to come to Indiana.
The increased diversity has created a greater understanding and openness, for everyone.
“And we are proud of it. We feel blessed to learn about different cultures and being a part of it myself,” said Oberoi.
That message of unity is one that Singh helped establish.
His work and words led to a big recognition from Butler University’s president, in 2017, when KP got a personal call from James Danko.
Singh quotes Danko as telling him, “One more thing that the Board of Governors have decided to confer upon you an Honorary Doctorate, of Humane Letters, and do you accept that!”
Singh enthusiastically accepted the award.
“It was a personal rejoicing for me to say all the work that I have had the honor and the pleasure to do all these 50 years, is being seen as something special. And adding something special to our state to our communities, and to the city of Indianapolis, and perhaps beyond,” said Singh.
Decades of service to the Hoosier state leaving a lasting impression in history and changing the headline form a question mark… to an exclamation point of inclusion in Hoosier hearts.
Singh said, “And I was very proud, not for myself, but how far the community itself has opened its windows to the winds of culture and embraced other people as their own.”
If you'd like to see K.P. Singh’s work in person, he'll be at a few local events. Those include the Talbot Street Art Fair, on June 19th and the Penrod Arts Fair, on September 11. In addition to that, he has a second book coming out soon.
For more information click here.