Arts » Visual Arts

Architectural and Artistic Innovation (but no Black Velvet Elvis Paintings)

The Cummins Distribution Business Headquarters Opens Downtown


New Cummins office tower at 301 E. Market Street
  • New Cummins office tower at 301 E. Market Street

It may be difficult to imagine — walking into the spacious lobby of the new Cummins distribution headquarters — that Elvis gave his last concert on this very ground, as Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett noted in his remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday morning.

But the nine-story Cummins building at 301 E. Market St., built on the site of the former Market Square Arena, is very much a product of the 21st century, with its emphasis on worksite collaboration and environmental sustainability, and with its diverse array of public art.

Joe Hogsett at the podium during opening of Cummins building under sculpture by Kendall Buster
  • Joe Hogsett at the podium during opening of Cummins building under sculpture by Kendall Buster

The building was designed by the New York based Deborah Berke partners, a firm with a roster of completed projects in and around Columbus, Indiana. This small Indiana city houses Cummins’ world headquarters, and is renowned for its architectural innovation. In no small part this innovation is due to the Cummins Foundation Architecture Program which helped fund many of the public buildings in Columbus.

Ribbon cutting at Cummins distribution headquarters (Governor Eric Holcomb in glasses)
  • Ribbon cutting at Cummins distribution headquarters (Governor Eric Holcomb in glasses)

In addition to the new distribution center’s architectural flourishes — you practically have to walk into a toilet stall in this structure to not be near a window — the building also is also home to three works of  art commissioned by Cummins specifically for the new building.

The commissioned  works includes a ceiling hanging sculpture in the lobby entitled “Torque Moment, Torque Momentum” by Kendall Buster, which evokes moving gears with circular aluminum frames, and a series of abstract paintings found throughout the building by Philadelphia-based Odili Donald Odita, entitled “The Wisdom of Trees.” This work was inspired by the artist’s visit to the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana.   There is also a wall painting by Indiana artists Emily Kennerk and Jennifer Riley entitled "Big Bright Steel," visible from the exterior of the building.

The public art, along with 60 smaller works displayed throughout the building, was chosen by Mindy Taylor Ross, owner of Indy-based Art Strategies LLC. Anyone halfway familiar with the Indianapolis art scene will recognize some of the names of the artists represented here.

Among the smaller works is a wall-hanging work composed of fabric, but resembling an abstract painting, by Indy-based Marco Querin entitled “Generation of Power.” And then there’s another wall hanging sculptural work, composed of different colored nylon string entitled “Sweet Stripe” by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell, described by the artists as “a meditation on color and the pleasure of seeing.” Such work hangs on the second floor alongside screenprints by Buckminster Fuller, depicting car and house designs, and a lithograph by Robert Indiana entitled “ART (Colby).”

Sweet Stripe by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell
  • Sweet Stripe by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

“We’re very mindful of having people who work on the national and international stage but also having folks who have real Hoosier connections,” says Mindy Taylor Ross.

Thus the commissioned art includes "Big Bright Steel," by the two Indiana-based artists, Emily Kennerk and Jennifer Riley.  “Big Bright Steel,” is visible from the exterior at street level, along the north side of the building, near the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

“Emily Kennerk is from central Indiana and Jennifer spends her time between Columbus and New York, so that was important to us,” says Ross.

The work employs brightly painted, repurposed steel scrap from Noblitt Fabricators of Columbus a Cummins manufacturing partner. The work includes both painterly and sculptural elements, vaguely resembling a LEGOLAND cityscape with its bright colors.

According to the online Cummins newsletter The Block , the work “abstractly references Cummins global network and its commitment to sustainability, the environment and its partners in manufacturing and distribution.”

“So it has a real physical relationship to the company as well,” says Ross. “And it also speaks to one of our key themes in the building which is sustainability.”


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