Visit Indy had been brewing up the idea of having some kind of interactive sculpture to welcome guests as they walked the Cultural Trail for some time — since November of last year to be exact. What was intended to be a fun piece of public art to boost up social media posts and tourism dollars, turned into a statement of Indianapolis’ acceptance for all.
When the NCAA Final Four began to draw near, Visit Indy wanted to capitalize on the 100,000 people that the college basketball holy week would bring.
“We wanted them to be placed along the Cultural Trail, with picture perfect postcard backdrops — and then invite Indy residents to stand and be the "I" in Indy and post why they #LoveIndy,” says Chris Gahl, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for Visit Indy.
They took the idea to local artist, fabricator and Herron professor Brian McCutcheon and his company iFab in December of 2014. You might recognize their work from the side of Eskanazi Health or the yellow bus benches that use seats that have been refurbished by People for Urban Progress from the old Bush Stadium.
“Visit Indy came to us with the idea in reference to another project that happened in, I think it was in Dallas,” says McCutcheon. “I tweaked the design a bit so that it reflected their logo.”
The project in Dallas was called “Big” where visitors were the “I” amongst the big block letters.
“I proposed that instead of using block letters — which I thought was problematic in a number of ways because of how it read visually,” says McCutcheon. Why not utilize the logo and really brand it.”
The three sculptures took eight to 12 weeks to complete the hallow aluminum on steel plate forms. It is estimated that every week since then there have been around 200 posts to social media with visitors and proud Indy residents standing in the letters.
“It’s nice to see a project be so incredibly successful,” says McCutcheon.
Their goal has been reached flawlessly.
“A recent piece of research shows that 62% of the 26 million people who visit Indy each year come to see family and friends,” says Gahl. “To that end, we wanted to engage residents to ask them to be humbly boastful about the city and invite family and friends to visit. We wanted Indy residents to be stronger Indy ambassadors.”
The stats defiantly back up the positivity of visitor dollars in Indy. With roughly 26 million annual visitors (meaning $4.4 billion in dinners, hotels and entertainment) it isn’t hard to see how tourism can fill 75,000 full-time employment positions around town. The local government tax total along reaches $238 million. It is no small industry and is something that Visit Indy tries desperately to protect.
The need for a point of pride in Indy only became stronger as Indiana legislators broke open the lack of protection for LGBT Hoosiers with the controversial Religious Freedom bill. On the heels of RFRA, the Visit Indy campaign boomed and became a way for residents to show why they loved their city and that they were not willing to be tied to the discrimination label that was being slapped on by the rest of the country.
“The sculptures gave Indy residents a physical and social platform to gravitate towards, showcasing why they love the city and why Indy welcomes all,” says Gahl.
Since April, there have been more than 40,000 posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the NDY sculptures and #LoveIndy.
The sculptures will be moved inside to Banker's Life Fieldhouse and the airport as the weather turns.
2nd: Irvington Electrical Boxes