A mural designed by two Herron School of Art and Design buddies, alumnus Chad Hankins (B.F.A. in Sculpture, 2013) and Andrey Sichuga, a senior majoring in painting, sprang to life when Eli Lilly and Company Global Day of Service volunteers painted it on October 2.
Eli Lilly and Company’s Global Day of Service benefits people around the globe wherever the pharmaceutical manufacturer has facilities. Indianapolis was no exception in this, the seventh year of the massive effort. More than 8,400 local Lilly employees fanned out across Indianapolis this year to complete hundreds of tasks—from pulling weeds to conducting fitness assessments in more than 150 individual projects.
One group of about 30 people busied itself with painting more than 2,600 square feet of underpass and columns at Harding Street and I-70 where a giant mural depicts a fantastic scene of flora and fauna.
The design was the brainchild of two Herron School of Art and Design buddies who estimate that they spent about three months all told developing the design and preparing it so the volunteers could accomplish their goal. The two were on site to direct the painting.
Their design collaboration happened by accident when they ran into each other in August at a creative placemaking event put on by Reconnecting Our Waterways and hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum. They heard about the project there.
The duo submitted separate designs to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, a local Day of Service project manager. Ultimately Sichuga’s design prevailed. “He’s loose, I’m tight, he’s natural, I’m industrial,” said Hankins. “My design was somewhat political, his went for beauty.” Hankins and Sichuga decided to partner early on because of the sheer size of the area they had to cover.
Hankins tried to research iconic images from the west side—such as a long-gone rocket slide that was a favorite piece of playground equipment for generations in Rhodius Park, but he found it difficult to get ideas from the community about what they’d like to see. He said he felt that as good as the Harding Street mural is, the project would have been even stronger with more input from the people who actually live in the neighborhood.
“At first I thought it would be really easy—most murals are three or four colors,” Hankins said. “But our design needed 51 colors. Sherwin Williams donated the paint. It was like being a kid in a candy store when we walked in there. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful wrote the checks.”
“A project like this is not a walk in the park,” Hankins continued, noting that it had its share of challenges, including a giant pile of mulch that he and some friends had to move in order to transfer the paint-by-number design onto an underpass surface. He also had to borrow a generator to power a projector and trace the outlines in waning daylight, which made the cars whizzing by more of a concern.
“It’s the kind of job you take to build a portfolio,” he continued. “Design and scale-wise, we’ve had quite a learning experience.” In the end, watching the volunteers bring the perspective-driven design to life “was worth it.”
Sichuga said the experience of watching the volunteers was akin to watching “a garden blossom.” As an artist, he’s spent considerable time thinking about how to act upon society’s problems and make a “positive influence” through his work. “This project,” he said, “provided a glimpse of one way to go about it.”