Art above you below

BRITTANY GARRET | Staff Reporter ChaseTowerIndianapolis

Looking for some great artwork around Indianapolis this year? It’s all around the city. One only has to look up.

The Arts Council of Indianapolis is hosting a citywide public art initiative called “High Art,”occurring throughout the year.

Ten artists were selected to have their work enlarged and printed on billboards around Marion County. These works will be on rotation throughout the year, so each work will be on display at each billboard site.

One featured artist is Butler University associate professor Gautam Rao.

Rao became involved in this project through an open call submission process.

Judges chose 20 pieces they liked best from the pool of works submitted by local artists. From there, the council asked the public to vote online for which works it wanted.

“There is a wide range of artwork among the 10 pieces that were chosen for the final,” Rao said. “They are all very different and express (the creators’) different approaches as artists.”

Rao’s piece, “Color Sentences,” was part of his recent “Unblocked” exhibition at Studio 924.

He said he was enthused to see his work in such a different setting this time around.

“The High Art initiative is just really amazing,” Rao said. “The Arts Council has been doing a really good job. They always have high standards, and I think the final works just go really well in the city.”

Sophomore Rebekah Pollard, a past student of Rao’s and an online voter for “High Art,” said she was thrilled to put support behind Rao.


“I voted for Rao because (his work) was one of my favorite ones, and he’s my professor, so it just worked out,” Pollard said. “I chose the ones that would look best on a billboard without looking stretched out or funny, just things that would look really good if they were big and cool in the sky.”

Pollard said she was also a fan of High Art’s concept of exposing the city to more public art.

“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing it because, aside from the arts community that goes to all the shows, there are people that are outside that bubble,” Pollard said. “It’s made it easy for them to see what local artists are working on, and everyone gets to be part of that culture.”

In regard to his own work, Rao said the feedback is what he finds most exciting. People have approached him publicly and posted pictures of his billboard on social media.

“It’s all really neat, but sometimes when I see photographs, I worry a little bit,” Rao said. “I just imagine them taking pictures while driving on the highway at 70 miles an hour. It’s exciting but dangerous.”


He recounted going on an adventure with his wife to drive around for the perfect view of his art.

Although Rao said the billboard’s location—in the center of downtown Indianapolis—gets prime attention from everyday viewers, the location also has a personal connection to him.

“When I first moved to Indy, I lived in the apartments just a few blocks away from the site,” Rao said. “It is a special place with a lot of memories.”

This public exhibit is not Rao’s only recent achievement. His work was also recently accepted into a Chicago-based font design showcase, Typeforce.

Closer to home, Rao’s work can be seen off I-465, north of 38th Street, through the end of the month.