Will Watson Mural Forms a Bridge to the Past
By: Megan Geurts
Located on a garage door behind the theater, this large mural is a bright and colorful representation of the musical atmosphere of the theater. Painted in 2010, during the theater’s first Community Clean-up Day, it depicts three African Americans creating music in three different ways: playing an instrument, singing, and using turntables. The figures are representative of the African community that currently use the theater for programs, performances, and events. Additionally, the theme of this community is further illustrated with the depiction of the continent of Africa in the woman’s earring.
Will Watson is a fellow IUPUI student and was paid for his work through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from IUPUI. Watson explains that he wants viewers to feel connected with his work. “I want my viewers to laugh, sing, dance, protest, celebrate, empathize, groove and vibe to the rhythms expressed in my work,” writes the artist on his facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Will-Watson-The-Artist/101919506569685).
This colorful and upbeat artwork promotes not only a positive attitude but also illustrates the musical influence of the Madame Walker Theater in the African American Community for the past 85 years.
What drew me into this artwork were the use of bright colors and the overall theme of musical culture. Mixed with an overall graffiti tone, the surrealism of the mural creates a bright, bold, and fresh artwork. Placed next to the 88 year old Madame Walker Theater, the mural creates juxtaposition between the historic architecture of the building with the current music performances at the theater. Additionally, I liked that the artist made subtle, but strong references to the African American community with the image of country of Africa in the earring. This gives reference to the strong local ties that the Walker Theater has with the African American community and its history.
The Walker theater has been a part of the African American community in Indianapolis since 1927 when it opened. The theater brought in a drug store, beauty salon, beauty school, restaurant, professional offices, a ballroom and a theater that could seat 1,500 people. For over 85 year the Walker theater has put on musical performances, shows, events, and programming for the Indianapolis community. The mural takes this long-standing musical heritage and richness of the theater and brings it to life through movement, color, and theme.
The mural is visible from Indiana Ave both on the street and the sidewalk so that drivers and pedestrians alike can see the artwork. Something else that I enjoy about the mural is the bright light it sheds on the location. The garage door is located in a paved alley behind the theater which is not the most aesthetically pleasing sight. However, when you add the vibrant colors, flowing movement, and positive overtone of the painting it brings a sense of life and vibrancy to the alleyway. It is community projects like these that I hope to see more around Indianapolis.
Mali Jeffers, Director of Marketing and Programs, explained that “the garage was an eyesore for a long time. We knew we wanted something on the face of the garage - using art to change how you feel when you walked by the space”. From there she contacted the Herron School of Art on the IUPUI campus and was put in touch with Will Watson. Although the mural was completed over two years ago, there are hopes and thoughts that Mr. Watson will return and complete the entire garage.
In addition to the theme, colors, movement, vibrancy, and styling of the painting, what I really enjoy is the reference to the theater as a current place of interaction. Although referencing the past, this mural is focused on the present-day actions of the Walker Theater. In a way the mural is like a message telling the community that it is still active and still much a part of the local community. I look forward to seeing what else the Madam Walker Theater has in store for both additions to the mural as well as the building itself.
|kids||the kids there are really good at what they do and i had went there one day and i saw that they were really good and that i would like to be in there one day it would be my dream to be in there. my name is lanijah and i am 11 years old|
|Clete Ladd||Wills art is uplifting, accurate, and captures the talent and heritage of the "Avenue" my uncles and aunts are so nostalgic for. Are there post cards of this piece for sale?|
|Jamarcus Smith||The work and artist is great.|