The first public mural in a series honoring Indianapolis’ 200th birthday will feature internationally known championship cyclist, racial justice advocate and Indianapolis native, Major Taylor. The mural is being completed in partnership with the Major Taylor Coalition, a local group devoted to honoring his achievements.
Arts Council of Indianapolis Director of Public Art, Julia Muney Moore spoke with WFYI’s Terri Dee about the Bicentennial Legends series and the significance of the mural honoring Taylor's achievements as the first African-American professional cyclist while fighting for racial equity.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Indiana has many historic figures with fascinating stories of their life and their legacy. Why was Major Taylor chosen for the mural?
Arts Council of Indianapolis Director of Public Art Julia Muney Moore: The legends murals project is about recognizing people whose story may or may not have been told whether we knew it at the time. We know it now that these people have had a lot of influence on our culture and the culture of the world going forward, and we would like to celebrate their connection to Indianapolis and Indiana.
So Major Taylor is one of those figures. He was an internationally famous sports star in bicycle racing. He was active at the end of the 19th in the early part of the 20th century and he was from here, and it's about time that we recognize who he was, what he did, how he broke a lot of barriers -- both in his sport and culturally -- and claim him as one of ours.
Dee: Fifty-four artists applied for the Major Taylor mural commission, describe the talent and artistry of Shawn Michael Warren that spoke to the commission and determined “he's the one.”
Muney Moore: Oh, that is a great question. When we looked at Shawn’s work, we were looking at - at first, all the applicants were very, very good at portraiture -- but Shawn’s approach to portraiture had something special to it. It was very personal. It was getting behind just what the person looked like, and trying to get an idea of their character across.
He had this very, very interesting style where he was able to do that, just using black and white and shades of gray is really, difficult to do. He's an extremely skilled painter. He had done a lot of work with people whose faces you know, Oprah Winfrey, and he had done Martin Luther King, and he had done Maya Angelou, and you know, what you think of these people, and what you think they look like. But his portraits made you feel that you really knew them, and that was something that the committee really wanted. They wanted people to feel as if they knew Major Taylor on that personal level and Shawn was absolutely the artist who could do that.
Dee: Sounds like a great choice was made. Julia, what is the completion date for the mural? Where will it be, and will Mr. Warren be in attendance of the unveiling?
Muney Moore: The mural is being hand painted by Mr. Warren and it should be done weather permitting, by the end of June. The dedication is not going to happen until September, and he will be there.
This is a project that people will be able to see unfolding. It's on a wall that is between Penn and Meridian on Washington Street, it faces east. We really want this to be seen as large-scale fine art, as if you're looking at a studio portrait and something that really conveys that same idea of quality of the artists taking their time. We want people to be able to understand [Taylor] as a person and as an athlete and as a racial justice advocate.
Dee: Thank you so much for your time today, Julia, and sharing this information with us.
Muney Moore: Well, thank you for having me.