September 20th, 2013

Art Squared

by Emily Vanest

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September 21 is my favorite day of the arts calendar year — Fountain Square’s “Art Squared,” with three free arts events happening throughout the day.  First, Masterpiece in a Day is Fountain Square’s one-day creating and writing competition.  Anyone can participate in the cash prize competition . . . just bring your paints and canvas, found items, or camera down to the fountain and start working.  Every year, our family enjoys walking the area all around the fountain, finding easels set up alongside styrofoam sculpture, coming back throughout the day to see the work progress, and picking our favorites for the big money.  Alongside the competition, the Fountain Square Art Fair happens in the center of Fountain Square, showcasing local Indiana artisans selling their wares. I always find a great new bag, headband, or piece of jewelry from one of the vendors there.

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But our family’s favorite event by far is the Fountain Square Art Parade (at 5:00 Saturday evening), open to any family-friendly entry that can move along the entire parade route.  Big on charm, the parade has featured local school kids in homemade masks, families on bikes, neighborhood politicians throwing candy, and neighbors pushing reel mowers.  Every year is a surprise.  This year (spoiler alert), my family and I will be on our neighborhood Bates-Hendricks float, singing and passing out iris purple necklaces.  Our float has flowers from our neighbors’ gardens, one of our beautiful neighborhood signs, and the New Jersey Street esplanade piano, the wonderful creation of my friend and neighbor, Greg Allen.

I have always looked forward to calls from Greg, which often begin with something along the lines of “I just had a fabulous idea!  What do you think of . . . ?”  And it’s always great.  Always.  A couple years ago Greg’s idea was to put a donated piano under the gazebo on the S. New Jersey street esplanade.  Outdoor pianos made an appearance all over town this summer, but the original one was across the street from the Bates-Hendricks house, in our neighborhood.  Greg wanted something fun — a place for neighbors to gather and “play everything from Chopin to Chopsticks.”  He unveiled the freshly-painted, lipstick red piano during his annual Cinco de Mayo party.  The piano spent the winter indoors, but has come out every summer since with a fresh new coat of paint, to spend the season out in the neighborhood.

People come from all over the city to play.  One evening, a young couple was sitting on the bench, a Butler University boy serenading his girl.  The young man told Greg that the piano had a reputation around Butler as “the most romantic spot in the city.”  Neighbors on that block spend summer evenings on their porches for the impromptu concerts.  We like to bike over on our kids’ birthdays to play and sing “Happy Birthday” to them there.  So much joy brought to so many from one neighbor deciding to share his abundance with his neighbors . . . to create something lovely, not just in his own house for himself, but outside for the community.

Greg called me this week with his latest idea . . . it’s good, of course.  And it’s coming soon.  But I won’t spoil the surprise here.  Let’s all keep dreaming and saying  “What if we . . . ?”  In the meantime, come out to Fountain Square tomorrow to “Make Art.  Buy Art.  Be Art.”  We’ll see you there.