The City of Bloomington is partnering with Duke Energy to paint a mural on the wall of the Duke Energy Substation at W. 11th Street and N. Rogers Street. The draft design was finalized in late September, and the mural will be painted in spring 2024.
Holly Warren, assistant director for the arts and interim director of the Economic and Sustainable Development Commission in Bloomington, said the walls around the substation started to get tagged with graffiti, so Duke Energy reached out and asked if the city would consider starting this type of project.
Warren said she met with Liz Irwin, government and community relations manager at Duke Energy, and had lunch with some representatives of the Duke Energy Foundation to kick off the partnership. The Duke Energy Foundation is a philanthropic organization that supports communities where Duke Energy customers live and work.
“I gave them an overview about how public art works in Bloomington and they were blown away,” Warren said. “It made me really happy to see their reaction to our catalog of public art, and I guess they liked it so much they wrote me back a few days later saying they were going to give us $25,000 to kick this project off.”
The Duke Energy Foundation presented the city with a check during a ceremony Nov. 30. Mayor John Hamilton, Warren and Kim Vogelgesang, foundation manager at Duke Energy, each made statements during the ceremony. The $25,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation will go toward the project’s materials, supplies and ongoing maintenance costs, according to a City of Bloomington news release.
Warren said once there was funding for the project, she wanted to ensure the community was involved in choosing what would be on the walls. She said the city held community workshops to hear what Bloomington community members wanted to see from the project and the answers ranged from depictions of nature, historic homes in Bloomington neighborhoods, the feral cat community and a reflection of the diversity on Bloomington. The outline for the mural includes paintings of insects, plants, cats, historic homes and diversity to meet all of the requests. A preliminary design of the mural is available on the city news release.
“We just wanted a team of artists to take those themes and come up with a really cool idea,” Warren said. “We knew because of the size of those walls that one artist could not do it by themselves.”
The mural concept was designed by local artists Eric Agyemang-Dua Jr., Eva Allen, Su A Chae and Caitlyn Clark. These artists were chosen by local stakeholders including artists, arts administrators, residents of nearby neighborhoods Maple Heights and Crestmont and members of the Bloomington Arts Commission.
There are 12 panels that are 8 feet by 16 feet that make up the walls of the substation. Since there are four artists, each is going to take three panels. The artists will prime the walls and create an outline of the piece so community members can come and fill in their own section of the mural. The community painting day will be in spring 2024 and free for everyone.
“I’m thrilled to see this design by four local artists that reflects the spirit and the vision of the local community,” Hamilton said in the news release. “The mural will be a meaningful and dynamic addition to the neighborhood and to all who pass by.”
Irwin said there were a lot of people at Duke Energy involved in the conversation about the project. She said the conversation started at a local level, but the decision was made at a higher level.
“If there is a situation where graffiti happens, Duke Energy has to send people to have that painted over. And so, they are very hopeful that by having this art on the walls, it will prevent some of that graffiti and keep our guys focused on keeping the power on,” Irwin said.
Irwin said the City of Bloomington has been a wonderful partner throughout the entire process.
“I think it's a really great example of partnership with a utility, local government and surrounding communities to create a piece that will bring joy, beauty and visitors to the neighborhood for years to come,” Irwin said.