Photo Credit: Gerry “Omen” Guevarra
Gary Public Murals and Statues
The Gary Public Mural and Statues program activates public spaces through community-selected art in Gary, Indiana. The effort was organized by the Legacy Foundation, Lake County’s Community Foundation, and implemented by community residents and local partners.
At its peak, Gary had a population of more than 200,000 people but over the years its population has declined to 80,000 people. Steel mills and oil refineries along the lakefront were once large employers but as the industry declined, so have job opportunities. As has happened with other rust belt communities, when those employers left, Gary would have to reimagine its economy.
The Gary Public Mural and Statues program was part of that reimagining, and the program’s first initiative was a bus shelter arts project with the Gary Public Transportation agency. The agency was in the midst of providing maintenance to the city’s bus shelters and agreed to include new murals as part of the project. A committee comprised of community leaders led the solicitation for local artists and the artist selection process. Ultimately, they selected pieces by eight artists that are now displayed on bus shelters throughout Gary.
The success of the bus shelter installations led to the Gary Public Art Competition, which invited artists to submit concepts through a competitive application process for a wider variety of art to be stalled throughout the city. “Art, especially in public places, can be a key tool in the community development process,” said Kelly Anoe, Vice President of the Legacy Foundation, when announcing the Gary Public Art Competition. “The impact of bringing people together can bolster social inclusion and strengthen residents’ connections to the place where they live.” The City of Gary served as a partner for the competition and offered a listing of properties where art could be displayed. The competition invited Gary residents to vote for their favorite proposals. Ultimately funding was provided to eight artists to design, create, and install their projects across downtown Gary.
Gary’s public art programs are one example of how cities can use art and design to create visually rich public spaces. A philanthropic partner made the projects possible, and serves as an example of how a foundation can grant directly to artists while also supporting local economic development.
Property Type: Open Space
Project Type/ New Use: Art – Large-scale (e.g. Sculpture; mural)
Project Purpose: Beautification; Community engagement
Initial Cost: Unknown
Funding Source: Philanthropic
Organization Type: Philanthropy
Implementation Partners: Public agencies; Local government; Artist(s)
Community Type: Urban
Project Website: Gary Public Art >
Social: Legacy Foundation >
Press: Art becomes functional along Gary bus route >; Competition seeks artists to create public art in Gary >
Contributions by: Daniel Egusquiza
Last updated: October 2021 – Do you have additional information about this project? Please use the share your placemaking project form > to share that information.