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The City of Bloomington and Duke Energy collaborate on a community mural



Bloomington, Indiana – In collaboration with Duke Energy, the City of Bloomington will paint a mural on the wall of the substation located at the intersection of W. 11th Street and N. Rogers Street. The mural will be painted in the spring of 2024 after the draft concept was completed in late September.

Holly Warren, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts and interim director of the Economic and Sustainable Development Commission, said that after graffiti began to appear on the walls surrounding the substation, Duke Energy got in touch with the city to inquire about the possibility of initiating this kind of project.

Warren claimed that to officially launch the collaboration, she had lunch with a few representatives of the Duke Energy Foundation and met with Liz Irwin, the government and community relations manager at Duke Energy. A charitable organization called the Duke Energy Foundation works to improve the areas where Duke Energy consumers reside 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.”

On November 30, a check from the Duke Energy Foundation was given to the city in a formal ceremony. During the ceremony, comments were made by Kim Vogelgesang, the foundation manager of Duke Energy, and Mayor John Hamilton. According to a press statement from the City of Bloomington, the $25,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation will be used for the project’s supplies, materials, and continuing maintenance expenses.

Warren stated that she wanted to make sure the community was involved in selecting the artwork for the walls as soon as financing for the project was secured. According to her, the city hosted community workshops to find out what the people of Bloomington wanted to see from the project. Responses included representations of the city’s diversity, the feral cat community, historic homes in Bloomington neighborhoods, and the natural world. To satisfy every request, the mural’s outline features paintings of insects, plants, cats, old residences, and diversity. The city news release has an image of the mural’s draft design.

“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.”

Local artists Eva Allen, Su A Chae, Eric Agyemang-Dua Jr., and Caitlyn Clark created the mural concept. Local participants in the selection process included members of the Bloomington Arts Commission, artists, arts administrators, and citizens of the surrounding communities of Maple Heights and Crestmont.

The 12 panels that comprise the substation’s walls are 8 feet by 16 feet. There are four artists, thus three panels will be assigned to each. For members of the community to come in and complete their portion of the mural, the painters will prepare the walls and sketch out the composition. The free community painting day is scheduled for the spring of 2024.

“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 reported that a large number of Duke Energy employees participated in the proposal discussion. She claimed that although the decision was made at a higher level, the discourse had begun at a local 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.

According to Irwin, the City of Bloomington has been an excellent collaborator during the entire undertaking.

“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.