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Herron public art project offers colorful look through neighborhood windows

Looking through Windows Installation
Looking through Windows Installation Michael Kuschnir
Michael Kuschnir

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June 5, 2012

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Windows on the Trail

Herron School of Art and Design graduate and sculptor Michael Kuschnir often finds his muse in the world of architecture.

His latest work, “Looking Through Windows,” is a 12-foot-tall, gravity-defying stack of 53 black steel windows with colorful acrylic panes. It is on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail near the place where the trail turns south and runs through the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, which is home to Herron.

“A lot of my artwork actually goes in the direction of architecture,” Kuschnir said. “What I tend to do is actually take an architectural element, and I distort it, change it, multiply it and kind of make it into something that turns into a gestural form by (incorporating) so many of them.”

Installed in late April, “Looking Through Windows” stands at the corner of St. Clair Street and Indiana Avenue -- the famed street once revered as the “Broadway” of black Indianapolis.

Each of the sculpture’s 53 windows takes on a different shape. Some are replicas of present-day windows at neighborhood landmarks such as the Madame Walker Theatre and the Indianapolis Urban League headquarters, while others are reminiscent of past homes in the historic Ransom Place neighborhood.

Kuschnir walked the neighborhood, took pictures of windows, and talked to residents and community leaders as he gathered inspiration and direction for the public art that will remain at its Cultural Trail location for the next two years.

“I like how it connects to the neighborhood,” said Greg Hull, associate professor of sculpture at Herron. “Indiana Avenue has a really rich history. Michael selected windows from homes and structures in the neighborhood and embedded them ... so (the sculpture) references the space it came from and references the history of the space.”

The Herron sculpture department has been doing public art projects in Indianapolis for 10 to 12 years. Students complete about three or four large public art projects a year that involve student designers as well as those who help with fabrication, research and other tasks, Hull said.

“A lot of schools will do theoretical projects where (students) have a site, come up with a proposal and build a model and maybe present it, but that’s usually as far as it goes,” Hull said.
However, Herron students, working with community partners who seek their help, “experience working at full scale, solving real-world problems. ... It’s a fantastic learning experience,” Hull said.

Kuschnir, who earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Herron just days after the “Windows” installation, said it was specifically Herron’s reputation for public art projects that attracted him to the art school.

“I felt I could make the most difference making public art, giving back to the community,” the Cleveland, Ohio, native said.

Kuschnir recognized his life’s calling at an early age, according to his mother, Pamela Kuschnir.

“In second grade, he wrote ‘I want to be an artist,’” she said as she watched her son and others preparing to move “Windows” from its birthplace in the Herron Sculpture and Ceramics Building to its Cultural Trail home.

“I have that paper still ...” Pamela Kuschnir said.