When I describe to people where Phase I of Turn to the River will take place, I am often met with puzzled expressions. We learned, from past research for this project, that our central government plaza is a place that people go to only because they have to – the site is most often associated with negative experiences.
All of that is about to change. The starting point for Turn to the River is so important to our city and county. The location is 17 Harding Avenue. Bordering the plaza on the east side is Vigo County Courthouse, a stunning building that is a registered historic landmark and a pride of our community; and on the west side is Terre Haute City Hall a notable work of WPA architecture that is also eligible for landmark status.
Our central government plaza should be our “central heart place,” to echo the words of the Tewa people of the Southwest U.S., for whom plazas like this are respected and cherished gathering places, the center of their origins and important rituals. Besides that, there are approximately 200 city and county employees in those adjacent buildings. People that work on behalf of all of us deserve a wonderful work environment.
Phase I Location of Turn to the River
Terre Haute is here because of the Wabash River, and the new work of art to be installed will celebrate our city’s proximity to the river. Whether you were, or are, a member of the Wea Nation, the Miami, Potawatomi, or any of the Indigenous peoples that inhabited or inhabit this land; whether you were, or are, a member of the Lost Creek Settlement formed by a remarkable group of free African American farmers from Virginia and North Carolina in the early 1800’s, contributing steadily since that time to our growth, commerce and culture; whether you were or are descended from the many European explorers or settlers from so many different countries; whether you or your ancestors arrived from Syria, India, Mexico, Egypt, China, the Philippines or Lebanon; whether you were born here or moved here just this year, we are all together in a city that owes a debt of gratitude to the Wabash River.
Art Installation Concept Rendering
Well-designed public places make cities vibrant and attractive, they add meaning, inspiration and fun to people’s lives. They encourage interaction and communication, all so important to public health. And they create incentives for businesses seeking new locations, to know that their families and employees will have great places to interact.
We have conceived and designed Turn to the River based on the premise that residents of a city or town can help design the places they will use and share. We have accomplished this in a number of ways including charrettes (active, hands-on design workshops); focus groups; surveys, one-on-one interviews; open houses; and public on-site picnics. Through Turn to the River we have had a lot of fun bringing amazing professional artists and designers to lead us all in envisioning and reactivating our public places.
To learn more about Turn to the River and the generous supporters that have come alongside us in this effort, visit https://wabashvalleyartspaces.com. Or call us at 812-235-2801.
Mary Kramer is the Executive Director of Art Spaces, Inc. which was formed in 2005 as a partner in economic revitalization for Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley. Art Spaces is a non-profit organization that has placed 20 works of public art throughout the city, increasing access to the arts for residents of Terre Haute and the surrounding rural communities as well as people that work in or visit our city. Mary works with an all-volunteer Board of Directors to create and sustain partnerships with non-arts entities to cross barriers traditionally presented for the arts, to inform, educate, and advocate for arts potential in city vision, planning, design, and community engagement.
Turn to the River is a multi-year project to reconnect Terre Haute’s downtown with the Wabash River through public art and design. The project has a committee that includes many community members that have been involved with and devoted to this project for many years.