Monday, November 29, 2010

Bring Robert Indiana To Evansville, Indiana

Although I'm not a big follower of artists, one artist that has stuck out to me across the United States and elsewhere has been Robert Indiana.

Per Wikipedia...

Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana. His family relocated to Indianapolis, where he graduated from Arsenal Technical High School. He moved to New York City in 1954 and joined the pop art movement, using distinctive imagery drawing on commercial art approaches blended with existentialism, that gradually moved toward what Indiana calls "sculptural poems".

Indiana's work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like EAT, HUG, and, his best known example, LOVE.

In 2008, Indiana created an image similar to his iconic LOVE (letters stacked two to a line, the letter "o" tilted on its side), but this time showcasing the word "HOPE," and donated all proceeds from the sale of reproductions of his image to Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Raising in excess of $1,000,000. A stainless steel sculpture of HOPE was unveiled outside Denver's Pepsi Center during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The Obama campaign sold T-shirts, pins, bumper stickers, posters, pins and other items adorned with HOPE. Editions of the sculpture have been released and sold internationally and the artist himself has called HOPE "Love's close relative".

Other well-known works by Indiana including: his painting the unique basketball court formerly used by the Milwaukee Bucks in that city's U.S. Cellular Arena, with a large M shape taking up each half of the court; his sculpture in the lobby of Taipei 101, called 1-0 (2002, aluminum), uses multicoloured numbers to suggest the conduct of world trade and the patterns of human life; and the works he created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and exhibited in New York in 2004 called the Peace Paintings.

For those who haven't been to Philadelphia, Indiana's LOVE Sculpture is quite impressive as well as a powerful message. It has turned an ordinary park into a park that tourists visit frequently at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Plaza- LOVE Park. I was so impressed with the sculpture that I bought a pencil sharpener in Philadelphia that has the LOVE Sculpture on it.

Indiana has spread his design not only to Philadelphia but to other cities and countries as well. Wikipedia describes the design and idea best...

Love is a sculpture by American artist Robert Indiana. It consists of the letters LO (with the O canted sideways) over the letters VE. The image was originally designed as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964, and first exhibited as a sculpture in New York City in 1970. This original sculpture is made of COR-TEN steel and has been on exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1975. The LOVE design has been reproduced in a variety of formats. Likewise, the sculpture has been recreated in multiple versions and a variety of colors, and is now on display around the world.

While it was first made in English, versions of the sculpture exist in Hebrew, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.

The LOVE Sculpture is in many locations now...

Versions of Love in the United States

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana
Sixth Avenue in New York City
E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library, Lehigh University Asa Packer Campus
Pratt Institute campus in Brooklyn, New York
Scottsdale's Civic Center
John F. Kennedy Plaza "LOVE Park" in Philadelphia
New Orleans Museum of Art's sculpture garden
Old School Square in Delray Beach, Florida
Middlebury College campus, Vermont
University of Pennsylvania campus, Philadelphia
Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, Utah
Ursinus College campus in Collegeville, Pennsylvania
Pool area of the Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas
Wichita State University campus in Wichita, Kansas
City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana
Winslow-Holbrook Memorial Park Rockland, Maine

Versions of Love outside of the United States

Shinjuku I-LAND Tower in Nishi-Shinjuku office district in Tokyo, Japan
Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan (also displays Indiana's 1-0)
Orchard Road in Singapore
Plaza del Sagrado Corazón in Bilbao, Basque Country Spain
Outside 1445 West Georgia Street in Vancouver, Canada
Praça do Rossio in Lisbon, Portugal
CentralWorld in Bangkok, Thailand
Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, China
World Trade Center, Hong Kong, China
Chatsworth in Derbyshire, UK, as part of the Sotheby's Beyond Limits exhibition, 2008
Love Park in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, since July 2009
Old Port in Montreal, Canada
Camlica in Istanbul, Turkey

With all of these cities and countries adopting Indiana's artwork, shouldn't Evansville have something to recognize the native Hoosier? It would only seem logical. Furthermore, Evansville could use Indiana both for a LOVE Sculpture as well as a "Big E." So, where would I put Indiana's work?

For the LOVE Sculpture, there are two perfect locations for this. The first and preferred location is Haynie's Corner. What better place to put a LOVE Sculpture than the historic arts district? The second location is the Evansville Museum. Like the art distric, the Evansville Museum has several pieces of great artwork. Also, the Evansville Museum is on the riverfront which is a great place to display this sculpture.

If I had to choose, I would place the LOVE sculpture in Haynie's Coroner and then request Indiana design another sculpture for the riverfront museum. Again, if I had to choose I would say that a "Big E," would sum up Evansville best but Indiana likes building sculptures with 3-4 letters in them to get a better design. So what 3-4 letters could we do to sum up Evansville?

- EVV- with a Big E
- EVIN- with a Big E
- EVAN- with a Big E
- EVVE- with a Big E

I think any one of those 4 designs would maintain the "Big E" message as well as create a better design where we could slant the 2nd and 3rd letters to make it look creative. I believe this design would give Evansville another great sculpture/monument for tourists to visit, residents to gather around, and the museum to market.

Lastly, I wouldn't just stop there with Indiana's work. Like the historic U.S Cellular Arena used Indiana's M shape design on its court back when it was known as the MECCA ( ) and the Milwaukee Bucks played there, I would paint the Evansville Ace's new basketball court at the new Evansville Arena with a "Big E," on each side of the court.

( Old Court at the MECCA; All we have to do is flip the M to an E, change the colors, and add the court markings)

Afterall, the new arena sits on the land formely occupied by the Executive Inn which was known as "The Big E."

Overall, I think working with Robert Indiana is a win-win for both Mr. Indiana as well as Evansville. We would establish our "Big E," image, join the famous list of area's with Indiana's LOVE Sculpture, attract tourists to a downtown sculpture on the riverfront, and design a creative image for the Evansville Ace's basketball court.

We have to bring Robert Indiana to Evansville, Indiana!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Urban Planning Activist Success Story

As someone who is dedicated to being what I call an urban planning activist, I was thrilled to hear the story of Daniel Jacobson. I would like to share it with you. The part that is in bold, is the part where I believe Daniel has an advantage over me by being in Oakland instead of Evansville aside from the fact that they already understand that rails are the future, not interstate roads of the past. That part we need to work on!

A Streetcar Named Renewal
Officials warm to a student's plan for their troubled city.
By Alex Gronke

When he was a kid, Daniel Jacobson drew pictures of cities, maps of places that didn't exist outside his mind. They had boulevards and buildings; they were built on coastlines, at the mouths of rivers and in high mountains. As he grew up in the very real city of Richmond, Calif., Jacobson filled notebooks with his imaginary metropolises. It's rare for the enthusiasms of childhood to become our life's work—consider the oversupply of paleontologists and train engineers if that weren't so—but Jacobson is on his way to becoming someone who draws pictures of cities for a living.

If there is such a thing as an urban planning prodigy, then Jacobson just might be one. Last spring, as he was wrapping up his sophomore year at Stanford, the urban studies major finished a 140-page plan to restore life to a patch of downtown Oakland that's endured a decade-long downward slide. It's not merely the heft of the document or the scale of its ambition that's impressive ( What's remarkable is that local bigwigs from the Chamber of Commerce president to City Council members are taking the plan seriously. Even Jacobson is surprised at how quickly his independent study project became part of Oakland's conversation about itself. "What's fascinating is that it's actually happening," Jacobson said this summer.

Oakland is forever poised on the cusp of a renaissance that never seems to arrive in full.

What's the plan? In painstaking and meticulous detail Jacobson makes the case for a 2.5-mile streetcar line running from Oakland's historic waterfront to a moribund district near downtown that is home to a handful of struggling car dealerships. The streetcar would be more than a people mover. According to Jacobson's forecasts, an economic boom would flower along its tracks, climaxing in the transformation of Oakland's old Auto Row into a swanky retail district with high-end stores in the showrooms where new Oldsmobiles and Mercurys once gleamed.

This, according to one of the people who guided Jacobson through the arcana of 21st-century streetcars, is the genius of Jacobson's report. "It is a real art to be able to articulate the combination of investment in public infrastructure and the outcome to be the rejuvenation of a community," says Rick Gustafson, executive director of Portland (Ore.) Streetcar, a nonprofit corporation chartered by the city to run the system.

Indeed, Gustafson was skeptical when an undergraduate called him out of the blue last year and told him he wanted to learn everything he could about Portland's streetcars. Nonetheless, Gustafson invited him to Portland. With a small grant from the vice provost for undergraduate education, Jacobson journeyed north to see firsthand a formerly struggling neighborhood saved by a streetcar. Portland's streetcar system, which debuted in 2001, is credited with helping to bring life and money back to several blocks of old, unused warehouses, now Portland's hip and hopping Pearl District. The initial cost of $57 million has more than paid for itself, says Gustafson, who, it should be noted, is also a principal in a consulting firm that would likely bid to help develop Oakland's streetcar plan if it moved forward.

THE RIGHT TRACK: The plan forecasts 24,000 new jobs, $6 million in new sales tax revenue and 20,000 new Oaklanders.
Courtesy Daniel Jacobson

The dollar signs are a big lure for city officials facing a $31 million budget deficit this year, and a $48 million deficit the next. Home to 400,000 people across the Bay from San Francisco, Oakland is a city of contradictions forever poised on the cusp of a renaissance that never seems to arrive in full. It boasts the hottest restaurant scene in the Bay Area right now, but its unemployment rate is 17 percent. In July, the Oakland City Council voted to lay off 80 cops. They may have to let go of another 122 in January. Those aren't the headlines citizens like to read, when their city is frequently ranked one of America's most violent. Politicians running for re-election don't relish them either.

So, it's no surprise that a plan predicting 24,000 new jobs, $6 million in new sales tax receipts and 20,000 new Oaklanders would catch the attention of Oakland's city leaders. "His study has added a degree of public attention to the big picture, why a streetcar matters," says Rebecca Kaplan, JD '98, Oakland's at-large City Council member, who is running for mayor this year.

But it's not just Jacobson's number crunching that foretells future success as an urban planner. Jacobson has an uncanny sense of how things actually get done in an American city. Underneath its architecture and ordinances, a city's true power base rests on an intricate web of alliances, friendships, egos, enmities, greed and pride. If a good idea that penciled out were all that was required to get things done in Oakland, California's eighth largest city would be a different place. So would most cities.

This summer, Jacobson had an internship at Berkeley-based urban planning firm Calthorpe and Associates, and while he's hobnobbing with Oakland's power brokers now, his initial introduction to the city came through its more troubled precincts. While in high school, Jacobson volunteered at Oakland's McCollum Youth Court, which provides young people like Jacobson an opportunity to get hands-on training in a legal setting while diverting young offenders from the criminal justice system. Jacobson's hometown of Richmond is a tough place by Bay Area standards, but he grew up in one of the city's nicer neighborhoods and attended a private high school. The youth court offered a window into a world where kids had few opportunities for a good education or meaningful job training.

The experience stayed with him, and when it came time to pick an independent study project, Jacobson knew he wanted to do something in Oakland—but with a Silicon Valley mindset. "Stanford has such a great culture of entrepreneurship and innovation: I'm surrounded by friends who are constantly pushing the envelope in nearly every field possible," he said. "I really wanted to channel that 'Google mentality' toward confronting the economic and environmental challenges of Oakland."

Will a real streetcar rattle along Oakland's Broadway? There's a lot that can go wrong before the city sees a new streetcar line. But Kaplan, who helped bring a free shuttle to downtown this summer, says she hopes the bus will be a first step toward building a streetcar line. She's made streetcars part of her campaign platform. It's a long way from a kid's drawing in a notebook.


ALEX GRONKE is a longtime Oakland resident and publisher of the daily news website Oakbook.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ducks, Ducks, & More Ducks

These past three years, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel around the U.S & Canada. I would say I have been to almost 90% of the country these past 3 years, highlighted by an unbelievable opportunity to live in Seattle, Wa. Some trips were for business, some for vacation but during all these trips I have been compiling ideas for Evansville which hopefully you have been reading on this blog.

One of the coolest concepts that I have ever seen has been a company called, " Ride the Ducks." I have seen them in Seattle, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Boston, and several other cities. They are the only tour organization that can take their tourists both on water and on land. They take their riders around famous landmarks around the city and then plunge directly onto the river where riders can view the city from the middle of the water.

When I first saw these vehicles, my first question was, " How do those vehicles do that?" According to wikipedia...

"The actual vehicle is based on the famous World War II DUKW amphibious design. Today, the company builds its vehicles from the ground up to incorporate advances in marine design and safety. Ride the Ducks now owns the rights to, and manufacturers its own amphibious vehicles. In addition to equipping their vehicles with a number of safety features, including an abundance of adult- and child-sized lifejackets, duck captains are Coast Guard certified and hold commercial drivers' licenses. The captains are also fully trained in first aid and CPR."

While Evansville may not be as large as the current cities that have Ride the Ducks and it may not have as many landmarks ( don't worry I'm working on that), I still believe this would be a perfect idea for Evansville. Why? Because, how many tourists that come to Evansville want to go out on the mighty Ohio River but can't because there's no place that will take them out on the water? And how many tourists would like to know more about Evansville but don't know where to go and there is no one there to explain the town to them?

Here in Evansville, we have a great asset in the Ohio River. It's about time we took advantage of it. But where else would Ride the Ducks go here?

In my opinion, the following locations must be included in the tour routes...

- Bosse Field
- Roseanne House
- Reitz Home
- Greyhound Bus Station
- Roberts Stadium
- Old Courthouse & Jail
- Reitz Bowl
- Wesselman Woods
- Mesker Park Zoo
- Angel Mounds
- Willard Library

Of course, there are many more landmarks not on my list that could be added. The point is, if we are going to do our best to attract tourists to Evansville with the new arena, we need to have a company that shows them around for us and puts our best asset before them, which is the Ohio River. All this company would have to do to get this project going is lease a spot downtown and bring their vehicles here. Then, we're ready to go!

Most importantly, Ride the Ducks would be located downtown, which would encourage tourists to come downtown, which inturn would encourage business developers to come downtown. Now that's something I think we can all support!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Helping the ECVB & Roberts Stadium at the Same Time

For those of you who don't know, I also run the blog I have emailed Ripken Design about studying Roberts Stadium to find a useful and profitable purpose for it while keeping it intact. You can read about this at I know the last thing the ECVB or the county council wants to do is tack an additional $32,500 onto the project but I believe that it needs to be done because I am fully convinced it will save the $1.5 million (which use to be $1.25 million) costs of demolishing Roberts Stadium. I also have a plan for financing it.

After I spoke at the county council meeting last weekend about the ballfield project, the Evansville Convention & Visitor's Bureau ( the group who is undertaking this project) went back up infront of the council to request $10,000 more dollars from the council. Why? Because their Executive Director position, which has been vacated by Marilee Fowler, isn't attracting anyone they want to take the position for $88,000.

I found this VERY INTERESTING given the fact that I myself have applied for this position. For the record, I have a degree in marketing and management from the University of Kentucky, and I even provided them with this blog which has almost 50 ideas for getting Evansvile moving forward. However, I was never interviewed and the EVCB said they're recruiting team interviewed feverishly here locally and found no one they wanted to take the position, thus they now need to bump the salary up to $98,000 and add relocation expenses if the candidate is out of the area. This is almost 1/12th the budget of the EVCB for one person.

As a recent graduate, I'm willing to accept this position for $60,000 so that the remaining $28,000 can be saved for the study to save Roberts Stadium, as well as saving the council the additional $10,000. If after the end of the year the EVCB and the city aren't satisfied, they can simple let me go and start back to where they are today. It's a win-win solution that will help save Roberts Stadium. As the email from Ripken Design said, now is the time to find a solution for Roberts Stadium!