The Herald Bulletin

March 14, 2012

Walking Man statues 'strut' around empty field

Sculptures placed at former GM plant for short public art exhibit

By Melanie D. Hayes
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Shellie Beeson was driving along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to downtown Anderson when she slowed down as something completely out of place caught her eye.

In a field on the west side of the road were more than a dozen 10-foot-tall steel statues painted in white, looking as if they were frozen in place while walking in various directions.

On her way back from downtown, she was compelled to pull over and get a better look.

“What is this project?” she asked the only real human she could find. Dan Rinker, whose son Levi Rinker led the project, had been keeping an eye on the statues and happily explained the project to her.

The Walking Man project was created by artists Levi Rinker and Laree Blazer. Thirty 250-pound statues were built, and will each be painted and decorated differently, based on designs chosen by sponsors and artists.

This summer, they will be placed all over the city, outside businesses, schools and other facilities from June through September. The project will culminate with a street festival where all the statues will be displayed and auctioned.

But before all that, Rinker wanted to create a public art display with the statues while they were all still blank canvasses.

For a few hours on Wednesday he arranged 16 of them in an empty field that used to be General Motors’ Guide Corp. Plant 9, along Dr. MLK Boulevard across from the Raceway Industrial Park. The statues were grouped together, but facing different directions — toward downtown, a neighborhood, trees or the interstate.

The location caused the exhibit to garner quite a bit of attention. Most drivers on the busy corridor slowed down and stared out their windows as they passed the statues. Rinker took his own photos while others could be seen using their cellphones to capture images.

Placing the statues on one of Anderson’s many vacant former industrial properties is a way to “purify and bless the land,” Rinker said.

Rinker said that those properties may have undergone environmental cleanups, but many still need social cleanups. He hopes the statues encourage the community and help it move ahead.

The statues are “moving forward into the city as an iconic symbol of mankind’s progressive ideal,” he said. “My aim through the project is to psychologically motivate Anderson by engaging visitors and residents to celebrate the arts and take charge of their future economy.”

After the public display, the statues were returned that afternoon to a warehouse at the Raceway Industrial Park, where artists will begin painting and decorating them. Each will have a different design — some representing ideas, organizations, company services and others will be abstract.

“I was actually really amazed,” Beeson said about the sight of the statues. “I was trying to figure out why they were there.”

Beeson said she is impressed with the creativity of the project and feels that more people need to be exposed to public art and visual outlooks of life.

“It’s remarkable that somebody took the initiative to better the city and create a new way to build a better economy,” she said.

Contact Melanie Hayes: 648-4250, melanie.hayes@heraldbulletin.com