100 Acres: The Debut Commissions of the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park

The Virginia P. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park has been in progress for a long time. Located just outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art, beyond the Oldfields House and gardens, the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park was opened to the public in June of 2010, and has already become a worthwhile Indianapolis attraction. The Indianapolis park is comprised of 100 acres of wetlands, forest, meadows, and other beautiful displays of Indiana countryside. More important than its natural decorations, however, are the artificial displays that dot the unique Indy green space. 100 Acres is the first rotation of outdoor art displays at the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.

Promotional video for 100 Acres at the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indianapolis


The Virginia P. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is the only museum art park to feature an ongoing commission for art pieces that are completely unique to the site and play off the natural features of the park. Dubbed 100 Acres, these constantly shifting displays explore the bond between man and nature, art and the Earth. The inaugural crop of pieces at the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park includes works by eight different artists and collectives: Joep van Lieshout, Kendall Buster, Alfredo Jaar, Jeppe Hein, Los Carpinteros, Tea Mäkipää, Andrea Zittel, and Type A. Each piece is a unique part of the most famous Indianapolis museum and well worth the trip out into the furthest reaches of the park.

All the pieces at the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park attempt to illustrate man’s connection with nature, but nowhere is the connection more obvious than with Joep van Lieshout’s Funky Bones installation. Located at the Art and Nature Park’s central meadow, Funky Bones is a huge, stylized interpretation of the human skeleton, lying flat on its back in the green expanse of the park. 20 fiberglass benches make up the skeleton, allowing visitors to the park climb all over the “bones” of the exhibit, great for Indianapolis children.

Indianapolis Museum of Art video about Funky Bones, an exhibit at 100 Acres in the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indianapolis


Kendall Buster’s contribution to the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is more concerned with observing nature than replicating man. Stratum Pier is a winding, emerald steel construction that juts out into the 35 acre lake of the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Far from a simple diving pier, Stratum Pier almost looks organic, with its sweeping curves and solid construction. The landscape of the park is further reflected in Stratum Pier; Buster, a graduate of the Corcoran School of Art and Design and Yale University, included curved edges and terracing as a nod to the effects of erosion. Stratum Pier is yet another of Kendall Buster’s innovative “biological architecture” projects.

Indianapolis Museum of Art video on Stratum Pier, an exhibit at 100 Acres in the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indianapolis


Visitors to Alfredo Jaar’s Park of the Laments are taken underground via a carefully constructed tunnel before they come blinking into the sunlight to settle into one of the most relaxing spots in the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Park of the Laments is two squares, one inside the other: the first square is comprised of baskets filled with sturdy Indiana limestone, while the second is made up of native Central Indiana flora, an interesting juxtaposition. Jaar describes Park of the Laments as a refuge, and indeed, it is a quiet place to sit back and enjoy the natural surroundings of the park. The display doubles as a memorial to purge “the global atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Along with Stratum Pier, Bench Around the Lake allows visitors to the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park to take in the aquatic beauty of the lake on the premises. Designed by Jeppe Heine, a German artist whose other works are technological marvels that spit smoke, lose visitors in mirror mazes, and come to life, Bench Around the Lake is comprised of 15 benches of different shapes, sizes, and colors. The benches are all theoretically connected throughout the borders of the lake, going underground before jutting out of the earth once again. Regardless of how they’re arranged, Bench Around the Lake is yet another exhibit at the Indiana Museum of Art that provides a place for visitors to sit, rest, and spectate.

For Indianapolis sports fans, there’s no exhibit at 100 Acres that’s better than Free Basket. Free Basket represents the bouncing trajectory of a basketball on its way around a court with multi-colored steel arcs. A true Hoosier piece, Free Basket is a nod to the complex maneuverings of basketball and its place in Indiana culture. The exhibit was designed by Los Carpinteros, a Havana based art collective. Free Basket shows off the complexity of a sport that appears simple at first glance while reminding visitors that there’s always more going on in the world than meets the eye.

Indianapolis Museum of Art video about Free Basket, an exhibit at 100 Acres in the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indianapolis


Amid the greenery and blue of the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park sits a gray metal monstrosity known as Eden II, the work of Finnish artist Tea Mäkipää. Mäkipää’s previous works attempt to look at humanity as just another animal species, and Eden II is no exception. A massive ark of sorts, Eden II looks like a re-purposed battleship. The ship is filled with human passengers on a voyage to nowhere; visitors can observe human behavior on board the ship via the guard house and surveillance cameras of the ship’s interior, where ecological refugees fight for survival. Eden II is a stunning commentary on the fragility of the human race: if we spoil green spaces like the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, we may find ourselves trapped on a vessel very similar to Eden II.

Visitor video of Eden II, an exhibit at 100 Acres in the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park in Indianapolis


Even the sun comes into play with the pieces of 100 Acres. Team Building (Align) is comprised of two metal rings, each thirty feet wide, whose shadows align during the summer solstice each year. Designed by IMA staff members in conjunction with Type A, Team Building (Align) took two whole years to create. The eighth art display of 100 Acres is Indianapolis Island by Andrea Zittel. Indianapolis Island is an experiment within a piece of art: the ubiquitous white hump on the surface of the lake is a fully inhabitable living space that will be occupied by a few local art students from Indianapolis schools. Each resident of Indianapolis Island will work with Zittel to modify the living space to make it more efficient and livable with each new resident, making a constantly evolving, socially relevant piece of art.

Visitors who decide to tour all 100 Acres of the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park will see some of the most innovative large scale art pieces in the entire Midwest. From the goofy cartoon skeleton of Funky Bones to the somber memorial of the Park of the Laments, 100 Acres at the Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is 100 acres of humanity’s constant interaction with, dependency on, and destruction of nature. Visit the Indianapolis museum’s green grounds before summer ends to witness some of the most stirring Indianapolis art all in one place.

100 Acres Museum Art Park

Virginia P. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park
Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46208

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