Rader Street Art Sheds
These colorful and functional sheds were created to store the materials and tools necessary to build and maintain community gardens, which were initially created on facing vacant lots at the corner of 26th and Rader in Indianapolis. The gardens were built by the neighborhood as part of the RECLAIM project, which aims to transform blighted properties in the Northwest neighborhoods using art combined with the energy, labor, power, and strength of community members.
The sheds are covered with bright murals that were designed after community conversations and painted by community members. One shed displays excerpts from Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” and is combined with images derived from Egyptian culture. The message is that the Egyptians were a strong, proud African people that neighborhood residents might pattern themselves on. Other sheds use imagery of the phoenix–symbolizing power and beauty rising from destruction–as well as the panther, and floral motifs representing growth. A signpost indicates the direction and distance to important community resources.
In 2019, new greenspaces were implemented at 29th and Rader, near 28th and Rader, and at 25th and Rader (2 sheds). The sheds were painted by professional artists Shamira Wilson, Mechi Shakur, Matthew Cooper, and Tasha Beckwith, respectively.
Wilson’s shed, which shows a bright yellow sun in her signature brilliant colors and clear graphic imagery wrapping around all four sides, includes two lines of text from Effie Lee Newsome’s 1922 poem “The Bronze Legacy (To A Brown Boy)”: “I thank God, then, I am brown. / Brown has mighty things to do.” Newsome (1885-1978) was one of the first African American poets to write primarily for children, although she only published one full volume (Gladiola Garden: Poems of Outdoors and Indoors for Second Grade Readers,1940).
Shakur’s shed is a Peter-Max-inspired psychedelic composition of a boy and a woman with long, flowing hair, set in in a brightly-colored landscape of floral and geometric shapes that includes a stairway and a door. The painted stairway is a visual extension of a set of real concrete steps, abandoned on the site when the vacant house was demolished. A picket fence surrounding the lot bears the painted work of neighborhood youth.
Cooper’s shed is an ode to neighborhood unity, with a theme of hands and fingers working together. The shed was painted with the assistance of teens from EmployIndy.
RECLAIM is the vision of two Indianapolis-based artists. Phyllis Viola Boyd is an artist, botanist, and urban designer. LaShawnda Crowe Storm is a community-based artist, community organizer, and urban farmer.