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This bronze figure of the Greek goddess Persephone stands on a raised platform in the center of an octagonal pool. Her right hand is elevated, holding a torch. The figure is draped from the waist down and has a draped headdress flowing down the back of the sculpture. A plaque on the front of the statue reads: “In Ancient Greek Mythology, She, as the daughter of Zeus, and Demeter, was worshipped as the goddess of vegetation. Returning each spring from the realm of Hades to herald the season of growth and in winter disappearing to pass her time like the seed under the earth.”
The torch in the figure’s hand indicates that she is on her way up from the dark underworld to the light of the world, and indicates a forthcoming season of spring and hope. The symbolism is common to that of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult of Demeter and Persephone that was a highly secretive religious ritual often enacted by women, possibly as a coming-of-age rite for young girls or an exploration of the concept of eternal life. The figure also holds a set of ropes with bells on the end, which could refer to another element of the ritual.
Another plaque nearby states that the pond is called Persephone Pond and was restored in 2014 as a gift from the class of 2012 and Butler University.
The sculpture was executed in Paris about 1840 by the French artist Armand Toussaint (1806 – 1862). It was a gift of James Irving Holcomb in 1850.
StreamLines: Water as a Resource
Mary Miss/City as Living Laboratory created a series of installations for StreamLines along five major tributaries of Indianapolis. The theme for the site at the Central Canal was “Water as a Resource.” Topics at the site included precipitation, infrastructure, industry, engineering, recreation and ecosystem services.
Water is essential for transport and therefore many cities are built along waterways to facilitate the transport of goods. Canals represent some of the greatest engineering projects in history. This canal—an ambitious but failed attempt to connect local waterways with the Erie Canal—bankrupted Indiana in the 1800s. Although it was never fully completed, today it is the source of most of Indianapolis’ drinking water and the Towpath continues to provide a valuable resource for transport — not of goods, but of people on foot and wheels.
StreamLines was an interactive, place-based project that merged the sciences and the arts to advance the community’s understanding and appreciation of Indianapolis’ waterways. This work was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation and was modeled on the City as Living Laboratory/FRAMEWORK. StreamLines featured a collection of installations along Indianapolis’ waterways and adjacent greenspaces inviting the community to learn, explore and experience the science of local water systems through visual art, poetry, dance and music. StreamLines was administered by the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University. For more information, visit StreamLines.org or on social media as @StreamLinesIndy.
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