Bloomington works to heed court’s order on art, means temporary delay on OK for Freezefest 2023

A special events application to hold the third annual Freezefest downtown in the Trades District area would have normally received a straightforward approval from Bloomington’s three-member board of public works on Tuesday night.

It’s an ice carving festival set to take place along Maker’s Way from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22, and features a chili cook-off at The Mill, a coworking space located in the former dimension mill of the Showers Brothers Furniture Company.

Instead of receiving an approval, the Freezefest application was pulled from the meeting agenda.

The reason Freezefest didn’t get a vote on Tuesday is not related to any controversy related to Freezefest itself. In fact, the festival’s special event application will likely be approved at the board’s next meeting, on Dec. 20.

But for now, Freezefest falls under a moratorium on special events applications, which the board of public works imposed on Tuesday.

The moratorium is related to litigation against the city of Bloomington that arose out of a request to install an “All Lives Matter” street mural on Kirkwood Avenue, in response to the city’s three “Black Lives Matter” street murals. Continue reading “Bloomington works to heed court’s order on art, means temporary delay on OK for Freezefest 2023”

Federal judge to Bloomington: Create criteria for public art requests in right-of-way, allow application for “All Lives Matter” street mural

Bloomington could see an “All Lives Matter” mural painted on a downtown city street, after previously authorizing three “Black Lives Matter” street murals.

That’s because of a ruling from a federal judge last Friday.

Under Friday’s ruling, by Jan. 2 next year, the city of Bloomington has to  come up with the procedures that private groups and people can use to request approval for use of the city’s rights-of-way to display public art.

The order says that the city has to “promulgate” the application procedure to the public within 45 days of the order, dated Nov. 18, 2022. The public that is described in the order explicitly includes Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds and the Indiana University Chapter of Turning Point USA, who filed suit against Bloomington in late February.

In their lawsuit, Reynolds and Turning Point asked the Monroe County circuit court to issue an injunction requiring the city of Bloomington to allow Reynolds to paint a street mural that states “All Lives Matter” on Kirkwood Avenue in front of the Von Lee building.

The “All Lives Matter” slogan is associated with opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Continue reading “Federal judge to Bloomington: Create criteria for public art requests in right-of-way, allow application for “All Lives Matter” street mural”

Black Lives Matter B-town releases Democratic Party candidate assessments

Last Friday (April 22) Black Lives Matter B-town released its assessment of those Democratic Party primary candidates who responded to a 12-part survey that included more than 30 individual questions. Graphic with text overlaid on grayed out document: How do you define privilege? ... If you are elected, how will you use your privilege to assist BIPOC communities?

Sent the questionnaire were Democratic Party primary candidates for the 9th District Congressional seat, area state representative seats, Monroe County circuit court judge, county sheriff, county commissioner, county councilor, and county recorder.

Sixteen total candidates wrote out answers to the questionnaire. It was designed to allow assessments of candidates in the categories of: Awareness, Position, Vision, Voices at the Table, Commitment & Effectiveness, Passion & Comportment.

Candidates were given five days to complete the questionnaire, which was sent on Friday, April 15. According to BLM B-town, the time constraint was a part of the assessment.

Several candidates did not respond to the questionnaire. BLM B-town wrote: “[C]andidates’ refusals to provide answers for this Voter’s Guide should remind us that the majority of the Bloomington political landscape is built to sustain anti-Black practices.”

Republican Party candidates were not sent the questionnaire.

Responding to a B Square question, BLM B-town core council member Jada Bee said the statement that typically accompanies the questionnaire reads: “This questionnaire only goes out to those in the Democratic, Green, Independent or Progressive party. All other party affiliations are not in alignment on basic principles with BLM B-town.” Continue reading “Black Lives Matter B-town releases Democratic Party candidate assessments”

New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter

Last week came the announcement that a Bloomington task force has recommended new names for two parts of Jordan Avenue, a north-south street that splits the Indiana University campus.

In its report, the task force recommended renaming Jordan Avenue south of 17th Street as Eagleson Avenue.

North of 17th Street, the street is recommended to be called Fuller Lane.

Both names honor the contributions of Black residents to Bloomington.

The announcement of the task force report came just a month after the installation of a “Black Lives Matter” mural—on the street that is now slated to be renamed for four-generations of the Eagleson family, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson who was born a slave in 1851.

According to the task force report, Halson Eagleson arrived in Bloomington in the 1880s and became a prominent barber. His five children attended Indiana University. The report describes how in 1910, he opened Industrial City, a home for “colored” orphans in Unionville.

Joa’Quinn Griffin, an Indiana University student who helped lead the effort to install the street mural, told The B Square that the choice of Jordan Avenue was deliberate, for two reasons.

First, the mural would provide a counterpoint to the legacy of the past IU president for whom the street was named. David Starr Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, which advocates for the improvement of the human species through selective mating.

Second, the place on Jordan Avenue selected for the mural installation is in front of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Continue reading “New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter”

Gathering at People’s Park for Kirkwood Avenue: All over the road

A little more than a year ago, on Juneteenth of 2020, the mural at People’s Park at the east end of Kirkwood Avenue got a new, unsanctioned overlay of lettering that reads “Black Lives Matter.”

That came during a summer of protests, nationwide and locally, prompted by the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

The overlay remains in place, because the Bloomington Arts Commission was not in a rush to “buff” the mural or to replace it with a different one, even if that’s likely in the cards at some point.

On Thursday evening, Eva Allen’s original mural, together with the “Black Lives Matter” lettering, gave an extra pop of background color to park visitors who were weaving together floral crowns from bunches of flowers.

The crowns of flowers were a “make and take” hosted by Downtown Bloomington, Inc.—something the DBI normally includes at its “Taste of Bloomington” event. The annual gathering, for thousands to gather and sample local food offerings, was transformed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It became a take-out only affair called “Taste of Bloomington to Go.”

Thursday’s park gathering covered a lot of civic territory—networking for the hospitality industry, a celebration of new light strands strung over Kirkwood, remarks from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, and the regular People’s Park concert series.

Like the new lights, the event was a bit “all over the road.” Continue reading “Gathering at People’s Park for Kirkwood Avenue: All over the road”

Column: “Black Lives Matter” on a street mural is not a phrase for feeling good, but doing good

On Saturday, Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” street mural was painted on 6th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street. That’s the north end of the courthouse square.

The first one was painted on Elm Street.

The lead artists on the project were Raheem Elmore and Christina Elem. Elmore is working on a dual doctorate in English and African American and African diaspora studies at Indiana University. Elem is graduating from IU this year and taking a job with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

The completion of Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” mural surely counts as a win. Elmore and Elem did great work as lead artists. It was city staff from several departments and about 45 rank-and-file volunteers from the community who came together on Saturday morning to make the mural happen.

It’s a moment to feel good.

But the mural’s backstory includes a reminder that how good we feel about seeing and saying the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not a great way to measure the impact of that phrase on our community.

Here’s a glimpse into that backstory.

Continue reading “Column: “Black Lives Matter” on a street mural is not a phrase for feeling good, but doing good”

“Black Lives Matter” street mural work put off by morning rain, day still not a washout

Raheem Elmore spray paints outlines for letters in the street mural that will read “Black Lives Matter” as Fogg looks on. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Saturday morning’s wet weather did not mean a complete washout for work on a downtown Bloomington “Black Lives Matter” mural.

By around 11 a.m. on Saturday, a slight misting drizzle had turned into a legitimate light rain, puddling the pavement along the block of 6th Street, on the north side of Bloomington’s downtown courthouse square.

That’s where the planned painting of Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” street mural was set to take place through the day, with volunteers working 45-minute shifts.

Anticipating that the pavement would not dry out in time to complete work, even if the rain stopped, a decision was made to waive off the volunteers for Saturday and try for a backup rain date.

Clad in coveralls at the site on Saturday morning, Sean Starowitz, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, told The Square Beacon that the tentative backup date has now been set for June 5. That’s a few weeks later than one announced earlier.

By around 5 p.m., the rain had stopped and the pavement had pretty much dried out.

It was dry enough that one of the artists leading the project, Raheem Elmore, wanted to try to spray paint the outlines of the block letters for the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Continue reading ““Black Lives Matter” street mural work put off by morning rain, day still not a washout”

“Black Lives Matter” street mural gets OK from board of public works, to be painted Saturday

At its Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s board of public works cleared the way for the painting of a second “Black Lives Matter” street mural on Saturday.

The board approved the use of the public right-of-way on the block of 6th Street between Walnut Street and College Avenue, the north leg of the courthouse square.

The street will be blocked off to vehicle traffic for 14 hours on Saturday (April 17), from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It will be the second such mural to be painted on a Bloomington street. The first was painted last year on the north-south segment of Elm Street next to the Banneker Community Center. That painting work, done by 83 community volunteers, was led by artists Christina Elem and Raheem Elmore, according to a city of Bloomington news release. Continue reading ““Black Lives Matter” street mural gets OK from board of public works, to be painted Saturday”

Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $6,000 agreement with Black Lives Matter Bloomington for a day of anti-racism training next year.

The six-hour day of training by eight BLM facilitators is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021. But that date could change by agreement between the commissioners and BLM.

Also at their Wednesday meeting, the commissioners approved revisions to the Monroe County personnel manual that, among other items, address the kind of training that will be provided by BLM. It won’t require elected officials to take BLM’s training.

Commissioners had postponed the revisions to the personnel manual from the previous week. Some wording in an initially proposed added section had caused county councilors to amend the 2021 salary ordinances. The councilors’ amendment tied the ordinances to the personnel manual as it stood, before any revisions were made.

The initial revision had read: “[A]ll elected officials and full time employees will be required to participate in a training…”

The version approved by commissioners on Wednesday reads: “[A]ll full time, non-law enforcement, employees, with the exception of those working under the authority of the Prosecutor and Board of Judges, will be required to participate in training.” Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it”

Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds

Wednesday is the usual meeting day for two local elected bodies—Bloomington’s city council and Monroe County’s board of commissioners. This week they each approved legislation involving anti-racist efforts.

The city council approved a resolution endorsing a proposal for art featuring the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

The county commissioners approved a $292,500 contract with a consultant to provide diversity training.

Both approvals came without the full support of the elected groups. In a rare non-unanimous vote on the three-member county board, commissioner Penny Githens dissented on the approval of the diversity training contract.

On the city council, Dave Rollo abstained from the vote on the art project, which left the proposal with eight of nine city councilmembers in support of it.

Continue reading “Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds”