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March 12, 2022
Pamela Bliss and outdoor murals across Indiana
In Greenfield, artist Pamela Bliss has drawn attention for "Tall Tales", a mural that also is 35 feet tall. As a salute to the agricultural heritage of Hancock County, the mural depicts three generations of Hoosiers at a farm fence, with an older man in overalls gesturing as he shares a yarn with two younger listeners.
In downtown Indianapolis, Pamela is known for several outdoor murals. Her most recently completed artwork includes larger-than-life depictions of Reggie Miller, the former Indiana Pacer, and the late Eva Kor, the Holocaust survivor who crusaded for forgiveness during the final years of her life.
All of those high-profile murals have been completed since 2017 when Pamela was a Hoosier History Live guest and shared insights about her creative process and the murals that had been done at that point. They included two outdoor murals in Indianapolis that have become almost iconic and can be glimpsed in many promotional campaigns for the Hoosier capital: a 38-feet tall mural of literary great Kurt Vonnegut and "Jazz Masters of Indiana Avenue", a collage of several legendary performers with their musical instruments.
Those two widely acclaimed murals were commissioned in the build-up to the Super Bowl that Indy hosted in 2012, meaning the murals are now "aging out" because of a 10-year lifespan. Questions about the fate of the artwork have made headlines recently in the Indianapolis Star and the Indianapolis Business Journal.
So the lifespan of outdoor artwork, as well as the murals that Pamela has created across Indiana during the last five years, will be among the topics when she returns as our guest. There's also a Women's History Month aspect with this show.
"Did you know a woman painted that?" one man asked another pedestrian, unaware that Pamela was standing nearby. He was referring to the Mellencamp mural, which the rock star, who lives in the Bloomington area, autographed during a visit to Seymour. The mural features two images of Mellencamp, a guitar and the quote: "I was born in a small town".
Pamela Bliss lives in Indianapolis, but grew up in the far-eastern Indiana town of Cambridge City, where her outdoor murals also can be seen. Other Indiana towns with outdoor murals created by Pamela include:
Knightstown, where her mural depicts a scene from the movie "Hoosiers" (1986). The former gym for Knightstown High School was the setting for pivotal scenes in the film. Pamela, who was about to start work on the Knightstown mural when she was our guest five years ago, explained then that Knightstown residents were being invited to vote on the scene they wanted her to depict.
Dunkirk, a town in eastern Indiana that was a hub of the glass-making industry more than 100 years ago. Pamela says her artwork in Dunkirk is one of her largest murals at 135 feet in length.
And Rushville, where she has created a mural of Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency who was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although Willkie was born in Elwood, he later lived in Rushville and based his presidential campaign there.
Her murals are commissioned by various sources, including non-profit organizations and the private owners of the buildings on which she paints them. She also has created indoor murals, including depictions of former Pacers players inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Her outdoor mural of Reggie Miller is 60 feet tall and was completed in 2018. Although Miller did not see it until several months after the mural was finished, he publicly expressed his approval and stood in front of it to pose for photos with his arms outstretched.
Roadtrip: The Milwaukee Trail in Bedford
Guest Roadtripper Richard Vonnegut, history enthusiast and “connoisseur of Indiana trails” suggests we visit Bedford in southern Indiana in Lawrence County, and its beautiful and scenic Milwaukee Trail.
He tells us that “The Milwaukee Road” was the nickname of a once thriving railway line that ran through Bedford to the Pacific Coast. The scenic and intriguing railroad corridor is now the “Milwaukee Road Transportation Trailway.” It’s an 11-mile rail-trail that goes from Bedford to Williams, a community on the East Fork of the White River, and can be used for walking or biking. Richard continues that the small town of Williams has a good bait shop and a dam which makes for excellent fishing in the White River. Indeed, the river, the limestone cliffs, rock outcroppings, and the trees make this trailhead the most scenic in Indiana.
You probably also know that Bedford is known as the “Limestone Capital of the World.” The geology and rocks in the area evolved into massive and excellent limestone formations. The famous stone is recognized worldwide for its building qualities; easy to cut and hardens into a very solid rock. In Bedford, many buildings, including churches, are made of this limestone. Outside of Bedford many notable buildings are built with Bedford limestone, including 36 state capitol buildings, many federal buildings in Washington DC, and the Empire State Building in New York City. “You might say that 36 state capitols come from the bowels of Bedford” quipped Richard, in an inelegant attempt at alliteration. He doesn’t quite hold a candle to his more famous Indiana literary relative, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Finally, Richard tells us that in pioneer days, the stone was worthless. Horses and wagons did not have the strength to transport the heavy stones.
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