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Art Goes Public: Real world meets artistic vision at the Basile Center

Jodie Hardy and Gustavo Tovar followed very different paths to the same destination — a 2010 IUPUI degree from the IU Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI — but a parallel path through the Frank and Katrina Basile Center for Art, Design & Public Life helped them both along the way.

Gustavo Tovar

Jodie Hardy is an Indiana native from Osceola who added a Master of Fine arts degree in sculpture this spring to a B.A. in art history she earned from the school in 2006. Gustavo Tovar is one of IUPUI's many international students, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, who earned his M.F.A. degree in furniture design this spring.

As different as their backgrounds are, both found a niche in the Basile Center, “Herron's laboratory for applying the talents and skills of art and design students — on behalf of clients in a real-world setting,” says Kathy Pataluch, director of the center. “The skill and knowledge students gain better prepare them for the world outside college while helping the campus in its ongoing mission to engage in the Indianapolis community's cultural life.”

The school and the students aren't the only beneficiaries of the innovative program. The center also is a window for the community on the visions of a new generation of artists and designers and helps individuals, companies and organizations encourage those talents. The artists enrich the community through their work, learn to manage a real-world project and build their résumé through commissioned work or a juried art competition.

Hardy recently installed her work Close-up, the center's most recent product and one of several at Community North Hospital on the north side of Indianapolis. Tovar has done three projects for the center: one for the IU School of Dentistry, one for IUPUI's Office of International Affairs and one for the proposed “Suite Dreams” playground near Riley Hospital for Children, part of the long-range restoration of Ball Gardens.

Early start to art

Each student showed artistic flair early on. Hardy used her father's cardboard shirt boxes to recreate the White House for a fourth-grade history project, while a sevenyear- old Tovar turned his GI Joe action figures into a battle scene complete with fake blood and body parts hanging from string. “I thought I should hide it from my mother,” he laughs. “But when she saw it, she just said 'this is a piece of art, baby!' Those words meant more than the simple affection of a mother for her son; it was the first time someone called my crazy ideas art.”

Jodie Hardy

The idea of being a working artist hit the two at very different stages in life. “I always made a livelihood in creative fields, but never called myself an artist until I was in my 40s,” Hardy says. That was when she decided to chase her “dream deferred,” an art degree. Tovar, on the other hand, was 19 or 20 and still an undergraduate student in Venezuela when he realized he wanted to pursue his “passion for colors, textures, materials and combinations.”

For Tovar, who will begin teaching at Herron this fall, the choice of furniture making grew out of “the visual experiences we are exposed to day by day,” he says. “What is important is what we find behind each idea, the interaction between each piece, human beings and the environment.”

Hardy draws her inspiration from “the site, the surroundings and those who people it,” and finds she often thinks “threedimensionally and in moving pictures.”

Vital role ahead

Tovar believes the Basile Center program will play a vital role for Herron students now and into the future. “We are artists, and when artists create, we inspire,” he says. The center's projects “are tools. The question is, how are you going to use them?”

As an artist, Tovar finds himself torn. On one hand, he would like to return to his work as an industrial designer (“that's my background,” he points out), but “at the same time, I would like to explore my skills as an artist and the responsibility I have to communicate.” He is excited about the opportunity to teach at Herron this fall. “We are going to introduce new high-digital technology in our furniture program,” Tovar says. It “is going to be more technical than theoretical;” that pleases the industrial designer in him.

Hardy is already deep into her follow-up to Close-up, working on “putting public art in the hands of the public itself,” she says. She and her husband Marc — a fellow 2010 IUPUI graduate — have moved to St. Joseph, Mich., just across the Indiana- Michigan state line.

“I'm building three identical objects that will be delivered to New York, Los Angeles and an undisclosed location to experiment with public interactivity in art,” Hardy says.

Photo Galleries

The making of "Close-Up"

Other works by Tovar