A Stroll through Mapleton-Fall Creek reveals city surprises
In 1902, the city of Indianapolis annexed the area currently known as Mapleton-Fall Creek, and a parade of city dwellers began making their way across the new bridges over Fall Creek, away from the increasingly commercial north side of the city, to greener pastures. Mapleton-Fall Creek was a “suburban” neighborhood, with a little distance from the city, yet was still easily accessible by streetcar and the new automobile. By 1915, the area had become the city’s most desirable address. Today, thanks largely to the work of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation, the neighborhood has again become a walkable delight filled with quaint churches, old vine-covered homes, and mysterious wooded lots.
Emma Overman, this month’s City Gallery artist, had long wanted to move into the city and fell in love with the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood when she bought her house there a few years ago. These days, she plays at the Children’s Museum and wanders the winding wooded streets with her daughter, Annabel. Overman’s quirky, whimsical paintings are easily recognizable by the emotive wide faced children she sets in fantastical, sylvan, fairy tale-like settings. But “A Stroll Around the Block” particularly celebrates her Mapleton-Fall Creek adventures with Annabel. From the specific house on Pennsylvania that she always thought would be a grand place to have a party to the decrepit tower on 32nd and Washington that embodies every little girls’ princess dream, viewers will recognize several iconic places in this neighborhood.
But Emma’s pieces, beautifully framed in salvaged and newly painted vintage frames, feature more than the crumbling grandeur of historically significant architecture. Sneaky vegetables grown by the man on Emma’s block “primarily because he wants to teach the neighborhood children how food grows,” the waving monkey on the carousel at the Children’s Museum that makes Annabel laugh, hedgehogs (trimming hedges, no less), and squirrels (“I couldn’t have a city-themed show without them”) peak out of many of these paintings. The school bus stops on the corner, an orange curtain flutters through a window, and on Delaware street, a rooster crows.
“City Slicker,” Emma’s painting of a rooster is inspired by both the rooster on her block who often wakes her in the mornings, and her early-rising husband. Some people might be surprised to find a rooster in the heart of the city, but Indianapolis stands virtually alone as a city in which both chickens and roosters are allowed, with no maximum number and no permit required. In fact, according to city code, if you have the space, “horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, jackasses, and llamas are allowed” in city limits. My family eats eggs from the chickens raised by my doctor-neighbor down the street. At her house, my city-kids have seen brand new baby chicks pecking their way out of their eggs, carried full grown hens around under their arms, and hunted for fantastically colored eggs in the nesting boxes in her garage. My urban neighborhood, like Emma’s, has given my children a much broader experience than I ever would have expected.
As the weather warms up, we open our windows (and hear our rooster crowing) and spend evenings out on the street with our neighbors. We feel like we get reacquainted with our own little corner of the city every spring. This month, come to the City Gallery for a surprising and delightful stroll around Mapleton-Fall Creek as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic resident, one of Indianapolis’s favorites, Emma Overman.