Portrait of a Dream

Hanging by a ThreadThis Friday, Harrison Center for the Arts and Habitat for Humanity will be debuting Habitat- For the Love of Humanity at its First Friday exhibition. The 4 galleries at the Center will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis, and City Gallery will be showcasing the work of local artist Crystal Vicars-Pugh. Celebrating a sense of community and history in the St. Clair Place neighborhood, Crystal’s art utilizes antique maps, thread, and other mixed media to create a rich, layered portrait of the area. We spoke with Crystal recently about the neighborhood she calls home, the neighborhood that inspired her art, and how the City Gallery helped her family realize a dream. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

My name is Crystal Vicars-Pugh, and I received my MFA in painting from Indiana State University in 2009.  I have a studio here at the Harrison Center. My husband Jeremy and I live in South Broad Ripple with our daughter Amelia.  I work in oils as well as collage media, and I love thick, rich surfaces.  For my show at the City Gallery I painted aspects of St. Clair Place that really intrigued me.  For instance, the beautiful architecture of the homes and the nature that surrounds the neighborhood is what caught my eye.  My collage pieces were created with antique maps of Indianapolis.  I tried to capture the essence of the revitalization of St. Clair Place with mixed media materials such as the maps, gouache, and thread.  One might say the maps represent the rich history of the Near Eastside's past and present, the thread is pride of the people living in the community that keeps holding it together. and the paint ties to all the reconstruction and rebuilding of a great community.

What initially drew you to South Broad Ripple?

My husband and I love the atmosphere and culture in So Bro. There is a real sense of pride that people take in the neighborhood, and almost everything you need is within a 2 mile radius. We love the fact that we can go for a jog on the Monon, stop at Canterbury Park, and enjoy the afternoon with our daughter.  Plus, there is never a shortage of great places to dine here in the Ripple.  And if we need a change of scenery, downtown is minutes away.  We like that there is less need to drive with so many local options.

Your family is making the switch from renting to home ownership. What is that process like for you, and why did you decide to stay in Broad Ripple instead of moving to a suburb? 

Growing up I moved around a lot. At age 12 I had been in 12 different schools. Buying a house and having a HOME is a dream of mine, and now it is a reality. We are currently still in the process, and it is one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my life. But like anything worthwhile I am so glad I am doing it.  May 10th is our closing, and it seems like a year away...yet we've learned a lot through this intense process.  Jeremy and I took a homeowners class through the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) and it opened our eyes to a lot of different things that first-time homeowners need to know.  Plus, we had the support of the City Gallery.  Through the City Gallery we were connected to INHP, different neighborhoods, our realtor, and so many more people and organizations. The staff at the City Gallery really made the process easier on us. Without awesome people like Joanna Taft, Sarah Miller, and Caroline Tait connecting us, we would probably be looking for another place to rent. Jeremy, Amelia and I are ready to be in a place we can call our own. We are those people that take pride in our neighborhood and So Bro is home to us.

What about the Near Eastside was inspiring to you? 

St. Clair Place was one of the neighborhoods that my husband and I were considering. There is a painting of the house that we were interested in in my current show. The artwork is representational of the house pre-rehab because I wanted the viewer to see that even in disrepair, this house is grandiose.  The title is: Dreams have to start somewhere, I hope they paint it red (806 Hamilton). So many things about St. Clair Place are inspiring to me. First would have to be the revitalization and rich history of the area. I love that instead of demolishing the existing homes, the houses are being rehabilitated with modern floor plans. The original character and charm of the houses are still evident when the rehab is finished.  Another thing that caught my attention is the planning for community gardens. I love the idea of a community growing a garden together. There is something to be said about growing your own food and sustaining the vitality of your neighborhood.  Great things are happening in St. Clair Place, and I look forward to seeing more. Down the road, it would be an ideal place for the gallery and studio space that my husband and I dream of opening.

What are some unusual positive aspects to living in a Core Indianapolis neighborhood that many poeple may not realize?  

There are so many positive aspects, one being the access to great places like the Harrison Center and First Fridays. There are numerous things happening here in Indy that people fail to see. My summer is already jam-packed with fun events happening right in my backyard.  I'm so excited about the Independent Music + Art Festival, the Broad Ripple Art Fair, Talbott Street Art Fair and so much more.  Another positive aspect is the connections that I am making.  I was fortunate enough to meet Joanna Beatty Taft, Executive Director of the Harrison Center at January's First Friday gallery opening, and because of her connecting me with great organizations like INHP I am going to be moving into a house for the first time in my life.

You can see more of Crystal’s work at crystalvicarspugh.com, or view it in person at City Gallery from May 4-May 25.