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Welcome Race Fans Art Adds Flair to High-Octane Spirit of Indianapolis

Each May, Indianapolis comes alive as Hoosiers embrace and celebrate the spirit of the Month of May and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Between the sounds of race cars and sight of checkered flags flying high in the sky, Welcome Race Fans art blankets Central Indiana and welcomes the world to Indianapolis.

This May, there is no Indianapolis 500 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the race rescheduled for Aug. 23. But the sentiment of Welcome Race Fans artwork remains the same as this exciting partnership between the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to embrace and celebrate the spirit of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” now and when race cars are back on track at the Racing Capital of the World.

Since 2016, the Arts Council and IMS have celebrated the race by commissioning artists to create unique Welcome Race Fans signs. This year, the partnership highlights five talented artists and their work that celebrates the history, culture and excitement of Indianapolis.

Three local artists have completed their pieces in time to virtually celebrate the spirit of Indianapolis’ favorite month of the year with #500atHome. This trio has tapped into the racing culture of Indianapolis, as well as their personal connections as fellow Hoosiers and race fans, to Welcome Race Fans to Indianapolis.

'Lunar Spectacle'

 
WRF Kuntz

 


Indianapolis resident Joy Hernandez brought her passion for space and her personal astronaut character to the drawing board with acrylic and aerosol paints that can “Welcome Race Fans” not just from around the world, but from the galaxy.

 

Hernandez’s astronaut serves as a friendly, welcoming character that represents everyone inviting guests to Indianapolis, including herself. While not a native Hoosier, Hernandez has lived in Indianapolis for several years and has truly embraced the “500” and how the community unites around the race.

“It is a spectacle, and I say that with all the reverence of it,” she said of the race. “There’s all this history, and history with the city. I didn’t know anything about racing when I moved to Indianapolis. Now I like watching it. You can’t not feel it. It’s just part of being here. You take it up, and you’re a part of it.”

Hernandez has attended the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge since 2004. Her artwork that embraces race fans takes a deeper level because of the personal connection to racing she has with her dad, an avid race fan.

“People coming from all over, my actual piece, that’s awesome,” she said. “The reason I started painting in the first place is because it’s fun for me to have this in my house, but it’s more fun for me to have this on someone else’s wall and for them to get that enjoyment out of it.”

‘Back Home Again’

 

hochhalter WRF 2020

 

 


An integral part of the Indianapolis 500 is the history that comes with the 111-year-old facility that is preparing to celebrate the 104th Running of the motorsports crown jewel event.

That’s where Becky Hochhalter found the inspiration for her artwork in this year’s Welcome Race Fans sign.

Her sign features mural acrylics paint on a cradled wood panel. And it screams history louder than a 1948 Novi roaring down the frontstretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hochhalter’s art features the original Pagoda, as well as a gauge on the 1928 Indianapolis 500 winning car driven by Louis Meyer. Additionally, it features a replica of the winner’s wreath that was given to the legendary A.J. Foyt when he earned his first Indianapolis 500 victory in 1961. Plus, the top of the Borg-Warner Trophy and the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard trophy are featured and wrap together the history of racing at IMS.

“There’s a lot more to the piece than, ‘Oh, great flowers,’” Hochhalter said. “I wanted to have a little bit of a story behind it. It’s kind of a conversation piece that makes people think of all the history of the Speedway. We love the track, we love the history and just all the pomp and circumstance, the buildup to the race. It’s exciting, and it’s just such a neat community thing.”

Hochhalter said she was inspired to answer the Art Council’s call for artists because of her husband, who has been a longtime, passionate race fan. She said the shared passion with him makes being a part of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” that much more special.

“When I found out that I had been chosen, I was super excited, and of course my husband was 10 times more than I was,” she said. “He’s supported me very strongly throughout my professional art career, so I thought this is so awesome for him to have something he’s so connected to by having me create a piece of art for it. It just means so much more.”
‘Infield Turn 3’


 

Martin Kuntz WRF 2020


 


When artist Martin Kuntz went to his first Indianapolis 500 in 2009, he didn’t know what to expect. Although he had lived in Indianapolis for a while, he had never been to a race. He hadn’t embraced the spirit of the race and wasn’t sure he would.

And then pre-race festivities started. He heard Jim Nabors sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.” The national anthem came over the speakers. Fighter jets blasted over the racetrack. All from his seat in the infield of Turn 3.

“Pretty immediately, I was hooked,” he said. “I bought into the pageantry and the marching bands, the flyover and all that stuff. I had an absolute blast.”

That first experience inspired his Welcome Race Fans sign that features the iconic Pagoda, an Indy car, a stock car, a fighter jet and so much more. Kuntz made his sign on medium density overlay plywood with acrylic paint for the sky and clouds and oil paints for everything else.

“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “I remember seeing very vividly the William Denton Ray piece on the side of the Artsgarden, and I know him pretty well, and I thought, ‘How the hell do you land something like that?’ I just thought that was the coolest thing. So, to be participating in this is still pretty awesome to be a part of it.”

The remaining 2020 artists are Josh Betsey and Jingo de la Rosa. The remaining artwork will be unveiled by the Arts Council of Indianapolis later this summer and will celebrate the spirit of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard on Fourth of July weekend and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, Aug. 23.

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