Art Spaces wants to help Terre Haute residents reconnect with the Wabash River. Chris Path, Mary Kramer, and Jason Saavedra put forth a plan to make improvements to Fairbank's Park and the city's government square. The trio gave a presentation at special call city council meeting held last Thursday.
Art Spaces partnered with J3 concepts to commission a beautification study. Kramer and Path told the Terre Haute City Council that they should view plans as part of the area's economic development. The study found a lack of attractions and access barriers prevented residents from enjoying the area along the river. Participants suggested adding food trucks, permanent restaurants and boat rentals to bring more visitors to Fairbanks parks, and they named 3rd Street as one of the largest access barriers.
Although the river remains an ever-present facet of life in the city, many residents act as if they are ashamed of it, according to Councilman Todd Nation. He pointed out that the bridges on Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue make it difficult for motorists on the bridge to see the river below.
J3 Concepts brought in three artists to work on the project. Sarah Levy, Buster Simpson, and Betsy Damon served as consultants to the projects. Each of the artists worked on different water way projects around the world. These artists suggested design concepts, and Art Spaces hopes to bring one of the artists back for the final project.
Art Spaces did more than look at ways to improve Fairbanks Park. They also suggested ways to improve the government square. The square, which houses the city hall, the Vigo County Court House, and the Vigo County Security Center, is in the same area. The city wants to replace the fountain between the court house and the city hall. Plans call for a new fountain, statue, or a combination fountain and statue. The county wants to ease the overcrowded conditions at the security center. Officials may vote to vacate the current building in favor of constructing a larger facility. If the county builds a new jail, they will leave the current building empty. Art Spaces and J3 Concepts suggested using the space as office spaces, warehousing, or as a visitor's information center.
The study was funded through a Creative Spaces grant. Community organizations apply for these grants through the National Endowment for the Arts. In order to receive this NEA grant, the organization must have a partner in the local government. Mayor Bennett and the Terre Haute Redevelopment Department have worked with Art Space on this and other projects.
The study suggested installing an urban passage way and removing the barriers that obstruct the view of the river. The Urban passageway would allow pedestrians to cross US Route 41 more easily, but this does not mean that they will get to food trucks at Fairbanks Park soon. Terre Haute Residents expecting to see food trucks at Fairbanks Park on a regular basis may have to wait. City ordinances make it difficult for restaurateurs to operate a food truck within the city limits.