See the new electronic ‘Ann Dancing’ sculpture as it is installed and lit for the first time on Mass Ave in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.
Jenna Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Ann Dancing” 2.0 promised to be a new watertight version of the iconic mistress of Mass Ave. As she debuted to Indianapolis on Wednesday morning, the skies decided to test her mettle.
Rain poured as a crane hoisted her 650-pound body from a flatbed truck onto the brick plinth where her twin predecessor swayed for more than a decade.
Well, the two are almost twins. Though both electronic sculptures contain the same amber-outlined swaying lady in a black box, “Ann: the First had a reputation for shorting out in unpleasant weather and, as a result, was full of electrical tape gingerly wrapped around wiring. “Ann” the Second has just been built from scratch with updated hardware and software meant to circumvent those shortcomings.
So far, she’s proving she’s up to the task.
Almost 1,200 people from 32 states and 20 corporations donated more than $200,000 this summer to replace the popular sculpture at the intersection of Mass Ave. and Alabama and Vermont streets. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc., the nonprofit organization that owns “Ann,” launched the campaign May 30 to much excitement as well as to criticism about the cost and what some said was a lack of support for local artists.
After the first month, the “Keep Ann Dancing” campaign had enough to replace it. London-based artist Julian Opie, who is renowned for his work in computer art, created “Ann” for the then-in-development Cultural Trail in 2008. She swayed in her mini-dress, with arms bent at the elbows, through all kinds of weather, but the trail knew her technology was limited.
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How ‘Ann’ 2.0 works
Opie and his studio were involved in the process of building a new “Ann” that looks practically identical to the initial one but is composed of upgraded hardware and software. The studio suggested that Utah-based Prismview create the new black box of screens, said Kären Haley, executive director of the Cultural Trail.
Opie was particular about making sure the amber color matched the original and that the motion was fluid, said Phil Sheingold, “Ann’s” doctor who has repaired the sculpture for the past decade. On each of the four sides, the artwork’s shimmy has always been slightly different on purpose, and it still is.
Sheingold and Haley have been sending video to Opie and his studio to make sure “Ann” 2.0 meets his requirements.
“We’ll be sending him more footage when we’re out here so he can see and make sure it’s right,” Haley said.
Small screen panels — 44 on each of the four sides — comprise the new box that showcases the dancer. They are independent enough that, if one shorts, the others will keep working instead of taking out large chunks of the artwork, Sheingold said.
“It’s almost like individual little screens that are all connected in a certain order. And the computer on the inside sends a little part of the image to each section in that same order.
“So when you put it all together, it makes one big picture,” said Sheingold, who was an engineer at SignCraft Industries when it was originally involved with “Ann” and now has his own company, PLM.
Built into the screens, which he likened to electronic billboards, are cooling and other mechanisms to help the technology survive in the elements.
Indy-based SignCraft installed the new sculpture Wednesday. Once “Ann’s” box was off the crane, they hooked up the electricity and bolted it to the plinth before flipping the switch.
What’s next for ‘Ann’ and the Cultural Trail
The Cultural Trail Inc. originally set out to raise $262,800 to replace the sculpture, endow a maintenance fund, improve the plaza around it and collect seed money to commission more art on the trail. Most of the $200,000-plus came from donors in the first 30 days.
Haley said the funds are going toward “Ann” and her maintenance fund first. What money is left will be used to upgrade the plaza, and the nonprofit is continuing to fundraise on its website, at keepanndancing.org, for more art to the Cultural Trail.
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