Interstate-70 Public Art Project Catches On; Improves Gateway to West Indianapolis


Today Artist Jason Bord will install four 8- to10-foot totem poles at HealthNet Southwest Health & Dental Center on the city’s near southwest side, extending the I-70 public art project that began four years ago to beautify the entrance to Indianapolis to also enhance the gateway to the West Indianapolis. 

The installation will take place from 9 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. at HealthNet Southwest Health & Dental Center, 1522 W. Morris St., a community health center serving the uninsured and underinsured.

Recognizing that the open spaces within highway interchanges are often modern day no-mans-lands—jumbles of grass and weeds that look about the same in every city—Keep Indianapolis Beautiful partnered with Eli Lilly & Company and the Indiana Department of Transportation in 2007 to make the Indianapolis section of I-70 unlike anything else along the more than 2,100 generic miles of roadway stretching from Maryland to Utah.

The beautification initiative, know as “A Greener Welcome,” sought to create a more inviting entrance to Indianapolis by landscaping and enhancing five interchanges along I-70 - from the airport to downtown—the western gateway to the city. The project included the installation of eclectic public art at three interchanges, including a totem pole sculpture park at the Harding St. interchange designed by Bord, a master of fine art sculpture graduate from Herron School of Art and Design.

Southwest Health & Dental Center’s board of directors commissioned Bord to create a second totem pole sculpture after the 39-year-old health center outgrew its space relocated in 2010 to larger quarters at the busy intersection of Harding and W. Morris streets, very near the first totem sculptures. The board received a grant from the West Indianapolis Community Fund to help fund the installation.

The approximate weight of each totem is 500 lbs. Bord and an assistant will use a forklift and manpower to stand the poles upright and secure them in place with dry stacking stone. 

“This sculpture has potential to present a strong presence, individual strength, something that those entering a health center should take with them as they enter and exit,” said Bord. “I hope as the audience visits the health center, they investigate this piece, easing their minds, filling them with confidence, or just using the sculpture as visual objects of beauty.”

It has long been a goal of the West Indianapolis Development Corporation (WIDC) to define and enhance the West Morris/Harding St. intersection and nearby areas, which serve as a gateway into the West Indianapolis community. The art installation is one of several efforts to bring more art and culture to west side. In fact, the Mary Rigg Community Center recently had a mural installed as part of the City of Indianapolis’ Murals Program,46 For XLVI.


Since 1968, HealthNet ( has been a mainstay in the Indianapolis community. Through its network of five community-based health centers, an OB/GYN care center, a pediatric and adolescent care center, and eight school-based clinics, HealthNet annually serves over 50,000 individuals and families. Many of them are uninsured or underinsured and live below the federal poverty level. HealthNet services include: primary and preventive health care; OB-GYN support and coaching for expectant mothers; Healthy Families and Better Indy Babies; dental services; Homeless Initiative Program; counseling, outreach and social service programs. HealthNet’s health centers include Martindale-Brightwood Health & Dental Center, People’s Health & Dental Center, Southeast Health & Dental Center, Southwest Health & Dental Center, Eastside Health Center, Barrington Health Center, the Care Center at the Tower, the Pediatric and Adolescent Care Center and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center.