Carmel Pays Tribute to Hoosier Hoagy Carmichael With Interactive Sculpture
You may have recently driven past the latest public art installation by Arlon Bayliss in the roundabout at City Center Drive and Third Avenue SW near the Palladium. Bayliss’ latest sculpture, “Homage to Hoagy,” is an interactive sculpture that pays tribute to the late Oscar-winning composer, pianist and singer Hoagy Carmichael. Many of us have driven past Bayliss’ other sculptures, “Beacon Bloom” in the roundabout at Westfield Boulevard and 96th Street and “Grace, Love and Joy” in the roundabout at North Pennsylvania Street and Old Meridian Street.
Hoagy Carmichael—A Fellow Hoosier
Carmichael has been acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s most inventive, sophisticated Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1930s. Carmichael composed timeless classics such as “Stardust,” “Georgia on My Mind” (lyrics by Stuart Gorrell), “The Nearness of You” and “Heart and Soul” (in collaboration with lyricist Frank Loesser), four of the most-recorded American songs of all time. Carmichael also collaborated with lyricist Johnny Mercer on “Lazybones” and “Skylark.”
Carmichael was an innovator as well as an iconic craftsman of pop songs. He was among the first singer-songwriters to utilize new technologies such as electric microphones and sound recordings.
Carmichael spent many years of his life in Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
Carmichael was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame, the latest of many accolades and honors he has been awarded for his contributions to American music and the silver screen.
Bayliss shared his thoughts about the lasting tribute he designed to honor Carmichael. “My hope is that ‘Homage to Hoagy’ becomes a cultural landmark of fitting celebration of [Hoagy Carmichael] that brings joy to the citizens of Carmel and visitors to the Center for the Performing Arts for many, many years to come.”
About the Artist and Fabricators
Arlon Bayliss trained at the Royal College of Art in London, England, and his gallery glass artwork is in museums and private collections worldwide. His public art projects include community-based, collaborative outdoor works and large-scale interior architectural installations using dynamic forms and compositions in steel, glass and light. He is a broadly accomplished artist, designer and educator.
Bayliss’ architectural art projects can be seen in the Indianapolis Central Library, Indianapolis International Airport and Simon Property Group—including a 400-foot-long aerial sculpture for the Circle Centre Mall dining pavilion.
In 2017, Bayliss’ artwork was featured in “200 Years Of Indiana Art – A Cultural Legacy,” a landmark exhibition at the Indiana State Museum, and he was awarded Indy Chamber’s prestigious Honor Award for his public art. In 2018, he delivered the closing keynote at the IALD Enlighten Americas Conference in Seattle.
Bayliss works with Indianapolis-based bo-mar Industries—and its owners Bob Buchanan, his brother Mark and their team of talented engineers and craftsmen who are all artists in their own right.
“This project has been a wonderfully educating experience,” Bayliss exuded. “It has been an honor and a pleasure researching Hoagy and collaborating with a wide range people over the last past two years, from the staff at the Great American Songbook Collection, sound recording experts and Carmel City employees, to my steadfast partners and fabricators at bo-mar Industries of Indianapolis.”
Bayliss continued, “It is hard to find words that adequately express my gratitude for everyone’s expertise and goodwill. Countless hours of experimentation and an insistence on perfection from all stakeholders in this project has resulted in an artwork that has exceeded my expectations. Our goal was to create a fitting tribute to one of Indiana’s greatest sons in one of Indiana’s greatest settings.”
The Meaning Behind the Metalwork
Having seen the sculpture up close just prior to its installation in mid-February, I can attest that each singular piece was fabricated with expert precision and great care.
“The project features a 38-foot-tall central sculpture,” Bayliss explained. “Inspired by the songwriter’s lyrics and the timeless impact of his work, the artwork includes abstracted stars, moons and musical notes that burst joyfully from a tilted gramophone horn. Hidden among them is a single skylark, a reference to one of Hoagy’s famous compositions.”
Bayliss further explained the structure of stainless, silver and gold powder-coated steel sets on an Indiana limestone base. It is illuminated from within the base by a rainbow of LED-colored lights that illuminates the sculpture at night.
“The sculpture is complemented by two interactive [digital] gramophones that feature crank handles that activate 14 digital recordings of well-known Carmichael compositions by famous artists—new and old—including Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, The Four Freshman, Michael Bublé and Bette Midler.”