An Indianapolis art and nature destination will expand its reach and community impact through improved infrastructure, upgrades to enhance accessibility, and new art installations, all supported by $10 million from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
The 10-year grant announced today for the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at Newfields will help maximize use of the 100-acre reserve, which is one of the largest art and nature parks in the country. Funding will support amenities such as bike paths and walking trails to better connect the park to the Central Canal Towpath and Newfields’ upper campus; additional parking, security and restrooms to build visitor capacity; and creation of an endowment for art maintenance and commissions to enhance appeal. It also will fund ecological upgrades, including a pollinator meadow and erosion control.
This grant builds on $15 million in previous gifts from the Foundation to launch the park in honor of Virginia B. Fairbanks. She is the late wife of local radio broadcasting pioneer Richard M. Fairbanks, who started his namesake Foundation and served as its President until his death in 2000. Mr. Fairbanks was also a Life Trustee and served on the Board of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
“The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park has become a key asset that enhances quality of life for Indianapolis residents, makes the city a more appealing place to visit, and better positions us to attract talent,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “This $10 million grant helps us to honor the legacy of our founder and aligns with our efforts to make Indianapolis a more thriving and vibrant community.”
Virginia B. Fairbanks passed away in 2007. She was a lifelong gardener and an active member of the Indianapolis Garden Club and the Garden Club of America. Her daughter Judge Elizabeth N. Mann serves on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“The art and nature park celebrates my mother’s passion for nature and wildlife conservation,” said Mann, who resides in Bloomington. “Investing in its future and expanding its capacity to serve our community is both an honor to our family and a tribute to my mother’s legacy.”
When the park opened in 2010, it was lauded nationally as a rare place where visitors could interact with public art created by a diverse array of artists. It also has become a destination for Indianapolis residents and visitors alike.
But challenges such as limited parking and restrooms, erosion along the White River walking trail, and limited security to protect public art impede the park’s potential to be fully utilized as a community asset. Meanwhile, its art installations, most of which were designed to have a shorter lifespan than indoor art because they are outside and widely accessible, need to be refreshed.
Funding from the Foundation will address these infrastructure issues while investing in plant and wildlife conservation. As part of the grant, Newfields also will establish an endowment to fund ongoing park maintenance, as well as new art installations. This will help position the park, which remains free to the public, to be sustainable long-term by increasing capacity for paid events such as film screenings, festivals and summer camps.
“With this grant, we will be able to complete phase II of Fairbanks Park’s long-term master plan, ensuring that the park reaches its full potential as a special place where art, nature, conservation and wellness seamlessly come together in unique ways to the benefit of the community,” said Charles L. Venable, the Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of Newfields. “Our vision is to become one of the world’s greatest art and nature parks and a model for future urban park development. We are most grateful to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation for this high level of investment that will allow us to achieve these goals.”
Construction to upgrade the park will begin in 2019 and is expected to last through 2025.
Newfields will share more about this $10 million grant and detail another $11.7 million in gifts from foundations, private donors and public entities during a meeting at 10 a.m. on April 6 at Newfields. Attendance is free, but registration is required. Register here: https://bit.ly/2Jchmtw.
ABOUT THE RICHARD M. FAIRBANKS FOUNDATION
The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation strives to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people by addressing the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. The Foundation is focused on three issue-areas: education, tobacco and opioid addiction, and the life-sciences. To advance its work, the Foundation implements a three-pronged approach: strategic grantmaking, evidence-based advocacy, and cross-sector collaborations and convenings. Learn more at RMFF.org.