INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Armstrong has been painting murals on the billboard at the corner of Central Avenue and 30th Street since 2012. The longtime Indianapolis artist, perhaps best known by his signature “Bruce A.” He began placing thought-provoking phrases on a large wooden plank shortly before Trayvon Martin’s death.
“There was a lot going on at the time,” Armstrong told WRTV. “I kind of started putting the shortest statement I could put on the board to call attention to maybe a solution, maybe a question.”
Armstrong’s art studio is across the street from the wooden platform he took to paint 10 years ago. He rented an exposed brick studio for the last two decades after his retirement.
“Love him, love him, love him!” Armstrong said of retirement life.
The 79-year-old has been making art all his life. He says he always challenges himself to learn something new.
“I do a little bit of everything,” Armstrong said. “Realism, abstraction, charcoal, acrylic, sculpting—a wide range. Just exploring the really different mediums.”
Despite the breadth of his artistic abilities, his recent work on the north-facing display panel is frankly very simple.
An equation appears in white line on a black background: “10 + 21 +?”
It is a basic board with a complex meaning, requiring what is, perhaps, a more complex answer.
“As we all know, a month or so ago, we had 10 massacres in Buffalo. Then in Texas, he killed 21 people,” Armstrong said. “In my mind, I said, ‘This will go on,’ you know. And so, using my tablet here, I said, ‘What can you put there to draw attention to this?'” “
The largest part of this equation, says Armstrong, is the question mark.
The question mark is what creates this element, said Armstrong, ‘What can we do? “
With every word, phrase, or call to action he puts on the board, Armstrong says, he “pays to get a question” in return. Question to question if you will.
Armstrong explained that he believed that if people burrowed further; If we engage in critical conversations by asking questions first, we will find that we are more alike than we think, and we will find common ground – perhaps even a solution.
“Sometimes we’re so busy, we think about the outcome and we don’t think about how to affect the whole,” Armstrong said.
The artist says when the 30th corner has become a four-way stop in recent years, traffic has slowed. It allowed people to really look around, especially at that billboard.
So I said, ‘You know what, on their (passerby) busy day–good or bad or indifferent–if you put something useful here, maybe their day would change for the better.’ “So, I looked into the corner, and I said, ‘You know, you can put something in here to create a question, which leads to a conversation.'”
Armstrong has painted only about a dozen billboards over the past decade. He said he painted the flag of justice, the word “vote” in 2020, and just before the last equation, he painted a mural called “Try.”
“That gives you an indication of ‘Try what?'” Armstrong said. “I’m trying to get a question with what I’m asking here.”
Armstrong hasn’t had many people find out he’s behind the art on that billboard, but when they do, some call to speak.
“They were all complete strangers,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that every conversation went well, even as they began to show off.
“I’ve had a gentleman’s call because I had a flag here. And I wrote ‘justice’ on it, you know, justice is now very broad. But when he spoke to me, he said, ‘This flag, it can seem insulting’ by his interpretation. But in The moment you said, ‘Okay, I’m a Vietnam veteran, are you a service guy? “That changed the dynamics,” Armstrong said of the conversation. We found the common denominator just by being on duty. Then the questions became more general, and we were able to have a nice conversation, you know?”
At the end of the day, Armstrong hopes to enhance his art in his 30s, improve the viewer’s day central, and lead to thought-provoking conversation. Either with yourself or with someone in the community.
“Every now and then, I’d get a call, and they said, ‘Are you Bruce A.?’ And I said, “Yeah, I’m Bruce A.” And they said, “Love that piece over there!” And I said, “Wonderful! Hope your day improves.” “That’s my goal,” Armstrong said.
You can see more of Armstrong’s work and meet him at the French Market on Saturday, September 10, where he will have a booth. He is also part of the “WE ARE INDY ARTS” organization.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @shakkirasays.