Chicken Chapel of Love/Vide cor meum (See My Heart)

A concept of Big Car Collaborative co-founder Shauta Marsh, the Chapel was designed by Jason Gray, Marsh — with multiple staff members and partners collaboratively building, furnishing and fundraising for it since 2016. 

When you open The Chicken Chapel of Love’s hand-carved wooden doors inscribed with the latin phrase Vide cor meum (See My Heart), you’re greeted with stained glass windows filtering the east-rising sun, gilded gold, walls of woodburnt symbols bv Nasreen Khan, neon lights, red velvet curtains, taxidermied roosters, warm wood church pews, wax candles of all colors — some lit, some melted.

Ceremony and ritual are foundations of modern society. The desire to create meaningful words, movements, and sacred spaces is hard-wired into us and created by people of all cultures and backgrounds. Throughout most of human history — all over the world — we’ve integrated one animal into those rituals: the chicken. From symbols to food to sacrifices to developing vaccinations, the chicken is the most ubiquitous but overlooked creature essential to our existence. Our destinies and fates between our species are overlapping and intertwining like those with whom we choose to share our lives.

When domesticating chickens from their jungle home in Southeast Asia, warlords consulted chickens when deciding whether or not to go to war. The likenesses of chickens decorate our kitchens and denote fertility and manhood and cowardice. Today — when you drive down any highway in Indiana — you’ll see long, windowless barns with slow-moving fans inside above thousands of chickens raised for mass consumption. The idiom “you are what you eat” rings true.

As Americans with ancestors from around the world — including native to North America — the artists working on the Chicken Chapel include world-wide indigenous spiritual symbols. These represent the balance of creation and destruction that comes from motherhood.  Nasreen Khan was commissioned for the wood burning works in the Chapel, Julie Xiao for the mural on the east facing wall of the chapel.

Commissions are on-going.

From Danté’s La Vita Nuova

While thinking of her (Beatrice)

A sweet sleep came over me

I am your master

Here is your heart

And on this burning heart

Your heart

(she) obediently fed

Then I saw him (Amore) leaving in tears

Joy became bitterest lament

I am in peace

My heart

I am in peace

See my heart

The Chicken Chapel of Love is made possible by IHCDA, Patronicity and supporters like you!

About Shauta Marsh

A social practice artist, curator, writer, author and researcher, Marsh’s work centers around artist-run culture, race and urban renewal through the lens of the arts, censorship in red states, popular culture’s influence on the pursuit of utopia, urban/rural relationships and artists’ social roles. She writes and produces the Social Alchemy radio programs on 99.1 WQRT LP-Indianapolis, creates public art projects and events via Big Car’s placemaking program, Spark and leads the APLR program. Working with artists who explore identity to bring about social change, she specializes in rapid response exhibitions. She has curated over 50 exhibits with artists including Carlos Rolón, Saya Woolfalk, LaToya Ruby Frazier, etc.

About Nasreen Khan

Nasreen Khan (she/her) is a writer, visual artist, teacher, and mother. She grew up in West Africa and Indonesia and has recently made a home in Indianapolis. Her teaching and artistic practices, rooted in questions of equity and earth-based spirituality, grapple with questions of belonging; celebrate cultural margins; and confront colonization, racism, and misogyny.

IG: @heyitsnasreen


  • Date: November, 2021