In 2006, Citizens Energy Group embarked on a 20-year project to improve local waterways by constructing the DigIndy Tunnel System 250 feet below the surface of Indianapolis. The purpose? To clean and preserve the city’s rivers and streams for generations to come. The first 10 miles of the system opened in late 2017 and have prevented more than 1.3 billion gallons of sewage from entering the White River and Eagle Creek across the southern half of Marion County. Upon completion, the 28-mile DigIndy Tunnel System will nearly eliminate sewer overflows from area waterways.
Located at 3750 W. Washington St. in Indianapolis, the artwork brings to life the vision of local Mexican American artist Samuel Peñaloza, who interpreted Aztec mythology by featuring Tlāloc, supreme god of rain, earthly fertility, and water. The art highlights the influence of water on our city and in nature. Big Car staff artist and Arte Mexicano en Indiana executive director, Eduardo Luna, helped lead the project.
In past years, the DigIndy Art Project featured original art hand-painted on manhole covers around the city and a mural on a Citizens building at Meridian Street and Westfield Boulevard. This year’s mural is part of Citizens’ ongoing efforts to educate the public about the transformational benefits DigIndy is providing our community.
“The 2021 DigIndy Art Project is a celebration of our local waterways and the rich Latino culture in the mural’s westside neighborhood,” said Jeffrey Harrison, Citizens President & CEO. “Citizens is grateful to Big Car Collaborative and artist Samuel Peñaloza for their partnership and vision, and to the community members who provided their input on this inspiring piece of public art.”
The open portion of the DigIndy Tunnel System already has prevented more than 2.5 billion gallons of sewage from entering our local waterways. When the entire system is complete in 2025, it will capture up to 6 billion gallons of sewage annually, restoring our local waterways to levels not seen in more than 100 years.
In 2020, we worked with local artist and illustrator, Ess McKee, to paint a colorful mural on a prominent pump house building at Meridian Street and Westfield Avenue near the canal, an important water source for Indianapolis. The mural is a collaborative effort that channels the artist’s inspiration and the community’s ideas on what cleaner waterways mean to them.
“While we were walking around, I was taking a look at the trees and water. I wanted to incorporate some of the elements of the actual surroundings here.” Ess McKee
By creating a mural design informed by neighborhood residents and stakeholders through surveys and virtual community meetings, this project served as a connection point between local artists and the community to help beautify the neighborhood and protect Indy’s waterways.
“I think it’s really important as a connection point for people to be apart of something greater than just yourself. Art and artists can actually help solve problems. They can collaborate with people outside of art to enhance the outcome.” Andy Fry, Big Car’s Creative Director
In 2019, the DigIndy Art Project partnered with Big Car to highlight some of the major changes taking place under our feet and allow community members to become involved. Eight Indianapolis-based artists developed designs that visualize our city’s future with enhanced waterways as a result of the DigIndy Tunnel System. The artists painted their pieces onto real manhole covers. The manhole covers were placed throughout the city and serve as reminders of the DigIndy Tunnel System, our future with cleaner waterways and our connection to one another.
Artists featured: John Clark, Carlie Foreman, Andy Fry, James Kelly, Ess McKee, Chris Tower, Ezi Underwood, John DeWeese. Check out photos from here.