This rendering shows the Madame CJ Walker mural planned near Indiana Avenue. (Image courtesy of Indy Arts Council)
Indianapolis artist Tasha Beckwith prepares to paint a mural to celebrate the legacy of entrepreneur Madame CJ Walker, who built an empire of hair care products and became known as the ‘first self-made millionaire woman ” in the USA.
Scheduled for the exterior of the Martens Building, 315 N. Senator Ave., the artwork will follow a 2021 downtown mural dedicated to champion cyclist Major Taylor in a series called “Indianapolis Legends.”
Indy Arts Council, Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the Madam Walker Legacy Center are working with Beckwith to reconfigure a temporary mural of Walker that the artist installed in the Civic Plaza at Indianapolis International Airport. The mural in the Martens Building, less than half a mile southeast of the Madam Walker Legacy Center, is expected to last up to 15 years.
Meanwhile, Indiana Humanities and Indy Arts Council are looking for a Hoosier poet to write a poem based on Walker’s life and legacy. The poem will be displayed next to Beckwith’s mural. Poets are invited to apply before July 24 at indyarts.organd the mural is expected to be completed in October.
The selected poet will receive a $1,000 stipend.
Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, marketed a petroleum jelly and sulfur ointment that helped heal women’s scalps. The product, billed as Madame CJ Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, was popular enough to require a network of 25,000 Walker sales agents nationwide.
His leadership in the industry led to the establishment of the Madam CJ Walker Hair Culturists Union of America and the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association. Walker died in 1919, eight years before the iconic building opened at 617 Indiana Ave. in 1927.
In 2018, the Madam Walker Theater Center changed its name to the Madam Walker Legacy Center and launched $15 million in building renovations.
Ahead of last weekend’s 95th anniversary festivities at The Walker, organization president Kristian Little Stricklen spoke about the lasting influence of the woman portrayed in the 2020 Netflix miniseries “Self Made.”
“When we restored the building and changed the name to Madam Walker Legacy Center, it was to really enhance the legacy,” Stricklen said. “She was an entrepreneur. She fought for women’s equality. She was a philanthropist. »
The Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission provided seed funding for the Indianapolis Legends Mural Series. This money will cover approximately 40% of the $75,000 required for the creation and installation of the Walker mural.
The Walker Mural Project received a $5,000 grant from the Indiana Destination Development Commission. Additional funds will be sought through contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals.
For more information, visit indyarts.org/legends.