Fleur-de-lis intersection blooms again as Lafayette prepares artist tribute at 10th and Main
City will honor artist Linda Vanderkolk, a community force who helped design the initial installation on Upper Main streets
With post-shutdown Mosey Down Main Street season closing in – June 12, hello – and this weekend’s return of “Fresh Air Eats” and its street seating in downtown, the huge, yellow fleur-de-lis patterns at 10th and Main streets, painted and faded beyond recognition twice already since 2015, are back.
This time, the design is heavier duty and less intricate than the hand-painted community projects that produced them the times before.
“But this fleur-de-lis, it’s a flower that keeps blooming,” said Petronio Bendito, an associate professor in the Department of Art and Design at Purdue who helped design the first version as one of downtown Lafayette’s first forays into street art actually done on the actual asphalt.
“And the timing,” Bendito said, “that’s something, too.”
The work, done over three days this week by Globe Asphalt Paving Co., started a week after the death of Linda Vanderkolk, a Purdue art professor and community artist who worked with Bendito to design and install the first project at 10th and Main.
The city plans to install a plaque at the intersection to honor Vanderkolk, who did numerous public art projects in Lafayette, including “Farm Family Objects,” that has served as an entrance to the Lafayette Farmers Market at Fifth and Main streets since 1991. She died May 4. She was 69.
“Linda was such a community hero,” Bendito said. “Where these fleur-de-lis keep blooming in new and different ways is a perfect place to honor her and all she’s done.”
This week’s work was part of sidewalk improvements done on Main Street, between 10th and 11th streets, in the past year, Margy Deverall, a planner with the city’s economic development department, said.
Originally expected to be done last fall, the design includes four, yellow fleur-de-lis – one emanating from each corner, each a nod to Lafayette’s French namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette. These versions were applied with heat the way more traditional traffic markings are. This version of crosswalks is heat-adhered, too, designed to resemble bricks, similar to other parts of downtown.
“The painted design was too intricate for the process and material they use,” Deverall said.
Bendito said the city gave him a heads up about that.
For him, the important part is that the previous two painted versions struck enough of a chord that, as they faded from years of tire wear, the city started fielding queries.
“Margy says that when the fleur-de-lis disappeared, people asked about it: Where did they go?” Bendito said.
The initial Upper Main Street installation was funded by a Place Based Investment Grant, a program of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Department of Tourism to promote projects that juiced economic development and quality of life.
Vanderkolk and Bendito intentionally designed crosswalks in bright yellow, orange and white to replicate the colors of traffic signals and signs to calm traffic at the four-way stop, surrounded by new restaurants and shops.
“It was an example of art and function coming together,” Bendito said. “The colors were not random.”
The installation came with a community component. More than 75 volunteers, many of them kids, came on a Saturday of a Mosey Down Main Street festival to paint yellow fleur-de-lis designs against the orange background of four crosswalks.
To make that work, the artists created laser-cut stencils that allowed templates so dozens of people could get a brush, get on the ground and paint one of the fleur-de-lis.
Bendito said he and Vanderkolk simplified the shape of the floral image – “Simpler and modernized in our own way,” he said – so they could be done in a single day.
“It was a complete strategic effort,” he said.
Bendito and Vanderkolk repainted the crosswalks in 2018, this time scaling back the design given that the community help wouldn’t be there. The 2021 version takes on a different feel.
Bendito said he was fine with that. The fleur-de-lis design – one he and Vanderkolk simplified for their own purposes and had hoped would resonate – persists in the latest version.
“It means, I feel, we found something that reflected the values of the community – something that really connected,” Bendito said. “Linda and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
And when this one fades someday?
“One day, maybe we can redo it in all its original glory,” Bendito said. “For now, I’m extremely proud. I’m missing Linda to share in this.”