Mary Kramer, who retired as the executive director for Art Spaces — the nonprofit tasked with collecting and placing outdoor art throughout the city — was honored Wednesday afternoon during a reception at the Terre Haute Convention Center.
Indiana House District 43 Representative Tonya Pfaff presented Kramer with a certificate signed by Governor Eric Holcomb inducting her into the Circle of Corydon. The award references early Hoosier leaders who gathered in the state’s first capital, Corydon, to craft the state Constitution and honors those who “have made remarkable contributions to the betterment of Indiana and its people.”
Kramer, who did not have advance knowledge of the award, responded, “What a big surprise and what an honor.”
Introducing Kramer, Art Spaces vice chair Ellie Caldwell said “She is a quiet force” and that Kramer had amassed a collection of outdoor art “unrivaled in cities of our size.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Mayor Duke Bennett told Kramer, “I appreciate all your efforts. You made it all happen.” He said that earlier in the day he was on a call with other Hoosier mayors discussing Terre Haute’s many offerings, and that Kramer’s efforts have “put us on the map in a lot of ways that’s very helpful. It gives me something else to sell and talk about.” Kramer thanked Bennett for his support over the years.
Throughout the Convention Center’s foyer, thank you cards dotted tables with a sign imploring attendees to fill one out, reading in part, “Let Mary read a ‘chorus of trumpets’ expressing thanks for all she has done for Art Spaces and the Terre Haute community. .”
Kramer was modest in speaking of her and Art Spaces’ evolution. “I started in 2005 when it was just a great idea that people in the community had,” she said.
Art Spaces became a nonprofit, Kramer said, adding, “There was no road map for doing it this way, because most public art collections in the country are publicly-funded. There are very few organizations like ours in cities of our size. We had to figure out.”
Kramer said the sculpture that put Art Spaces on the map was Bill Wolfe’s statue of Max Ehrmann at the corner of 7th St. and Wabash, a corner where the “Desiderata” poet often sat and conversed with passers-by.
“Max Ehrmann was a big one, because he started what was called Terre Haute’s Cultural Trail,” she said. “We started to recognize that there were a lot of world-renowned people that came out of this community, and he’s the first one we did. A lot of people knew his work, but they didn’t know he was from here. So it just brought this immense feeling of pride for people living here.”
She added, “It became a very popular sculpture very fast and people from around the world have come to visit that here after finding out he was from here. It’s brought a lot of attention to the city.”
After a busy couple of years with Art Spaces, Kramer is looking forward to returning to making art herself. She works with oils and mixed media. “My work has been about borders for many years and playing with the idea that there is really no line in the ground,” she explained. “That’s the theme that’s been in my work for several years.”
She’ll also continue to consult with Art Spaces on certain projects, and also continue to work on Turn to the River, a project reconnecting Terre Haute’s downtown with the Wabash River through public art and design. Turn to the River received a Merit Award from the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2019.
Kramer has also been honored with a 2021 Women in Business Award, a 2014 Founder’s Day Award, and a 2013 Women of Influence Award. Art Spaces received the 2013 Vision Award from the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s been a great ride,” she concluded.
Her replacement will be Art Spaces’ former operations and programs coordinator Ally Midgley.
David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at email@example.com.