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IPS Helps Dedicate Historical Market Commemorating Abstract Artist

Dr. Patricia Payne, director of the IPS Racial Equity Office, (left) joins Robert Chester, curator of the Crispus Attucks Museum, to unveil an historical marker honoring artist Felrath Hines Jr.

A historical marker commemorating Crispus Attucks High School alumnus Felrath Hines Jr. will bring public attention to one of the nation’s top abstract artists.

Robert Chester, curator of the school’s museum, and was joined by Dr. Patricia Payne, director of the Racial Equity Office for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), on April 27 to unveil the historical marker outside Crispus Attucks near the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. and Oscar Robertson Blvd.

Chester called Hines an amazing man.

“First and foremost, he was one of us,” Chester said. “He came from a humble, simple area of this city. He took the opportunities presented to him to do great things for not only for himself, but for the community, the school, and nation.”

An abstract painter, Hines was born in Indianapolis in 1913. He graduated from segregated Crispus Attucks High School in 1931. Trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, Hines moved to New York City, where he became immersed in the modernist movement of the 1950s. Major museums exhibited his pieces, which used geometric forms and radiant color.

Hines participated in the 1963 March on Washington and joined Spiral, a group of Black artists advocating for racial equality. Though passionate about civil rights, he separated his activism from his artwork. Hines restored pieces for Georgia O’Keeffe and served as conservator of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, but prioritized painting until his 1993 death.

Chester noted that in addition to an exhibit of Hines’ work on display at the Indiana State Museum, the Crispus Attucks Museum has several pieces available for public consumption.

“I honestly knew very little about the man until I started digging into his background because of planning for this marker,” Chester said. “The more I dug, the more I was absolutely fascinated. He was commissioned by two U.S. presidents in the 1960s to do paintings and his work is known about the globe.”

State historical markers commemorate significant individuals, organizations, places and events in Indiana history. These markers help communities throughout the state promote, preserve and present their history for the education and enjoyment of residents and tourists of all ages.

For over 100 years the Indiana Historical Bureau, a division of the Indiana State Library, has been marking Indiana history. Since 1946, the marker format has been the large roadside marker, which has the familiar dark blue background with gold lettering and the outline of the state of Indiana at the top. Approximately 750 of these markers have been installed over the years.