Public Art initiatives in Muncie are strengthening the economic development and community of Delaware County

The public art display "Midnight Palace" hangs in Dave's Alley Jan. 15 in downtown Muncie, Indiana.  The piece was made by Future Firm in Chicago, Illinois  Olivia Ground, DN
The public art display "Midnight Palace" hangs in Dave's Alley Jan. 15 in downtown Muncie, Indiana. The piece was made by Future Firm in Chicago, Illinois Olivia Ground, DN

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct an error.

It’s late, and the workers who just finished overnight factory shifts walk home, their knuckles dragging from lingering exhaustion. 

These workers are the backbone of society but aren’t ever recognized. They sleep through the day, never having the chance to engage in the community. 

They can’t even see a movie.  

This was the inspiration of the newest public art installation in Dave’s Alley in Muncie: Midnight Palace.  

“We talked with the artists after trying out a couple of different ideas; they really wanted to see it created in a sense where it was staggered in curtains,” Erin Williams, executive director of MuncieArts said. “One of the intentions of the piece was that it was a movie theater, movie palace or vaudeville palace for late-night workers who don't normally get to see in their communities during the day.” 

Midnight Palace is one of many public art installations in Muncie, with the piece originating from Columbus, Indiana.

The piece was designed in 2021 by Future Firm, an architecture company based in Chicago, for the annual event “Exhibit Columbus.”  

Midnight Palace was available to the public 24/7 for three months, originally with the occasional film playing behind it to capture the feeling of a movie theater for late-shift workers.  

"At the end, we decommission, but we don't want to see this in the dumpster, right? This is art. And so, we are trying to recycle, but really trying to find new homes for art,” Janice Shimizu, assistant professor of Architecture at Ball State and volunteer at Exhibit Columbus said.  

Shimizu shared information about the piece with Williams, who decided the piece would be displayed in Dave’s Alley.  

The public art display "Midnight Palace" hangs in Dave's Alley Jan. 15 in Downtown Muncie, Indiana. The piece was given to Muncie after hanging in Columbus, Indiana. Olivia Ground, DN

Having the piece moved to Muncie and installed required a lot of moving parts. Williams said MuncieArts had to work with multiple local companies and businesses to make the piece happen, including Midwest Metals and Parker Electric.  

Although this public art often takes a community to make it happen, these communities, in return, experience a positive impact.  

“Art has an ability to be an access point and connect a diverse audience and think about how we use public space,” Shimizu said. “It allows us to have sometimes difficult conversations about things that can be brought through a common event or activity.”  

Not only can public art have a positive impact on the culture and community of a town, but there can be economic benefits as well. 

According to Americans for the Arts, cities gain value through the installation of public art. This value could be cultural, social and economic. Overall, data strongly indicates that cities with an active dynamic culture will be more attractive to businesses. 

This culture comes from art.

“For the community as a whole, art can serve a valuable, unifying purpose: to help people understand themselves and the people around them — and they can use art as that catalyst in unique and personal ways. It meets you where you are!” Rachel Buckmaster, associate director of the David Owsley Museum of Art (DOMA), said via email.  

The DOMA is located on Ball State’s campus, is free and open to the public year round. The museum offers a variety of events during the year that allow the community to engage in art locally.  

“We are strengthened by community feedback, inquiries, requests, conversations: the museum comes alive when visitors enter and would not be the same without them,” Buckmaster said via email “In my several years at DOMA, I’ve seen people connect, people reconnect, fall in love, get engaged, laugh, cry, sit quietly… There are thousands of years of human experiences on the walls, and yet, somehow, each tiny moment experienced by a visitor in the galleries can be special.” 

Midnight Palace being installed in Muncie resulted in a monetary grant awarded by the Indiana Destination Development Corporation to MuncieArts. Pieces of Midnight Palace can now be found across the state.

"These kinds of projects will come and go, and they can come from other entities. They could come from outside Indiana or they can come from other communities, and that's okay,” Williams said. “Everything is going to generate more excitement and enthusiasm about the community in general.” 

Contact Olivia Ground via email at  or on X @liv_ground_25.


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