Historic Marker Honoring Felrath Hines to Be Situated by Crispus Attucks High
INDIANAPOLIS – A new state historical marker sponsored by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites to honor the late abstract artist Samuel Felrath Hines will be unveiled at 11:30 a.m. April 27 outside Crispus Attucks High School, his alma mater.
The marker will be located at the corner of Oscar Robertson Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The public is invited to attend a short ceremony that will feature speakers Casey Elizabeth Pfeiffer, historical marker program director for the Indiana Historical Bureau Division; Robert Chester, curator of the Crispus Attucks High School Museum; and Kisha Tandy, curator of social history for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
The marker is the result of about two years of work by the state museum to research and apply to the Indiana Historical Bureau for approval. In 2018, Rachel Berenson Perry, former fine arts curator for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, wrote the biography “The Life and Art of Felrath Hines: From Dark to Light.” The next year, the state museum presented a well-received exhibition called “It’s About Time: The Artwork of Felrath Hines,” showcasing more than 20 of his paintings.
Sometime after the exhibit closed, Perry suggested the idea of a marker to recognize Hines. Museum officials supported the idea and funded the marker.
Hines (1913-1993) grew up on Indianapolis’ westside, attended Saturday youth art classes at the John Herron School of Art and graduated from Attucks in 1931. An abstract artist who used different shapes and colors to communicate, he lived in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., and worked as a professional art conservator for both the Smithsonian and noted artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
The marker reads:
Felrath Hines, Jr.
Black abstract painter Samuel Felrath Hines, Jr. 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.
Tandy, the state museum curator, said she’s pleased that the marker honors both the legacy of his art and his work as a conservator.
“That’s something that really drew me to him,” she said. “Felrath Hines is someone who is known nationally for his art and his conservation work. As someone who was born and raised in Indianapolis, it’s important to me to help celebrate significant individuals and places.”
Pfeiffer, the historical marker program director, said that “one of the wonderful things about the application for Felrath Hines was that it gave us the opportunity to examine Black history and contributions in the context of art and museums. The marker will help inform people about another Indianapolis native who began his career here, where he gained some of the early education and training that would contribute to his career as a noted artist.”
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 more than 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. More than 700 of these markers have been installed over the years.
The marker program is a public-driven program wherein the Indiana Historical Bureau (IHB), a division of the Indiana State Library, receives applications for new marker topics each year.
IHB’s marker advisory committee reviews every application and evaluates it based on how well the topic demonstrates statewide and/or national significance and how well it is supported with primary source documentation (every point on a marker must be substantiated by primary sources to ensure accuracy).
The advisory committee also considers other things, such as if it is a notable anniversary for the topic (centennial, etc.), if it is in a low marker county (counties that have fewer than four markers), or if it’s a topic that commemorates historically underrepresented racial, ethnic or immigrant groups or women’s history, as this subject area has not been equitably represented in the current collection of Indiana State Historical Markers. The two most important criteria though are primary sources and statewide/national significance of the topic.
IHB’s marker advisory committee makes recommendations to the Indiana Library and Historical Board, which then votes on each application.