Past is Present

Explore the legacy of slavery through Black art

Past Is Present: Black Artists Respond to the Complicated Histories of Slavery raises important questions about slavery's past and present, reflecting on how this complicated history is not to be repeated in the future.

Local histories are used as a starting point for confronting slavery and its legacy. The exhibit features artworks created by African American artists in Indianapolis and beyond, like Mary Sibande, Lorna Simpson, Martin Puryear, Roberto Lugo, Sonya Clark, and Kara Walker, among others.

Historical artifacts from the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Museum, the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, are also on display.

Along with the historical objects, the featured works envision a better future by drawing creatively from histories of enslavement and its legacy.

To plan your visit, get details on gallery hours, directions, free parking, and more.


September 28, 2022 – January 14, 2023


Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202

  • Mason Archie
  • Kaila Austin
  • Torry Brown
  • Willie Cole
  • Matthew Cooper
  • Sonya Clark
  • Walter Lobyn Hamilton
  • John Wesley Hardrick
  • Alicia Henry
  • Samuel Levi Jones
  • Roberto Lugo
  • Marcus Morris
  • Nell Painter
  • Rae Parker
  • Carl Pope
  • Martin Puryear
  • Rebecca Robinson
  • Mary Sibande
  • Lorna Simpson
  • LaShawnda Crowe Storm
  • Kara Walker
  • Carrie Mae Weems
  • John Wilson
  • Shamira Wilson

'Past is Present' refers to William Faulkner's famous quote: 'The past is never dead. It's not even past.' Stated differently, we are still living through the aftereffects of slavery.

Jonathan Michael Square, Ph.D., curator

Explore 360 tours of each gallery space in the "Past is Present" exhibition from anywhere, anytime.

Berkshire, Reese and Paul Galleries

Marsh Gallery

Basile Gallery


Get a sneak peek at the exhibition's key themes and what you'll see in Past is Present before you go.

This two-page visitor's guide contains key takeaways, vocabulary, source material, and related websites. The content is intended to spark discussions about the issues and to empower visitors to delve deeper into them afterward.

Download the visitor's guide


Sonya Clark Talk & Opening Reception

Basile Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall

Sept. 28, 2022 | 5:30 – 8 p.m.

Join the Herron community for "Monumental Histories From Dust," a talk by featured artist Sonya Clark, followed by an opening reception.

View event details

The Rise & Deconstruction of Reconstruction

Basile Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall

Oct. 19, 2022 | 6 – 8 p.m.

In a one-act play produced by the Africana Repertory Theater at IUPUI, explore the complex landscape of the Reconstruction era and racial equity today.

View event details

Looking Forward: Black Indianapolis Artists Imagine the Future

Basile Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall

Nov. 5, 2022 | 5:30 – 8 p.m.

Learn about the long-term effects of African American enslavement on our shared history and sense of identity.

View event details

Downtown Indianapolis

612 N. Delaware Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Northeast Indianapolis

4209 E. 62nd Street
Indianapolis, IN 46220

Northwest Indianapolis

8550 Ditch Road
Indianapolis, IN 46260


21 1st Street SW
Carmel, IN 46032