The greatest spectacle in art


GREENFIELD — Lisa Sears never considered herself much of a race fan. She’s been to the Indianapolis 500 a handful of times. And she used to live near the track. But this year, she’s one of the biggest race fans around.

Sears, an art teacher at Greenfield-Central High School, is one of five artists whose work was chosen for the 2018 “Welcome Race Fans” banner competition.

A collaborative project of the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “Welcome Race Fans” was started in 2016 to celebrate the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The initiative invited artists to use a variety of mediums and styles to create the well-known slogan “welcome race fans” as works of art.

In 2016, 33 pieces were selected, made into banners and displayed throughout the city for the month of May. Last year and this year, just five — including Sears’ piece — were selected.

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Teacher by day and wife and mother by night, Sears’ dedication to her craft is methodical. After a long day of art classes with her high school students, and after evening time with her husband and 6-year-old son Liam, she retires to her studio and puts in at least an hour of painting before bed.

Sears adopted this daily painting habit after reading a biography about Indiana artist T.C. Steele. To stay productive, Steele had created a routine for himself to spend the same hours in his painting studio every day, Sears explained.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Sears said, “I go to my studio every night after my son goes to bed and paint for at least an hour.”

It was during this evening time that Sears created her piece for the competition.

The process to become one of the five artists was a lengthy one. With a deadline of Jan. 15, Sears submitted 10 images of samples of her work. Once she had been selected, she then submitted a description of the artwork she planned to create.

To create the banner, Sears uses an innovative artistic method: she creates images using Photoshop software. Once she is satisfied with the image, she paints what she has created on her computer.

Sears’ composition for the “Welcome Race Fans” piece consists of several layers. One layer — which became the namesake for the piece: “Speedway, 1909” — is a photograph taken in 1909 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the second layer, peonies, the Indiana state flower, can be seen in the background; the third layer is the geometric quilt design; the fourth and final layer is the lettering.

Many artists might consider the layered Photoshop creation a finished piece and call it quits. Not Sears.

“If I stop at the digital collage,” she said, “I feel like I’m not expressing myself enough. I want to physically actually paint it.”

Sears’ artwork has been on display since April 29 — not in the corner of some gallery, but in one of the most visible places in Indianapolis. “Speedway, 1909” has been transformed from the 2-by 4–foot canvas Sears submitted to a stick-on decal covering the entire west side of the Indianapolis Arts Garden, and measuring 44-by-36 feet.

Sears is enjoying the exposure afforded by having her art displayed in such a prominent location. Traffic on her website has picked up.

“And I got this interview,” Sears laughed.

The mural will be on display through the end of May. The artwork of Sears and the other artists, as well as the winners from previous years, can also be seen at