Homage To Hoagy illustrates recurring lyrical themes in Carmichael's compositiions and expresses his exuberant response to, and joyful love for jazz music

I considered, even in the earliest stages, how light would interact with the forms and elements I was developing

Like a lot of creatives, I really enjoy doing research. This project was no exception. Learning about Hoagy Carmichael and the arc of life and work, from his beginnings in poverty and fascination with early jazz, to his later career as singer, songwriter, actor and radio star, Inspired and informed the project at several levels.

In Homage To Hoagy,  I wanted to not only illustrate recurring lyrical themes in Carmichael’s compositions; stars, stardust, moonlight, – but also express his exuberant response to, and joyful love for jazz music as described in his two autobiographies.

My work focusses on engaging viewers in public places with artwork that joyfully explores the interplay of light and form. So I considered, even in the earliest stages, how light would interact with the forms and elements I was developing; the stems, the moons, the stars – even the tiny musical notes that explode from the moon and star forms.

The gramophone horn refers to his early exposure to music. Hoagy recalled how he wore out several 75rpm records back in his early days, playing them again and again. The moons and stars relate not only to his songs’ lyrics, but also to the stardom he enjoyed in the golden years of Hollywood.

I tilted the sculpture towards the city’s Center For The Performing Arts, Palladium building to visually connect the artwork to its architectural home and The Great American Songbook Foundation archives, proudly housed there. Hidden in the composition is a single skylark, a reference to the title of one of Carmichael’s most famous compositions.

The structure is made of stainless and silver and gold powder-coated steel, and sits on an Indiana limestone base. At night the sculpture is illuminated from within by hidden light sources that bathe the stems, stars and moons with colored light. My fabricators, bo-mar Industries, devised adjustable dichroic filters and fixtures that allowed me to not only aim the light where I needed it – but to also control the density of the special colors the filters produce. I wanted the work to be engaging in different ways by day and by night.

The two interactive, information kiosks, installed on sidewalks nearby, complete the artwork. They are styled on vintage gramophones and feature crank handles that activate fourteen digital clips of well-known Carmichael compositions by artists, old and new, like The Four Freshmen, Harry Connick Jnr., Ray Charles, Michael Feinstein and Bette Midler.

My goal was to create a fitting tribute to one of Indiana’s greatest cultural treasures in one of Indiana’s greatest cultural settings. My hope is that Homage to Hoagy becomes a cultural landmark that honors Hoagy Carmichael and brings joy to the citizens of Carmel, Indiana, and visitors to the Center For The Performing Arts for many, many years to come.


Last night I took time to do the math; I counted over a hundred hands directly involved in transforming Homage To Hoagy from idea to reality. Of course, complex projects like this are just not possible without what some call the “buy-in” of many others. But what I witnessed, at the helm of this project for over the past two years, seemed much more than that; countless moments when collaborators stretched their imagination, time and skills, to bring their best to a shared vision. And that is precisely why I love working this way.

From Carmel’s Mayor Brainard’s creative leadership, to the expertise of Rick Thomas, a sound recording guru from Purdue University, to the dedication of Carmel City staff and employees, everyone went above and beyond to make this complex project possible.

Lastly, I was privileged again to work again with my steadfast fabricators, installers, partners and friends, Bob Buchanan and his amazing team at bo-mar Industries. Their creative partnership is evident in every detail if this project and their careful work and comradery enabled me to be brave and ambitious; producing my best work so far.