St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.
This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.
Painter Heather Ward Miles has always loved art and all that it encompasses. Among other things, her most prominent inspiration comes from personal experiences and perspectives on society as a whole.
Miles graduated from Indiana University in 2002 with a degree in visual art education but didn’t begin professionally painting until four years ago. Working under the name H. Ward Miles, she combines simple shapes and brush strokes with a mix of colors to create vibrant abstract paintings. Miles creates each piece with a variety of techniques, including layering and scraping paint from her canvas that reveals complex subjects, thoughts and emotions inspired by her living experiences in Kenya.
Thanks to St’Art Up 317, Miles has had the opportunity to place three pieces of artwork in a display window at the corner of Maryland and Meridian Street downtown. The clean look of the display allows the paintings to take center stage. Her inspiration for the display came from a “classic gallery look,” as she wanted it to be “simple and have the audience focus on the art.”
Miles believes that people are beginning to recognize Indianapolis for more than just racing, basketball and agriculture. She strives to show Indiana’s artistic side to visitors of the city, as well as residents who may not have noticed its blossoming creative community.
“It is really important for people to enjoy art, buy art and celebrate art in our communities,” she says.
In addition to helping to promote Indianapolis’ arts scene, Miles attempts to create paintings that encourage personal and political growth. In particular, she has noticed a disconnect between humans and their ability to communicate with others, but hopes that her paintings are able to change that.
“We have literal screens protecting us from all realities,” she says.
While Miles uses her artistic abilities to create social commentary, she never fails to recognize how fortunate she is to make a career out of her passion for art.
“I feel very blessed in my life,” says Miles. “Because of this, I create work that is inspired by either a reflection of my blessings: family, love, relationships, parenthood, personal comfort or nature, and what I feel is my duty to examine social issues, like racial inequality, environmental destruction, war, sexism and fear.”
While she enjoys the process of painting, Miles’ favorite part of making art is seeing others’ love for her creations. She says she still gets excited every time she sees a picture of one of her pieces hanging in someone’s home or office space. Because of this, Miles hopes to continue to paint and grow her business. She can’t imagine her life without art.
“I would love to still be doing what I do now, creating large, abstract paintings for people to value and to love!” says Miles. “I am so happy to be doing this with my life.”
You can find Miles’ past work on her website along with contact information and opportunities to purchase her paintings, and stop by to see her window displays before the end of May.