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Meet the artist behind Indy’s next big mural


INDIANAPOLIS — Elio Mercado says he’s loved art since he was a kid.

“My mom would let me draw all over everything,” Mercado said. “I used to draw Michael Jordan on the wall, and just a bunch of stuff.”

The self-taught visual artist from South Florida was recently picked to paint a mural of poet Etheridge Knight outside Indy’s Chatterbox jazz club. Mercado beat out more than 130 other artists.

“I was really happy to be chosen just because of what he means to the community and the life he had,” Mercado said.

Knight became a poet during his time at the Indiana State Prison system in Michigan City. Upon his release, Knight held poetry workshops which were known as the Free People’s Poetry Workshops.

“The mural has to be meaningful to me for me to pursue it,” Mercado said.

A poet himself, Mercado connected with Knight’s story.

“I was really eager to jump right in and see if I could portray him in his best light and see if I can give the community something that they can be happy about.”

Mercado’s portrait was inspired not only by Knight’s words, but by the colors of his “Belly Song and Other Poems,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

The Etheridge Knight mural is part of the Indianapolis Bicentennial Legends mural series that honors Hoosiers, especially those who were overlooked.

Work is expected to begin in June.

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