By Sadie Hunter
Bonnie Ramirez has worked as a metal artist for two decades. This year, she was commissioned by area organizations and the City of Noblesville to make pieces for Noblesville and Hamilton County’s celebration of Indiana’s bicentennial.
The main piece, which honors Indiana’s flag, served as a holder for the torch – relayed through the county with its last stop in Noblesville Oct. 13 – to rest upon its arrival and lighting of the bicentennial cauldron.
The 9-foot steel structure identifies the 19 stars on the state flag, which represents Indiana being the 19th state admitted to the union. In addition, the main piece is flanked by two smaller steel pieces representing cornstalks. All three are slated to be placed at Federal Hill Commons upon the park’s completion, where the cornstalks will serve as bike racks and the main piece as public art. For now, the pieces are in storage.
Ramirez, 65, has long been recognized within a group of three welding women in Noblesville (others include Joanie Weber and Donna Rugenstein), has lived in Noblesville for nearly a decade after moving from Austin, Texas, where she got her start as an artist.
“It was my mid-life emancipation, not a crisis. I started when I was in my 40s. I wanted to make something,” Ramirez said. “I had worked construction a long time, anyway. I built houses in Austin in a golf community, and I’d see all these designers come in and have all these really hip metal furniture and accessories.”
From her initial inspiration, Ramirez said she signed up for a class at Austin Community College.
“They recruited me for their art metals program because it was new. So I enrolled in that and got a degree. I was the first woman to get a degree in art metals at ACC,” Ramirez said. “And I started selling stuff, and I didn’t even mean to. I had been selling my work by accident, really.”
From there, Ramirez enrolled at Texas State University. Upon graduation she was hired to teach. She now teaches welding at the J. Everett Light Career Center at North Central High School in Indianapolis.
Ramirez moved to Noblesville just before the start of the Nickel Plate Arts organization. In Austin, Ramirez said she had success in selling her art and teaching.
“I thought, ‘If people want to make art that much, at least I can share what I know.’ I like being on the grassroots end of stuff,” she said.
Since getting involved with Nickel Plate Arts, Ramirez has spent years promoting the arts in the communities along the rail line. So it was only fitting that when planning began for how the city would commemorate the state’s 200th birthday, Ramirez was contacted to create something unique and special.
Noblesville Main Street, Hamilton County Tourism and the City of Noblesville pooled their money to commission Ramirez to create the three pieces.
“‘We just want something very Hoosier’ is what I was told when it came to design,” Ramirez said. “I love the flag, and the cornstalks and fields here are the biggest I’ve ever seen. I said (to Aili McGill at Nickel Plate Arts), ‘It could be stars and stalks forever,” and she loved that. So I came up with some designs.”
Ramirez said the entire project and creating the three pieces was completed in six weeks.
Federal Hill Commons is set to open this winter with a grand opening in spring 2017.
MEET BONNIE RAMIREZ
Residence: Grew up in Ohio, lived in Austin, Texas, for more than 30 years, moved to Noblesville “eight or nine years ago,” and now lives in Cicero.
Education: Graduated from Austin Community College with a degree in art metals. From there, she graduated from Texas State with degrees in art and applied science.
Family: Ramirez married husband Lali Ramirez in 1985. Her daughter Aimee, 47, and husband David have two sons, Sam, 24, and Joe, 22, and her daughter Adrienne, 45, and husband Jeff have two daughters, Makena, 24, and Madison, 21. Lali and Bonnie also have a 5-year-old dachshund named Gerti.