The stunning scenes tell the story of a neighborhood, and the running event that celebrated it each year.
One poster shows Victorian-era houses with changing leaves lining the street in the Irvington area of Indianapolis. Runners dart under red, yellow and orange foliage toward Irvington’s iconic historic buildings.
In another, a solitary runner crosses over the still waters of Pleasant Run in a idyllic landscape scene.
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The colorful posters represent 16 years of the Pleasant Run Run, a 5-mile run and 3-mile walk conducted each year in the Irvington area of Indianapolis. The artwork belonged to Garry Petersen, a longtime Johnson County resident who helped establish the race in 1982.
He came up with the idea to create the posters to advertise and commemorate the race, and they have become one of the most distinguishable aspects of the yearly event.
Petersen died in 2016 at age 64. But his legacy lives on in the Pleasant Run Run, as well as the posters that have represented it.
“In a time before color printers and the internet, these posters were a way to celebrate the Irvington area and the race,” said Gary Petersen’s wife Terri, a longtime volunteer with the race.
His collection has been bestowed to the Irvington Historical Society, which will display it at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center in a monthlong exhibition starting today.
“It’s artwork. They were done for informational purposes, but the artists who did them were skilled and made them enjoyable,” said Steve Barnett, the executive director of the Irvington Historical Society as well as the Marion County historian.
Garry and Terri Petersen have been well-known in Johnson County for 30 years. They lived in Franklin from the mid-1980s until moving in 2013 to Greenwood, where they lived until Garry Petersen’s death last year.
Both were active in local government and civic organizations. Lovers of the outdoors, they were instrumental in protecting Franklin’s urban forests. They worked with their next-door neighbors, Vicco and Lilo VonStralendorff, to ask the city for a piece of land adjacent to Province Park in order to establish an arboretum.
“Garry came up with the ideas for the posters and would sit down with other volunteers and artists and draw his ideas on the back of an envelope, or a napkin, whatever was available.”—Terri Petersen
For 25 years, the Petersens and the VonStralendorffs maintained the arboretum. The site remains an important collection of different native trees in downtown Franklin.
But before coming to Johnson County, they made their home in the quaint section of east Indianapolis known as Irvington.
One of that community’s most beloved events is the Halloween festival, Barnett said. The event is held the last Saturday of October, and features everything from a scholarship pageant and costume contests to musicians, Halloween-themed movies, ghost tours and a masquerade ball.
“The Irvington Halloween Festival has been an institution in our community since back right after World War II,” Barnett said. “In the early ’80s, we were trying to figure out a way of increasing attendance by people outside the community. So we had the idea to do the Pleasant Run Run.”
The run was planned for the morning of the festival, to draw people in and then hopefully keep them in the community for the rest of the day. All of the activity and excitement from the race set the tone for the rest of the day, Terri Petersen said.
“Garry and I loved every minute of working the event,” she said. “The happiness of runners showing up at 8 a.m. for a race was contagious and always awed me because I am not, nor have I ever been, a runner.”
At the same time, the run became an important fundraiser for the Marion County Children’s Guardian Home, an Irvington-based institution that cared for homeless, abused and neglected children. All proceeds from the race went to support it.
“The sense of community for the runners, the Children’s Guardian Home and the Irvington area, especially the downtown, was a great feeling,” Terri Petersen said.
Joe Konz met the Petersens shortly after they moved to Franklin in the mid-1980s. They became friends, and Garry Petersen convinced Konz to run the Pleasant Run Run one year.
The race was fun. But what was more impactful was the dedication that Garry Petersen had for organizing the event all to support children in need.
“That really made a strong impression on me — not just about the guy but also about his noble, community-service minded priorities and goals,” Konz said in an email.
The race was unique because at the time, it was one of the last running events in the Indianapolis area before winter hit.
But weather has still impacted the run on occasion. One of Terri Petersen’s favorite memories was a year when snow started falling just before the race started.
“The sound of the starting gun and the light sound of sneakers on the snow was beautiful,” she said.
From the start, Garry Petersen was adamant about using professionally designed posters to advertise the race. Pleasant Run Run posters were designed by two Indianapolis graphics arts companies, Serigraphics and High End Graphics.
To come up with the concept for each year’s poster, Garry Petersen would sit with other volunteers and make sketches.
“Garry came up with the ideas for the posters and would sit down with other volunteers and artists and draw his ideas on the back of an envelope, or a napkin, whatever was available,” Terri Petersen said.
All of the posters were special, but certain ones had deep personal meaning for Petersen. The 1993 poster features a stylized autumn panaromic view of Irvington with the downtown Indianapolis skyline in the background. But that colorful strip is set against a drawing of Michael Carroll, who was also very active in organizing the Pleasant Run Run with the Petersens.
Carroll was killed in a two-plane crash at the Greenwood Municipal Airport on Sept. 11, 1992, just weeks before that year’s race. The tragedy devastated Garry Petersen, and with little time to commemorate his friend, he added the tagline, “Let the light be passed” to that year’s race T-shirts.
The following year, Garry Petersen had the posters designed to recognize Carroll, and put a longer version of the line, “Let the light be passed so the vision is never lost” at the bottom.
The historical society had collected some of the Pleasant Run Run posters from over the years but did not have a complete set. The Petersens’ donation filled in many of those holes.
“The historical society has tried to have as close to a complete collection as possible, so that in future years, when people want to find what some of these looked like, we have them,” Barnett said.
“One of the things we’ve attempted to do over the years is get a complete collection of the posters, from the Halloween festival as well as the Pleasant Run Run,” he said. “Poster art is somewhat ephemeral. It has become a kind of collectible over the years, but often in the early years, they weren’t offered for sale at all, but just announced the event.”
Pleasant Run Run poster exhibition
What: A collection of posters from 1983 to 2009 for the Pleasant Run Run, a 5-mile race held in Irvington every year. Many of the posters belonged to longtime Johnson County residents Garry and Terri Petersen. Garry Petersen was instrumental in founding the race, and the couple were active in it from the start.
When: Today through Nov. 15
Where: The Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University Ave., Indianapolis
Opening reception: 1 to 4 p.m. today. Admission is free
Exhibition hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 15; 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays