“Sleek: The Art of the Helmet” is a Must-Visit Exhibit

Guest curator Amiah Mims explains how the exhibit’s helmets tell the story of racing history, drivers’ lives, and the Indianapolis community.
Helmet lineup from the Sleek helmet exhibit

A helmet designed by Shaunt'e Lewis
The helmet designed by Shaunt’e Lewis

IndyCar racing is the focus of a new exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum – but this time around, it’s not cars that are on display. Instead, the museum will give the Indianapolis community an intimate, innovative look at an integral component of racing with “Sleek: The Art of the Helmet.”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s exhibit will display the art of storytelling through 27 racing helmets, broken up into three different sets. The first set of nine explores the history and evolution of helmets, and the second set is a collection of current drivers’ helmets. In an unprecedented twist, the third set features nine unique helmets, each decorated by local, commissioned artists – including Mavens Faith Blackwell, Nancy Lee, and Shaunt’e Lewis.

A photo of Amiah Mims smiling
Amiah Mims

“Helmets are the only part of racing attire that a driver has a say over,” Amiah Mims, the guest curator of “Sleek: The Art of the Helmet,” explained. “Teams are responsible for the look of the outfits and the car, but the helmet is the one place a driver can express themselves. Not a lot of racing fans know about the amount of thought behind the helmets they see on their TVs during the race; this exhibit gives the chance for that personal expression to be on display.”

Mims was previously a graphic designer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), and she left last year to launch her own creative services company. Now, she’s the first guest curator the IMS Museum has ever worked with.

Helmet from the Sleek exhibit
A look inside the exhibit

“I’ve always thought of myself as a designer, muralist, or artist, so it’s thrilling to step into the new challenge of a curator role,” she said. “When I heard about the way the exhibit would bring in the community through commissioning local artists, many of them women and women of color, I knew this was something I wanted to be part of. Aside from guests attending the race, this level of community inclusion with IMS beyond drivers and teams is a new opportunity – especially for women – and I’m excited for the direction the organization is headed.”

As an Indianapolis resident, artist, and previous Indianapolis Motor Speedway employee, Mims is thrilled to see the crossover between her love of art and the fundamental part of Indianapolis culture that is racing.

“Sleek: The Art of the Helmet” opened to the public on July 26 and is set to run until January 8. At the close of the exhibit, all nine commissioned pieces will be auctioned off to the community.

The helmets in the featured image were created by (from left to right): Shaunt’e Lewis, Justin Brown, and Jessica Bowman.

Kylie Stine is a frequent contributor to Indy Maven and is excited for the Sleek exhibit’s cross between sports and the arts, one of her favorite parts of Indianapolis.

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