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Masterpiece in a Day has turned the bohemian Fountain Square neighborhood into an outdoor artist studio one Saturday every September for the last two decades.

Painters set their easels out on the sidewalk along Virginia Avenue, or sit Indian style against the storefronts and sketch furiously. Writers hunch over laptops or Moleskines, staring off into the distance, as though le mot juste were somewhere off on the horizon.

The annual art party has gotten exponentially larger than just the public displays of creativity that's more commonly expressed in solitude. For the last four years, the Fountain Square Arts Council has hosted Art Squared, which combines Masterpiece in a Day with the Fountain Square Art Fair and the Fountain Square Art Parade. The options are multiplied. You can make art in the masterpiece competition, be art in a parade that's walked by cardboard robots and burlesque kitties, or buy art at a fair that features only Indiana artists.

Anyone can participate in Saturday's Fountain Square Art Parade, which uses street pageantry to celebrate contemporary artwork and creativity. - COURTESY OF ART SQUARED
  • Courtesy of Art Squared
  • Anyone can participate in Saturday's Fountain Square Art Parade, which uses street pageantry to celebrate contemporary artwork and creativity.

The all-volunteer council likes to say Art Squared offers three great, family-friendly art events for the price of none.

Since there are no tickets or turnstiles, organizers don't know exactly how many people come each year to Fountain Square to watch painters brush away at their canvases or see if there's any finished work that strikes their fancy at the 80 or so booths at the art fair, Fountain Square Arts Council Director Rene Fox says. Although the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department estimates that around 5,000 people attended last year.

Art Squared, which aspires to be one of Indianapolis's signature events, grows bigger every year. This year's trifecta of art events runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, with the let-your-freak-flag-fly parade starting at 5 p.m.

Middle school bands will march with Star Wars characters. In the past, Indy's Naptown Roller Girls have skated down Virginia Avenue, alongside the giant Chinese takeout sculpture and cars decked out to look like sharks.

"People have done some creative things with shopping carts," Fox says. "There are Chinese dragons and a lot of costumes. There are cash prizes for the best costumes."

Anyone can create a float or walk in the parade. Interested parties can register to participate at www.discoverfountainsquare.com so long as they agree to keep it family-friendly and travel the entire parade route, which starts at Southeast Community Services at 901 Shelby St. and loops around the heart of the neighborhood.

There's much more to see and do throughout the day, including at the art fair that centers on Fountain Square Plaza and spills onto Virginia Avenue and Prospect Street.

"It's a good variety of products," Fox says. "It ranges from soaps to jewelry to clothing to glassware to photography. There's something for the whole family."

The Fountain Square Art Parade takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday. - COURTESY OF ART SQUARED
  • Courtesy of Art Squared
  • The Fountain Square Art Parade takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Kids can try painting, or have their portraits drawn by a caricature artist. Adults can belly up to the beer tent, where local favorites Fountain Square Brewery and New Day Meadery will serve craft beer and honey wine. People who want more samples can swing by the nearby tasting rooms of either business.

Musicians will play all day in support of the Playing for Change Foundation, which hopes to effect positive social change through music and arts education. People who appreciate the songs or dig the cause can drop a few dollars in buckets wherever musicians are playing.

And food trucks and other food vendors are barred, so as to encourage visitors to patronize neighborhood restaurants, such as the Red Lion Grog House and Pure Eatery, Fountain Square Arts Council Founding Member Kelli Mirgeaux says.

New additions at this year's Art Squared include a poetry category in the Masterpiece in a Day competition, which was previously divided into visual and writing components. More than $3,000 in prizes will be awarded to the top three entries in the visual art, prose and poetry categories.

For the first time, winning writing submissions will be featured in Punchnel's, the online web magazine that Fountain Square's Well Done Marketing publishes. Selected visual arts pieces will appear at the Bureau's Oct. 5 First Friday show. Another incentive, according to Mirgeaux, is that the top 10 in each category of the competition will appear in a book that the Arts Council plans to publish through Butler University and distribute through Fountain Square merchants.

Masterpiece in a Day writers who don't make it into the book can get advice on how to get published elsewhere from novelist Cherlisa Starks Richardson and movie critic and author Richard Propes who will man a writer's booth to guide contestants and, really, anyone who stops by on the path to publication.

About 80 vendors will have booths at the annual Fountain Square Arts Fair Saturday. - COURTESY OF ART SQUARED
  • Courtesy of Art Squared
  • About 80 vendors will have booths at the annual Fountain Square Arts Fair Saturday.

Fox says aspiring artists can take their chances at permanence with the Indianapolis-based bronze art studio Sincerus. The studio will offer a sculpting contest aimed at getting younger people interested in the classical art form. Kids get a pound of clay for $10, while adults get two pounds for $20. The winners get the opportunity to have their sculptures cast in bronze.

Of course, there's no obligation to make art. Visitors can just stroll around and soak in the festive mood.

"We're closing down the street to have more of a carnival atmosphere," Mirgeaux says. "We definitely hope people wander through the neighborhood, visit the merchants and have lunch at the excellent restaurants. The art fair is 100 percent local, and it's a family-friendly event you can attend in the heart of Fountain Square. The great thing is, it's free."

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