Every year at the Marion County Central Library in downtown Indy, a huge show celebrating African American art is exhibited in full flair and with lots of fun. Next Wednesday (Jan. 28) Meet the Artists opens, and though this marks its 27th show, it is not what it used to be. I've watched it grow from highlighting what seemed to be mostly visual artists to a show that now includes a gala, performance art and even fairly new artists to the scene.
Sponsored by The Indianapolis Public Library's African-American History Committee, the exhibit provides an avenue for African-American artists to showcase their works that represent a variety of mediums created under this year's theme, "Art With Passion."
This year's participating artists include James Pate (techno-cubism abstraction), Lisa Green (water colors), Mike Graves (graffiti), Latoya Marlin (oils), Aaron Underwood (color markers), Rebecca Robinson (acrylics), Omar Rashan (digital), Tasha Beckwith (mixed media), Lobyn Hamilton (vinyl and vinyl sculpture), Dennis Green (metal sculpture), D. Del Reverda-Jennings (mixed media sculpture), Rehema McNeil (jewelry design), Tracy Morris (jewelry design), DeAndra Edmond (leather handbags, earrings and unique belts), La Monica Moore (nail artist), Pamela Carter (crochet) and Amani Tre Niner (tattoo art).
What interests me most about this show is the incorporation of a few alternative artists. I define alternative artists as those that aren't traditionally viewed as players in the visual arts scene. One of my favorite alternative artists is Amani Tre Niner, who was one of the 52 selected for I Am An Artist -- a public art exhibition that happened in October of 2013.
When asked why it was important for him to participate in this show he explains, "I am proud of what I have accomplished as an artist. I know that a lot of people are led by example, so if only to those that have yet to start their journey in the tattoo community, I would enjoy being the guiding light toward their next achievement."
Others that aren't typically classified in the visual arts are Mike Graves, who works in graffiti, and LaMonica, who creates nail art.
Not technically in this year's show, but acting as the photographer for the exhibition is Paul D. Best. "Even though I am not a featured artist, I'm happy that my art -- photography -- will be used to make it a success. I attended the opening night for the first time last year, and I was thoroughly impressed," he says. "I had never seen such a great expression and celebration of black art in Indianapolis, let alone, Indiana." I had asked Best why this show was important to Indy. I really wanted to know what this specific exhibit of black art means to the arts scene in our city, as well as how we do in that area all year long.
He says he feels that in Indianapolis, there is a subculture of supporters. The same people supporting the same events and that there needs to be more opportunities for both visual and performing black artists to be featured in venues and programs where art is not the particular focus. "For example, I shouldn't only hear a spoken word artist perform at an open mic. Why can't he or she open up a basketball game?" he asks. "Why can't visual art from local black artists be displayed beyond places like the airport and the canal? What about displaying in a grocery store?" He went on to say that he thinks there needs to be a more intentional effort from those in positions of influence in organizations, businesses, and city government to integrate art on an everyday basis.
Meet the Artists, curated by Tony Radford, will run from Jan. 28 through March 28 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St. Participating artists also will appear at a First Friday event on Friday, March 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. Meet the Artists XXVII is made possible by the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation and Friends of the Library through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. To learn more about the free "Meet the Artists" exhibit and Gala, call (317) 275-4022 or visit www.indypl.org.