2 Years After Racism Outcry, Indianapolis Embraces Black Artists

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Bacon, the GANGGANG co-founder, said the fact that the organization and the 18 artists had returned for “We. The Culture” should be taken as an endorsement of Newfields’s engagement in the reform process, not an indication that every problem had been resolved. “GANGGANG is about recognizing art assets in our community,” he said.

That’s where the organization comes in, helping artists to earn recognition. The Butter fair this fall more than doubled last year’s attendance and recorded more than $250,000 in sales, compared with $65,000 in 2021. The number of artists on the walls also nearly doubled, to 42 from 24. Many artists said in interviews that they made connections that could lead to future opportunities.

“That’s what we want to do — be brokers,” said Jeffers, who looked like an artist herself in a textured pink floral coat, jean shorts, tan-and-green Velcro sneakers, with blue streaks in her black hair. “To help them with whatever they need, whether that’s framing their work, pricing it or talking to potential buyers.”

Sarah Urist Green, host of the PBS digital series “The Art Assignment” and a former curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, was one of the event’s organizers. She said GANGGANG’s model, if replicated in other cities, could be a turning point for the regional art world. “It feels more like a family block party than it does the Armory Show or Art Basel,” she added. (Jeffers and Bacon said that they were exploring holding future editions of Butter elsewhere.)

“More of America is like Indianapolis than it is Los Angeles, New York or even Chicago,” Green said. “What Mali and Alan are really doing here is proving that there are other paths toward success and sustainability.”

Of course, it’s still early, and crowning Indianapolis the next mecca for Black artists would be premature. A recent survey of more than 3,000 public artworks in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, showed that while Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous residents account for 47.2 percent of the county’s population, they created just 26.5 percent of the attributed works.

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