Celebrating Black History

‘Meet the Artists’ turns 34, continues creating space for Black artists

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The vision for the annual Meet the Artists exhibit was born 34 years ago. Founder Anthony Radford’s plan was to provide space for black creatives and artists. In that time, the event has featured more than 400 artists.

In the last year, conversations around diversity, inclusion and social justice has provided a much needed platform for artists of color. This year’s Meet the Artists exhibit showcases the 18 artists who created the Black Lives Matter mural on Indiana Avenue. Some say this work is a moment in history and an ode to those who’ve come before.

“It feels so amazing to know that we come from a lineage of creators and innovators,” said featured artist Ashley Nora.

Black people have been a lot of things throughout history and the images on display at the meet the artists exhibit tells some of that story, one that starts with Anthony Radford 34 years ago. Back then he was a young artist, trying to make his way in the world.

“Thirty-four years ago, I was looking for a place just to show my art,” said Radford.

He said the idea of Black art goes back further than any of us can remember. Even before slavery, Black people were weavers, sculptors and creatives.

“I’d been visiting some other exhibits but didn’t see a lot of people that look like me and didn’t see a lot of our culture. So when I walked out into the hallway and saw Joe Holiday’s work, it blew me away,” said Radford.

Artists today, he said, still face some of the same challenges: visibility and access to space and opportunity.

“The only art I could see was public art, free art,” said Nora.

Nora, along with the others in the 18 Art Collective, collaborated painting Indiana Avenue’s Black Lives Matter mural.

“Walking there that day and seeing 17 other artist that look like me. In my city, with the same agenda, the same mindset. To protest for peace and equality,” Nora said.

Nora said the work she does now is just building on a history that already runs deep.

“I was just looking up my own ancestry, just trying to figure out what kind of art did they do. Because I know this is in my blood line. I know I didn’t just wake up and have this gift,” Nora said.