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Collaboration Comes to the Expo 

Indiana Black Expo is leading the way in community arts networking

As the last minute plans are made, details added and frames adjusted, one thing is clear for directors and artists set to show at the Indiana Black Expo Cultural Arts Pavilion: everything is coming together.

For 43 years, downtown Indianapolis has been the home of the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration, an event that focuses on "being an effective voice and vehicle for the social and economic advancement of African-Americans." This celebration ushers the efforts together under one roof, creating a once-a-year family event. The arts have found themselves with an ever-growing plate at the table of the Expo. Since the start of the Cultural Arts Pavilion 15 years ago, the three-day exhibition has showcased the works of Indianapolis artists and institutions while creating an interactive space for the public and artists to communicate.

The downtown event makes a home for the Artist Market and Author Parlorin addition to the Cultural Arts Gallery. The market, similar to events such as Penrod or the Broad Ripple Art Fair, is a bustling bizarre of color and texture. Here, local artists and authors can come and display and sell their work to a fervent public.

click to enlarge The Cultural Arts Pavilion at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration is an impressive compilation of the city's artistic talent.
  • The Cultural Arts Pavilion at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration is an impressive compilation of the city's artistic talent.

With 20 authors and 10 visual artists confirmed, visitors can expect a myriad of styles and pieces ranging from jewelry, glass blowing, graphic design, photography, painting and even comic illustrations. All of which will be from either African American artists or specific pieces that pivot around the African American culture. 

The Cultural Arts Pavilion Coordinator, Stacia Murphy, has played the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings to bring together a community of artists and organizations to make the events possible. With the weekend bringing in around 22,000 visitors to the Pavilion alone, Murphy has no small task at hand.

She smiles, filling up her entire demeanor with a warm glow of genuine excitement, and begins to pour out a collective vision. "The Cultural Arts Gallery is where the collaboration really happens," Murphy says through a proud smile. "It is a partnership between a lot of the art institutions in Indianapolis."

Over 12 different groups will bring artwork from their separate spaces to the Expo, concerting a mosaic of local collaboration for the weekend unseen elsewhere. Local cultural giants such as the Indiana State Museum, Herron School of Art & Design, Harrison Center for the Arts, Indiana Historical Society and the Eiteljorg Museum are eager to be on board and just the first few names on the list.

"I am a person who believes in collaboration," says Murphy ardently. "You are only going to strengthen your community if you work together. For our populations, there is only a small niche that does frequent the arts. To have all of these groups represented helps our community know that there is more than just what you see."

While coordinating all the types of art going into the Pavilion, Murphy looked down a list of the presented mediums and noticed a negative space that needed filled. She saw a severe lack of community for independent filmmakers. This led to discussions that would createLocomotion, a film-makers forum and new addition to the Pavilion this year.

click to enlarge The Lower 9 is a film that will be showing at the Indiana Black Expo Film Festival.
  • The Lower 9 is a film that will be showing at the Indiana Black Expo Film Festival.

Although the city has a strong visual and performing art community, there is little in the way of film. This new forum will address a path in Indianapolis that has not been blazed. The event will begin with a lecture from Darryl Pitts, a successful local film-maker.  From there, attendees will go into break-out to discuss elements of film making such as the transition from stage to film, types of cameras, legal considerations and finding places to shoot. The forum will be held July 18as a follow-up to the Indiana Black Expo Film Festival.

"Indianapolis filmmakers have trouble moving forward for a lot of reasons," says Murphy gravely. "The lack of resources - financial, access to equipment, knowledge and actors - is a huge roadblock."

It is the hope of Murphy and others that the forum will kick start a dialog amongst local filmmakers and lead to the same kind of communal work that has been present at the Cultural Arts Pavilion. 

"Our mission is to serve as an effective voice and vehicle for the advancement of African American people," says Murphy. "The arts serve that. Not only is our purpose the voice and the vehicle but the economic advancement of African Americans. The arts are the only thing that serves both sides of the mission at the exact same time."

"I personally believe in the transformative power of art," explains Murphy."The arts tap into your emotional health and get you to start thinking critically about life, we need more of that in the world. [Art] has always been part of our culture, wherever we were around the world. It is us."

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About The Author

Emily Taylor  /  IUPUI

Emily Taylor / IUPUI

Emily Taylor is currently in her last year at IUPUI where she is studying Journalism, Philosophy and Political Science. She is a freelance writer in the Indianapolis metro area where she lives surrounded by her books, far too much coffee and a mangy mutt named Blissful.

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