Broad Ripple Art Fair: A Mission to Support Art and Artists

A Mission to Support Art and Artists, Previewing BRAF 2019

True to its mission, the Indianapolis Art Center puts talented artists front and center for the 49th Annual OneAmerica Broad Ripple Art Fair, soon to be visited by thousands of eager art enthusiasts. Bringing local, regional, and national work to the neighborhood, this year’s artists hail from all parts of the United States and specialize in nearly any medium you can imagine (and some that you can’t).

What does the fair experience look like for artists though, and what benefits do they gain by participating? Besides providing an avenue to sell wares, artists gain exposure through an established, respected, and well-trafficked organization. One that seeks to elevate opportunities for artists to achieve financial success, while serving as a fundraiser that helps continue the Art Center’s time-tested tradition of serving creative opportunities to the greater Indianapolis community. 

Take Indianapolis-based painter Jessica Green (@jessicagreenartwork, Booth 14) for example, who felt her career skyrocket after just one year participating in BRAF. “The connections I made that weekend literally launched my career as an artist,” Green says. Participating in 2016 for the first time and going into her fourth fair, Green says prior to BRAF she was creating work on her own and posting to a small audience of folks following her blog. “I am very thankful for the part that BRAF had in launching my career,” she continues, mentioning as an aside that since then she has completed her goal of creating over 500 paintings! 

This experience isn’t uncommon for those participating either. Sculptor Diana Manning (@Diana Manning Studio, Booth ) participated for the first time in 1999 and is making a return this year from Argenta, Illinois for her second go at the fair, describing the Indianapolis Art Center and the Broad Ripple neighborhood as a charming locale. “The first time I exhibited here in 1999, my sculptures of people were discovered by a sales rep who introduced me to a manufacturer in California. After discussions with him, I signed a contract and my “Family of Friends” were then sold all over the country,” Manning explains.  

For new blood partaking for the first time, the Art Fair represents an opportunity to engage in the kind of profession they prefer. Audry Deal-McEver (@audrydealmcever , Booth 505) was a teacher before becoming a full-time potter the past two years. Besides experimenting with various traditional methods of marketing her work, Deal-McEver also has a cat “studio manager” named Doug who helps out. Doug assists his partner in crime to show off her floral-patterned pots whose designs are rooted in historic textiles from India.  

Just as inspiring as these success stories and emerging artists are the backgrounds of the individual artists themselves and the circumstances that have brought them to their art—whether through fond memories, the trauma of life, or something in between. These artists have found ways to work within their craft and support their livelihood through art, pursuing the passion of creation.  

Take Scotty Jones (@scottyjones_urthyfiberart, Booth 405), a longtime participant and patron of the fair based in Kokomo. Specializing in fiber arts, his love of the medium began when his grandmother taught him how to sew. “When I was nine my grandmother taught me to sew on a Singer 27K Sphinx model. It had been her mother’s sewing machine and was originally a treadle machine. Grandma had the ‘electric kit’ put on the machine in the 1930s. It was a beautiful, mysterious machine,” he says. Continuing on, Jones credits this memory as what began his love of all things vintage and instilled in him an appreciation for arts and crafts—which eventually lead him to discovering Andy Warhol and screen printing, and eventually finding his voice as an artist.  

Speaking fondly of how the festival resonates with him, Jones says, “The Broad Ripple Art Fair is always the kick off to summer for me. Walking the grounds and experiencing art outdoors on a spring day is very nourishing to your soul. Once I began participating as an artist it was the kick off for my summer show season. It remains one of my very favorite shows of the year.”  

In a slightly different vein, BRAF is home to creators of all walks of life who may not necessarily have been lifelong artists. Anne Parks (@anneparksart, Booth 411)—who majored in Art Education at DePauw but worked in marketing, PR, and sales for 35 years—just began painting again four years ago. Since then she has participated in 44 art shows, won some awards, and in her own words is “happy to be following my true spirit.” 

And then we find ourselves occasionally so inspired by a story that we cannot help but be thankful for the opportunity to serve these incredibly strong-willed individuals and showcase their immeasurable talent. An eight-year veteran of BRAF who resides in Wichita, Roger Matthews (Booth 223) has a story that for most would seem an impossible undertaking, beginning his career in art with the torch and kiln. A true pyrophile, Matthews describes working with flames poetically, stating “the beauty of a torch tip and the radiant glow of the kiln! What else compares?”

Unfortunately his art career encountered a hiccup in the form of a car accident, resulting in a reduced ability to use his arms and legs. After a year in the hospital, three years of painful therapy, and numerous challenges, he was able to revisit his passion for glasswork by Velcro-ing a board to his arm so a torch or glass cutter could be attached and maneuvered. A truly grateful spirit, he proudly proclaims “art saved my life!” 

This spirited and beloved passion for the arts springs forward from so many of our artists, and we couldn’t be more thankful for such an enjoyable crowd to work with as much as they reciprocate the same mentality of working with us. Irena Saparnis (Booth 2), a textile artist specializing with the Batik technique, praises both the interactions with the general public and the Art Center’s staff saying, “it has one of the friendliest staff of all art festivals I have been in.”  

Dick Close (Booth 431), participating in BRAF for nine years now describes BRAF as, “It is a true art fair, dedicated to art and the artists. Not a music or food festival with art included.” And yet, it still does have those components besides incredibly talented artists: an immersed community that’s supportive of the arts, food and drink representative of the local ecosystem’s flair, and homegrown entertainment rivaling that of any regional venue.

Even in years past when Mother Nature was not on our side, it’s been clear to artists and ourselves how strong the drive is to be part of this community tradition. Two-year veteran of BRAF Alann J Boatright (@AlannJordanArtist, Booth 39)—a self-taught painter and storyteller with a brush—remembered the rainy experience last year saying, “I loved how people came armed with umbrellas and rubber boots, and then stayed and shopped for art while it rained like Woodstock,” while simultaneously complimenting the atmosphere and vibe of the Art Center event.  


Another of our BRAF artists, Tom O. Reed (@artisticwoodencookingutensils, Booth 239) recalled inclement weather from a few years ago so severe it shut down the fair for a few hours, delighted after coming back when the rain settled and still making sales. “I went to my hotel until the storm passed and came back around 3:00pm and to my surprise did pretty good business between 3:00pm and 6:00pm,” he states, continuing that, “Mid-Westerners are a hardy lot!” Indeed we are, Mr. Reed.  

So come rain or shine, those of us at the Indianapolis Art Center are beyond delighted to work with this year’s batch of 2019 OneAmerica Broad Ripple Art Fair artists to further their creative careers, and to see everyone’s beautiful faces supporting a stronger arts community. For a full rundown of the weekend’s schedule and artist information, please visit our event on the Art Center’s website and Facebook. If you post on social media please tag us (@indplsartcenter) or use the hashtag #BRArtFair. We can’t wait to see what a lovely time you’re going to have with us this year. See you next weekend, Happy BRAF! 


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