It all started with the mural.
When 18 artists from various disciplines met to create the Black Lives Matter painting on Indiana Avenue last summer, they had no way of knowing what professional opportunities the project would bring. Nor could they have known the joint effort would lead to profound friendships, much less an art collective.
From 5 to 8 p.m. July 24, members of 18 LLC — the name a homage to the mural that brought them together — will showcase their work at Re:Public Art Gallery, 2301 E. 10th St. Eighteen: The Launch Party is the first official pop-up show for the group.
Artist Rebecca Robinson, a member of the collective, said the launch is an opportunity for the artists to “re-introduce” themselves to the community after a year where many art galleries were shuttered due to the pandemic.
“This is a way to say ‘thank you’ to Indianapolis for the support we’ve gotten over the past year,” Robinson said. “We’ve stuck around and formed a collective, and we work together not just for the art and culture, but for the community.”
Robinson, who is showcasing her portrait of the late Rep. John Lewis at the gallery, said visitors will have a chance to meet the artists, view artwork and enter raffles at the launch party.
Kyng Rhodes said the gallery, and the fact the collective formed at all, is a testament to the city’s growing arts scene.
“We’re doing this for our city,” Rhodes said. “A few years ago, a lot of us were going to be leaving Indianapolis to try to find a creative career somewhere else because we just didn’t see it here in Indy. Opportunities that sprung up form the mural kept us here, energized us and reaffirmed that there is a path here.”
That path, though, wasn’t always free of obstacles.
About a week after the Black Lives Matter mural was completed, it was defaced with white paint. Robinson said the group chose not to redo their work, because the defacement was also a part of history, “symbolizing hate, even though we were doing something positive.”
In February, members of the collective opted out of an exhibit at Newfields after a racist job posting for the art museum went viral. Despite the setbacks, Robinson said the creation of 18 LLC not only gives Black artists a chance to share their work, but also shares the message that Black art is American art.
“When it came to Newfields, we had to stand together united to say things have to get better within these organizations,” Robinson said. “Black art is a part of the culture, and Black artists have to be incorporated in traditional art institutions. 18 LLC is making some noise and contributing to those conversations.”
Members of 18 LLC want it to be known that the exhibit is just the first step for the collective.
“There’s so much in store,” Rhodes said. “It seems like after we finish one event or show at one place, there’s someone else coming through reaching out to us individually, there’s always a new opportunity. … It all started with us deciding to participate in that mural and start a working relationship, this is a blessing.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.
Eighteen: The Launch Party
When: 5 to 8 p.m., July 24
Where: Re:Public Art Gallery, 2301 E. 10th St