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Local Black artist receives Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship, aims to expand outside Indy

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Indianapolis-based visual artist Israel Solomon is one of 40 local creatives to receive the Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship through the Indy Arts Council.

The grant, funded by Lilly Endowment, is awarded to artists across various creative mediums who have been working in the industry for at least five years. The grant is meant to help them refresh and build on their careers, and Solomon said he intends to use it to expand his presence as an artist beyond Indianapolis.

“I know that in order to be able to grow as an artist, I can’t be stagnant,” said Solomon, who is a resident artist at the Harrison Center. “I want to make sure that when I’m going to these places, I’m going there in a way that’s going to be beneficial to me as well and not just say, ‘OK, well here’s something in New York City, let me see if I can get into that.’”

Otherwise, Solomon can almost always be found in his studio, located in the basement of the Harrison Center, working on several different portraits. His chosen medium is acrylic paint on large canvas because he said it allows him to incorporate more details into his work.

One of Solomon’s works-in-progress includes a portrait of a cheetah from the Indianapolis Zoo. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)

Large, vibrant images force people to look at them, and Solomon said the goal with his work is to use color, pattern and shape to create rhythm and movement on the canvas.

“I feel like my challenge as somebody who creates stagnant images is to make the viewer’s eye look around the image and kind of just move all around the image and make it feel like it’s in motion and moving even though it’s not,” Solomon said.

Solomon’s work includes a lot of portraiture work, the subjects of which are usually family, friends and people he admires.However, Solomon said recently he’s been experimenting with a different subject: himself.

“A lot of the works that I’ve been creating recently are about me and more like self-portraits where I’m telling my own story,” he said, “and hoping that people will maybe find some kind of connection with some of the things that I’m going through in my life.”

Solomon grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, and said he picked up drawing from his father and older brother. Although for them it was just a hobby, Solomon said he stuck with it, often sketching out his favorite cartoon characters and superheroes. He took a few art classes in high school and even pursued a degree in art education at Ball State University.

However, it wasn’t until his late 20s and early 30s that Solomon said he took his artwork seriously as a career path. He then spent four years teaching middle school art at KIPP Indy before deciding to dedicate his energy to being a professional artist full time.

“Opportunities come and go, you know, so I made the decision to just go ahead and dedicate my professional work full time to being an artist a couple of years ago,” he said. “It’s worked out pretty well for me, and you know, I feel like I’m slowly able to advance and get more opportunities and more exposure in the world.”

Solomon’s studio at the Harrison Center is filled with vibrantly painted portraits of friends, family and people he admires. (Photo/Chloe McGowan)

Some of these opportunities include two upcoming exhibitions in Chicago. The first, “A Marvelous Black Boy Art Show,” is a national art exhibition that celebrates Black men artists across multiple forms of media.

“I don’t know one hundred percent what to expect, but I am excited about it,” Solomon said. “It’s not easy, you know, like it is definitely a challenge moving outward, but I’m up for it. I’m going to do my best.”

Solomon’s next art venture is the “Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition” at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry — which is the longest running African American art exhibition in the U.S. Solomon said two of his pieces, “Brittany on Stool” — which was featured in GANGGANG’s BUTTER: A Fine Art Fair — and “The Shoe Tie,” were chosen to be on display in the exhibition running Jan. 16, 2023, through April 23, 2023.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-862-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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