Meet the Artists XXXVI is here

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Meet the Artists XXXVI kicks off at the Indianapolis Public Library on Jan. 31 with an opening gala and fashion show on Feb. 17. The art will be on display throughout the library through March 23. (Photos provided/Indianapolis Public Library)
Meet the Artists XXXVI kicks off at the Indianapolis Public Library on Jan. 31 with an opening gala and fashion show on Feb. 17. The art will be on display throughout the library through March 23. (Photos provided/Indianapolis Public Library)

The 36th annual Meet the Artists exhibition and gala promises to bring the “All-Star Experience.”

Presented by the Indianapolis Public Library’s African American History Committee, Meet the Artists XXXVI opened at Central Library Jan. 3, just ahead of Black History Month. The annual exhibition is on display and free to view throughout the library until March 23, said Cordia Watkins, chair for the African American History Committee.

“It’s a welcoming space … still, today, I think that even, yes, the doors are opening a little bit, but they’re not all the way open yet. And so, this is very important to Indianapolis,” Watkins said. “People look forward to it, you know, often there’s over a thousand people that come in throughout the night to see the artwork, to see all of the entertainers.”

Meet the Artists was founded by Indy-based artist Anthony Radford 36 years ago. The idea behind hosting the exhibition at the library stemmed from a need for African American artists to not only have a welcoming place to display their works but an affordable venue to access art, Watkins said. 

This year’s theme is the “All-Star Experience,” which aims to highlight the work of Black Hoosier artists while leaning into the excitement surrounding Indiana’s basketball history and the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend — though the two events remain separate and unrelated, Watkins said.

READ MORE: Hoosier Historia to shed light on Hoosier Hysteria during NBA All-Star Weekend

“We just wanted to kind of theme it around All-Star, so it’s the ‘All-Star Experience,’ and we have 26 great artists that will be showing works this year,” Watkins said. “I know it’s a lot going on All-Star Weekend, but I would say that this is one of the places to be, and we look forward to seeing everybody.”

The opening reception, which will take place Feb. 17, features special guest hosts Steve “Scoop” Jefferson and Karen Campbell with “The Fabulous Mr. Patrick” leading interviews, live music and models during the red-carpet experience. 

Meet the Artists XXXVI will include a fashion show featuring 16 Black designers, both local and national, produced by Passion 4 Fashion Week founder Nicole René. (Photo/Lenny White)

Following the VIP reception, guests are invited into the library to browse art on each floor, engage in activities, such as a 360-photo booth and the illusionist Spellbinder, and enjoy entertainment from DJiSM, Robert “Sweaty Hands” Day, Trebor Williams & The Warriors, Toy Factory, and J. Saxton. 

Nicole René, founder of Passion 4 Fashion week, is this year’s fashion coordinator for Meet the Artists and curated a special NBA-themed show for the gala. Keeping in line with this year’s theme, René said she wanted to build a show that would showcase the vast talent of Indy designers who do not usually participate in other shows. 

The fashion show features 16 designers and models from across Indiana, plus a handful from out of state, such as Elan Furs, Shanequa Casteal, Cold Butterflies, Le Catou X Heather Marie Designs, PRSVR and Tayion Collection. 

Although the theme encompasses the idea of the “All-Star,” René said designers were encouraged to take creative liberties or be a little abstract in their designs, such as deconstructing jerseys or playing around with NBA colors.

“I feel like we have a lot of talent here, but we rarely get to show it,” René said. “And that’s another reason why Passion 4 Fashion is called Passion 4 Fashion because that’s what we all have a passion for.”

In the week leading up to the opening reception of Meet the Artists XXXVI, René will also be hosting Passion 4 Fashion week with specially curated events and pop-up fashion shows to promote the 2024 All-Star Weekend all over the city — including themed events discussing game day style, a Mardi Gras party, fragrance workshop and virtual Valentine’s Day styling class.

“Indiana does have a lot of opportunities for fashion,” René said. “With [guests] being able to see that, they’ll be able to support the designers and the artists.”

Meet the Artists XXXVI is on display at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St., Jan. 31 through March 23. The Opening Reception is Feb. 17 beginning at 5:15 p.m. The exhibit and opening reception are free and open to the public. For more information, visit indypl.org/programs-events/meet-the-artists.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.