Indianapolis Public Library artist-in-residence Anthony Radford put together the first Meet the Artists showcase in 1988. The event showcases the work of some of Indianapolis’s top African American visual artists at the Central Library, usually during the month of February.

Artwork on display in the library’s Center for Black Literature and Culture, 2018 Credit: Doug Jaggers, WFYI View Source

On average, each year more than 1,500 people visit the event, which consists of an opening night gala of music, workshops, and fashion show followed by a month-long exhibition.

A mixed-media artist, Radford started working for the library when he was 19. As a young man, he frequented the art galleries of Mass Ave looking for a place to connect with local artists and show his own artwork. He found few venues that exposed the work of artists of color. He did notice Central Library’s exposé of the work of local artist Joe Holiday in conjunction with Black History Month in 1988. Beyond the library’s display of Holiday’s work, nothing about him or his artwork appeared in the news or the mainstream white newspapers. Radford decided to change that.

Art on display during the 34th Meet the Artist gathering, 2022 Credit: Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK View Source

He pitched the idea for an art show that featured Black artists to the library’s African American History Committee in 1988.

In 1989, the first Meet the Artists event consisted of 11 artists, a jazz band, and light refreshments for guests. Nearly 200 people viewed the works of these artists featured in the small stairwell in what currently houses the Simon Reading Room. With the success of the first event, the committee gave Radford permission to plan another for the following year. More than 30 years later, the annual Meet the Artists event has featured the work of more than 400 Black artists, poets, dancers, authors, and musicians.

Despite Radford’s success using the Meet the Artists event to promote African American creatives, few cultural institutions exist to promote the work of Indianapolis’ African American creative artists. Notably, since 1996 the Indy Arts Council has hosted the Art and Soul celebration of Black artists and creatives that kicks off Black history month in the city. Each year, over 100 Black creatives participate in the event.

Revised June 2022

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