“Butter,” the inclusive fine art fair featuring black visual artists, has seen just one launch so far — over Labor Day weekend in 2021. Its founder, cultural development firm Ganggang, expected 1,000 adult customers during the weekend. By the end, they reported more than 3,400 adult tickets sold.
With that, a new Indianapolis hit was born. Its annual status has now become a given, with co-founder Malina Simone Jeffers even seeing someone on social media post their desire to enter “Butter Season” as “Butter 2” rolls this weekend at Stutz’s downtown building of the city.
“Perhaps one of the nicest surprises — or what feels like a really pressing surprise — is that Indianapolis knows about ‘Butter’ and talks about it like there’s been more than one,” Jeffers said.
To meet and exceed expectations, Ganggang is leaning further into its mission: to build equity and cultural reparations for black artists in a high-profile event that fuels the city’s creative economy. The Fine Art Fair will showcase more than 50 Black visual artists from across the country and support them throughout the process of preparing their work for the public and sales.
Additionally, Ganggang will triple the fair’s physical size. Instead of housing it in a single space, organizers will expand it into two indoor and one outdoor spaces in and around the former factory, which has been under construction. Indoor halls are at the upcoming car museum and VisionLoft Events along 10th Street. Outside there will be installations that will create what Jeffers calls a transformative wonderland.
New downtown eateries and shops:Celebrity chefs are among 12 new restaurants and more opening at Stutz
Around that, expect around 30 performing artists throughout the weekend and a dance party called “Melt” on Saturday night. Historian Sampson Levingston will give guided tours of the history of the area between Stutz and Crispus Attucks High School.
“While the fair focuses on those visual artists of color — and that’s what the fair is about, we’re looking to sell their work — there are probably a hundred creators and artists involved in making this fair happen,” Jeffers said.
“We want to help (artists) tell their stories”
Like last year, at the core of Butter 2 are the visual artists. Among them are April Bey of Los Angeles and Kiah Celeste of Louisville. Indianapolis artists include Amiah Mims, Johnson Simon and Kaila Austin.
The mystery of art:This famous Hoosier painted a mural for Crispus Attucks in the 30s. Why did it disappear?
The curation team—including Jeffers, Ganggang co-founder Alan Bacon, Braydee Euliss and Sarah Urist Green—helps them prepare their work and, more importantly, sell it. Often, curators simply tell artists they have space for one or two pieces and give them a deadline, Jeffers said.
“That’s what artists are used to. So when they’re invited to participate in Butter, they say, ‘What’s my deadline?’ When do I have to quit my job and how many parts?” Jeffers said. “We say, ‘We don’t do things like that here. We actually care about you. We actually want to have a relationship.”
Ganggang’s curatorial team visits studios, asks what participants need — like help with pricing and framing, for example — and provides artists with resources including professional photos of their work. Instead of asking the artist to create work based on a theme, the team asks the artists what they want to say.
“We want to help them tell their stories. This is about amplifying artists’ voices, especially after 2020,” Bacon said. “What’s the story that we’re going to hear and learn about and know and love as it relates to this year’s Gyalpi versus last year’s Gyalpi? Some of the craftsmanship is indicative of the moment we’re in.”
The job puts artists in a better position to sell their work and the formula is proven. In 2021, Ganggang reported selling 42 pieces of art worth $65,000 during the fair itself, and even more in post-sales driven by Butter customers seeking the artists’ work. Like last year, artists will keep all proceeds from their sales and won’t have to pay the fees that venues often charge, Jeffers said.
“That’s why culture is so important — it actually breaks down barriers and just allows you to connect,” Bacon said.
If you go
What: Butter 2, a fine art fair highlighting visual artists of color
When: Preview Night, Thursday from 4:00-7:00 p.m.; 11:00-22:00 Friday; 11am-10pm Saturday, with Melt running 9pm-midnight; 11am-6pm on Sunday. Find the full schedule at butterartfair.com/schedule.
Where: 1060 N. Capitol Ave Along the south side of the downtown Stutz factory building, including 10th Street between Senate and Capitol streets
Cost: 35 dollars. Free for ages 18 and under. $175 Preview night tickets, which includes Thursday night. Shop at butterartfair.com.
Looking for things to do? Our newsletter has the best concerts, art, shows and more – and the stories behind them
Contact IndyStar reporter Domenica Bongiovanni at 317-444-7339 or [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @domenicareports.