Photo courtesy GANGGANG
Stop thinking about Land O’Lakes. BUTTER is a fine art fair that celebrates Black artists and promotes equity in the arts. It launched in 2021 and featured 22 artists. This year, organizers have churned up an even bigger event. The four-day art fair will feature work from more than 50 artists, including April Bey, Kiah Celeste, and Julian Jamaal Jones. BUTTER 2 will also include a dance party, food, drinks, and musical performances from Dorian Phelps and local hip-hop supergroup 81355.
As with so many things in Indy these days, GANGGANG is behind it. The cultural development firm founded by Mali Jeffers and Alan Bacon has made this their signature event, and it comes with a broad set of goals: Elevate Black artists, fuel the creative economy, maximize artists’ earnings, and convince people Indy is more than a sports town. It’s a lot for two people, so Braydee Euliss and Sarah Urist Green are helping them curate. A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker, is a co-chair.
Art Basel Miami Beach inspired BUTTER. What makes this different from the famous Florida art fair, though, is that it doesn’t rely on typical, somewhat antiquated financial models of the larger art world. “We don’t require a fee for artists to participate, nor do we take a commission on the sale of their work,” Jeffers says. “One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to the artists.”
The intent is to sell or loan 100 percent of the artwork. There aren’t a lot of standalone art fairs that advocate for Black artists. Even fewer aim to sell so much of the work, making it a financially viable career for the artists. It’s a gap BUTTER was designed to fill. “We believe people of color have contributed more to the arts and culture sector than they have received,” says Jeffers. “Artists continue to be grossly underpaid for their work.”
GANGGANG cofounder Alan Bacon came up with the name. “In the ’90s, when we were kids and teens, if something was really smooth or enjoyable to touch or experience, we’d call it ‘butter,’” he says. “That’s what we want to convey with this art experience.”
Prepare for crowds. In addition to more artists, there are also more school tours, artist talks, and live performances. The BUTTER 2 crew is hoping to double their ticket sales, from 3,400 to 7,000. If you’re feeling claustrophobic, check out the outdoor activities on 10th Street, which will be closed to vehicular traffic between Capitol and Senate avenues.
There will be mushroom umbrellas. Indy-based creatives Styled by Fei, Manifest State of Mind, and Branded by God are curating an “outdoor art wonderland” that will include an entertainment stage, interactive art walls, giant tire plants, and, yes, shade umbrellas shaped like fungi.
It all begins September 1 at the Stutz complex. A VIP preview takes place that evening, followed by three full days of art September 2–4. The dance party, a definite highlight, gets funky on Saturday night. General admission tickets, which include access to the festival’s three main days, are available at butterartfair.com for $35. For parking, event maps, participating artists, and videos of what to expect this weekend, check the BUTTER FAQ page.