2011 Art & Soul Festival: Citywide Events Celebrate Black History Everywhere

Once again, the Arts Council of Indianapolis is celebrating Black History Month with another iteration of the Art & Soul festival, recognizing the achievements of African Americans in art, literature, and other aspects of Indianapolis culture. The majority of the sponsored Indianapolis music events at the festival will be taking place throughout the month of February at the Indianapolis Artsgarden (see FunCityFinder‘s complete list of 2011 Art & Soul Artsgarden Events), but every corner of Indianapolis will be active in February for the 2011 Art & Soul festival. Several major Indianapolis attractions will have an event, exhibit, or presentation in recognition of the 2011 Indianapolis festival. Check below for a full list of 2011 Art & Soul citywide events.

January 29, 2011: Curls, Cornrows, and Comb-Overs at the Indiana State Museum

For one day only, entangle yourself in the history of hair. The Indiana State Museum takes visitors on a journey through beehives, Mohawks, comb overs, and every other hair style imaginable. Watch hair stylists show off their scissor skills, learn how the environment affects your precious ‘do, and get a cultural perspective on the world of hair, particularly the impact Indy‘s own Madame C. J. Walker had on the beauty industry. Activities at Curls, Cornrows, and Comb-Overs include Magnify Your Mane (use a microscope to analyze hair, including your own!), Name That Hair, and Pogonotrophy, the only place in Indianapolis where you can magically grow your own facial hair.

Indiana State Museum

650 W Washington St

Indianapolis, IN 46204



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February 1 – 28, 2011: Follow the Drinking Gourd at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

Back by popular demand at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum is the Follow the Drinking Gourd exhibit, a Planetarium program that allows Indianapolis children to escape from slavery using only the stars above to guide them. Follow the Drinking Gourd follows the story of the Underground Railroad and explains how the slaves, escaping under the cover of darkness, used the Big Dipper and other constellations to find their way to safety. It wasn’t easy getting to freedom, and thanks to this 2011 Art & Soul citywide event, you and your kids can almost empathize with the trials suffered by runaway slaves.

Indianapolis Children’s Museum

3000 N Meridian St

Indianapolis, IN 46208



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February 1 – 28, 2011: Black History Challenge by the Indiana Historical Society

Indianapolis children 13 and under can get their study on with the Black History Challenge presented by the Indiana Historical Society. Though not actually an Indianapolis event per se, the month long contest challenges kids to research Indiana‘s past and become a black history master. Champions get a bevy of prizes, from Indianapolis museum tickets to a luxurious stay at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. It’s easy to enter the Black History Challenge; you can either take the challenge online or download a game card, which you’ll fill out and return to any Indianapolis public library (including the Central Library) or to the Indiana History Center.

Indiana History Center

450 W Ohio St

Indianapolis, IN 46202



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February 4, 2011: 23rd Annual Gospel Fest at Clowes Memorial Hall

African American identity in the United States, especially during the 18th and 19th century, revolved around music. It was almost the only form of expression the slaves were granted, and even then field songs had to survive the listening ears of plantation overseers. As a result, original American music like jazz and blues has its roots on the plantations. Gospel is also another important facet of the black musical tradition, and this genre will take center stage on February 4, 2011 when the 23rd Annual Gospel Fest comes to Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University. Headlining is Pastor Shirley Ceasar, accompanied by James Fortune, David and Tamala Mann, and Butler’s Voices of Deliverance gospel choir. There will also be a pre-performance discussion with Eric Stark, the director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir.

Video of Ricky Dillard and New G performing “Things Will Work Out for Me” at a Gospel Fest in Indianapolis; the 13th Annual Gospel Fest is part of the 2011 Art & Soul citywide events


Clowes Memorial Hall

Butler University

4602 Sunset Ave

Indianapolis, IN 46220


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February 5 – March 27, 2011: Black Pearls Exhibition at Garfield Park Arts Center

Interested in the contributions African American artists have made to the Indianapolis art community? Look no further than the Black Pearls exhibition at the Garfield Park Arts Center. Come to the Garfield Park Arts Center to see this juried exhibition of mixed media art from around the Circle City. The Indianapolis art gallery will be full of sculpture, paintings, photography, and more; you can get a taste of the breadth and scope of African American art with the Black Pearls exhibition.

Garfield Park Arts Center

2345 Pagoda Dr

Indianapolis, IN 46203



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February 8, 2011: Celebration of Black History Concert at Hilbert Circle Theater

The most well known Indianapolis musical organization throws its gauntlet in the 2011 Art & Soul festival with another iteration of its annual Celebration of Black History Concert. Conducted by Thomas Wilkins, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will take you on a journey through the musical accomplishments of African American musicians and composers throughout time. Charlotte Blake Alston will be narrating the concert, and the Voices of Light choir will be the chorus for the evening. Also, if you show up early you can catch a performance by the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra in the lobby of Hilbert Circle Theatre.

Hilbert Circle Theatre

45 Monument Circle

Indianapolis, IN 46204



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February 11, 2011: Neat at the Indiana Repertory Theater

The sequel to the acclaimed Pretty Fire (which had a successful extended run in February of 2010), Neat once again features the acting talents of Milicent Wright, who reprises her role as Charlayne, a teenager who is trying to find her own identity amid the pressures of high school, romance, and her disabled Aunt Neat. The first offering in the Indiana Repertory Theater‘s innovate Going Solo Festival (review of the 2010 Going Solo Festival) for 2011, Neat promises to expand on the issues of race, identity, and self-worth explored in Pretty Fire.

Video of Pretty Fire at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis; the sequel, Neat, will be playing during the 2011 Art & Soul festival


Indiana Repertory Theatre

140 W Washington St

Indianapolis, IN 46204



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February 12 – August 7, 2011: Red/Black at the Eiteljorg Museum

The United States has an unfortunate history of racial and cultural oppression, and no two groups know that better than Native Americans and African Americans. Both groups have routinely been cheated, robbed, murdered, and imprisoned by both white settlers and an American government that saw the breadth of North America as their divine right. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art seeks to explore the connections between Native Americans and African Americans with their new exhibit, Red/Black: Related Through History. Exploring issues of race and identity through photography, panel discussions, genealogy workshops, and more, Red/Black will open your eyes to the interconnectedness of all America’s people.

Promotional video for Red/Black: Related Through History at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art in Indianapolis


Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art

500 W Washington St

Indianapolis, IN 46204



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February 18, 2011: “This Little Light” at the Madame Walker Theatre

The Freetown Village living history museum is a valuable asset to Indianapolis education; it’s a museum that explores what it was like to live as a newly freed slave in 19th century America using historical dramatizations and period clothing, not unlike Conner Prairie in Fishers. However, Freetown Village isn’t confined to the four walls of the museum: the museum’s staff also participates in several events throughout the Circle City. The “This Little Light” dinner theater at the Madame Walker Theatre Center is one of those special events. Eat a delicious meal and get a royally fun music and history lesson in the process with this special 2011 Art & Soul citywide event.

Madame Walker Theatre Center

617 Indiana Ave

Indianapolis, IN 46202



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February 20, 2011: 13th Annual Gospel Concert at the Pike Performing Arts Center

Yet another celebration of gospel music for Black History Month will be taking place on February 20, 2011 at the Pike Performing Arts Center. The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis will be presenting its 13th Annual Gospel Concert (the follow up to the 12th Annual Gospel Concert) at the Indianapolis music venue at 3:00 p.m. David Baker, a professor of jazz studies at Indiana University and a local jazz musician of great standing, will be directing the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, and the Symphonic Praise Choir will be providing the harmonies.

Pike Performing Arts Center

6701 Zionsville Rd

Indianapolis, IN 46268



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February 22, 2011: You Are There 1968 at the Indiana History Center

On April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy held a campaign rally in what is now Martin Luther King Memorial Park, an Indianapolis park on 17th and Broadway. History buffs will notice that the date is the same as that of Martin Luther King’s assassination; however, people at the Kennedy rally weren’t aware of King’s death. In a bold move, Kennedy delivered the news of the assassination and placated the crowd with a message of peace and love. The Indiana History Center will be replicating the famous speech with You Are There 1968: Robert F. Kennedy Speaks. Featuring state of the art hologram technology, guests can experience this critical moment in history for themselves before learning more at the adjacent King/Kennedy Learning Room, which features exhibits and artwork that put the event in context.

Video montage and transcript of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 Indianapolis speech, the subject of You Are There 1968: Robert F. Kennedy Speaks at the Indiana History Center


February 25 – March 13, 2011: diaspora at the IndyFringe Theatre

When you hear the word “diaspora,” people typically think of the Jewish migration from Israel. However, the word can be used to describe any mass exodus from ancentral homeland, and it also applies to African Americans. IndyFringe delivers up yet another innovated production with diaspora, showing at the IndyFringe Building from February 25 to March 13. Based on the poetry of Saul Williams, this Half/Black Productions (Gilgamesh at last year’s IndyFringe Festival) piece pairs the audience with one homeless man (Jonah Winston) who may be more than meets the eye. Directed by Michael Hosp, diaspora is a unique piece of theater that will get you thinking about the world at large.

Video of Saul Williams reading an excerpt of The Dead Emcee Scrolls, the basis for diaspora, a play at the IndyFringe Building in Indianapolis


IndyFringe Building

719 E St. Clair St

Indianapolis, IN 46202



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February 25, 2011: Jazz on the Avenue at the Madame Walker Theatre

No celebration of black culture would be complete without a jazz concert. And the final 2011 Art & Soul citywide event is just such a musical tribute. In its second event for Black History Month, the Madame Walker Theatre Center is continuing its popular Jazz on the Avenue series. Jazz on the Avenue takes place every fourth Friday of the month and brings both national and local music acts to the stage at the Madame Walker Theatre in an intimate, cabaret style setting. The Aberdeen Project performed at January’s Jazz on the Avenue, and during Black History Month Mo’ Betta Jazz will be sizzling on stage. Bring your appetite; there’s a buffet at Jazz on the Avenue, as well as a cash bar.

Video of the Mo’ Betta Jazz band performing at the Madame Walker Theatre in Indianapolis