Visitors to this year’s Broad Ripple Art Fair (May 21-22), the largest fundraising event for the Indianapolis Art Center, were met with many of the familiar elements: artists selling their wares, opportunities for hands-on creation in the studios, food vendors, and performance stages.
Different this year: the absence of booths for other local not-for-profit cultural organizations.
A staple at previous BRAFs, the organizations weren’t offered space at this year’s show.
“There was some pushback,” said Katie Ociepka, BRAF’s director and the IAC’s associate director of development, of the new policy. “We met with a number of folks to see how we could make this work. One actually hugged me and said thanks for not making me come out there and pass out flyers.”
But some weren’t in such a hugging mood.
Ty Sutton, executive director of the Butler Arts Center (including Clowes Hall and the Schrott Center), had just gotten on the job when he got word of the decision. “We want to have opportunities to talk to the public as often as we can,” he said. “We’re lucky that there are other opportunities like Penrod Art Fair.”
“The ISO has participated in and supported the Broad Ripple Art Fair for years. so it was a bit of a disappointment not to be there this year to interact with arts patrons,” said Sarah Myer, director of marketing for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
“We were, of course, disappointed that there would not be space for us,” said Brandee Bryant, director of sales and marketing for the Indiana Repertory Theatre.
Kyle Harrington, head of the artists committee for BRAF and director of exhibitions for IAC, said that there were about 240 artists booths this year—about the same number as previous years. The Artspark, previously used for booths, was left open this year, with vendors condensed into other areas. “That was always a tough area to put artists into,” said Harrington, adding that post-fair surveys indicated that the sculpture area wasn’t a desirable spot.
Art Center staff members insist, though, that the decision to nix booths from cultural organizations was primarily financial. “The committee decided that we were paying more to have them there than we were taking in,” Ociepka said. In the past, organizations paid $250 for space, tent, tables, and chairs (as compared to artists who pay a base of $370 for a single booth and rent or bring what they need).
Instead, the IAC offered free opportunities for cultural organizations to take a time slot and present an interactive activity. Only three not-for-profits—Indy Film Fest, Photo Ventures Camera Club, and the Optimist Club—took IAC up on the new offer.
While attendance numbers aren’t yet available, Ociepka said there was “a lot more attendance, art sponsorships went through the roof, and we sold a lot of beer.” Nice weather over both days certainly contributed.
Helping financial numbers as well was OneAmerica, which went from a $20,000 presenting sponsorship level to $50,000 as a title sponsor. That contributed to turning a $54,000 overall sponsorship goal into an $83,700 take.
“We’re not sure how we are going to handle it next year,” said Ociepka, “but I don’t believe we will be bringing the cultural organizations back the way we did in the past. It’s the largest fundraiser for IAC so we have to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.”