The IU College of Arts of Sciences will host a discussion with three members of the Indianapolis-based Eighteen Art Collective from 6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Eskenazi School’s Mies van der Rohe building. The discussion is part of the College’s Themester program, a series of themed lectures, exhibits and events. This semester’s theme is “Light and Truth.”
The free panel will feature Amiah Mims, a freelance graphic designer and acrylic painter, Gary Gee, a ceramist and multimedia artist, and Kyng Rhodes, a painter. The discussion will be moderated by Austin Clark, an IU junior studying photography and art history.
Clark, an Indianapolis-area native, said he knew Eighteen Art Collective for a Black Lives Matter mural they created during nationwide protests against police violence in summer 2020 on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis. Located near the Madam Walker Legacy Center, the mural read “#BlackLivesMatter” and featured a fist painted in pan-African colors. Each letter and symbol had a different art style.
The mural was vandalized with white paint a week after its completion, and it was ultimately removed due to expansions to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, but the group has continued working together on other projects.
“We’re going to open the discussion with the mural, and we’re going to talk a lot about how that came about, what it was like making such a heavily political mural on such an important street in downtown Indianapolis and how it was perceived by the public,” Clark said. “The conversation becomes largely about race and equity in artistic spaces.”
In September, the group completed a year-long exhibition at Newfields, an art museum in Indianapolis, titled “We. The Culture: Works by the Eighteen Art Collective.”
Clark said they plan to discuss their experiences as Black artists at Newfields after the museum received backlash for a job posting seeking an art director to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience” posted in 2021. Then-Newfields president Charles Venable ultimately resigned following the posting.
Clark said this chance to speak to local Black artists is important as the art world evolves to include more perspectives.
“Whether or not it’s a genuine shift, I’m happy that the narrative is including other things than Eurocentric art, and in contemporary art, we’re considering larger groups in the canon of art history to be remembered,” Clark said. “That is what I am happy about for getting this collective to come down here to speak.”
The panel is part of the 15th and final Themester. The theme of “Light and Truth” is the English translation of IU’s Latin motto “Lux et Veritas.” Themester 2023 Advisory Committee co-chair Tracy Bee said the college decided to sunset the program.
“We thought it would be a nice goodbye to the university to focus on a theme that really highlights what Indiana University is about,” Bee said. “What better theme than the motto?”
When choosing events for this year’s program, the Themester advisory committee looked for topics encompassing both light and truth, regardless of discipline. For one lecture, astronomer Travis Rector spoke about space photography and interpreting the stars with color. Upcoming events are announced through Themester’s newsletter and website.
For the Eighteen Art Collective discussion, panelists will discuss how light and truth apply to expression through the fine arts, particularly in local spaces.
“Sometimes people in Bloomington think that art is something that happens somewhere else,” Bee said. “Art is something you visit somewhere else – in New York City or Los Angeles. But I think one takeaway that people could leave with is important art happens here in Indiana.”