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25 Years of Art & Soul

Yadin Kol was a 2021 Featured Artist. Photo by Wildstyle Paschall.
Yadin Kol was a 2021 Featured Artist. Photo by Wildstyle Paschall.

"My experience at Art & Soul proved to be a game-changer for me."

Like most other in-person events over the past two years, Art & Soul moved online due to COVID-19. That seemingly insurmountable hurdle did little to hamper this cultural staple that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021.

Art & Soul, funded annually by Lilly Endowment Inc., began in the mid-’90s with a core group of community organizers. Denise Herd, owner of Herd Strategies, told Indy Monthly that initially the event didn’t start out as the annual draw it is today. That took time.

“You have to remember we were doing something that hadn’t been done before,” she said. “So people would walk through the Artsgarden on their way to the mall and see it, but they may stop or they may not stop. Now, people stop—it’s an event people look forward to.”

In 2021, more than 50 artists were recorded performing live at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis over three days, with 16 stirring performances that were true to the theme–Black by Popular Demand. Program partners included Rob Dixon, artistic director of Indy Jazz Fest; and Keesha Dixon, executive director of Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis.

2021’s offering also put the spotlight on four Featured Artists:

AshLee Baskin, who performs as PsyWrn Simone, was a 2021 Featured Artist. Video by Tai Payne.

“My experience as a Featured Artist proved to be a game-changer for me,” said AshLee Baskin, who performs under the moniker PsyWrn Simone. “I will forever be grateful for the continued opportunities to showcase my artistry.”

The performances were shared online through a partnership with WISH-TV and reached 1.5 million viewers. Eskenazi Health broadcasted performances via its internal system to bring cultural entertainment to patients and essential health workers at clinics and hospitals across the city. These critical partnerships helped to not only preserve the legacy of this long-running event but to expose it to new and different audiences.

- By Ebony Chappel

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