Getting to Know the Swish Curators

By Seth Johnson

The three-week Swish arts and culture event is in the books, and we can definitively say it was a slam dunk.

Hundreds of Indianapolis musicians, dancers, poets and more rocked stages across downtown Indy, while more than 50 artists turned pedestrian areas into vibrant sidewalk galleries and 3D mural experiences to welcome basketball fans. But to make all this magic happen, there needed to be a devoted team of curators, who worked day and night to ensure everything went off without a hitch.

Following the greatness that was #SwishIndy, we caught up with these 11 curators, who worked with GANGGANG, the Arts Council, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick, to ask about artists they discovered and the local arts and culture events they’re most excited about in 2021.


Ariana Beedie, freelance journalist & community leader 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

A lot of the artists that initially applied weren't that familiar to me. There were classic rock bands, jazz groups and even a singing bowl healer that I wasn't aware of. More artists that I was familiar with were added, but it was great to see some lesser-known names get booked. 

Most challenging moment as a Swish curator?

The amount of communication in a small time frame. It's a lot to communicate with your larger curation team, smaller stage team, and the artists. I felt like March was just a sea of emails. 

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

I'm just looking forward to feeling safe to be in public. I think A Fence of Art in Fountain Square is going to be dope. 


Ben Leslie, nonprofit entrepreneur 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

There are so many amazing artists right here in town! I think it was Karl Hofstetter who once told me that it can be easier to do well outside Indianapolis than it is to do well here in your hometown. We have these artists like Damon Karl, Cradle Cat and Albion West with very refined sounds that I really enjoyed hearing for the first time. 

Favorite moment? 

Calling an artist to say, "Hey, a unique opportunity opened up," is a fun conversation, especially because we are able to compensate accordingly. 

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

GANGGANG has already done a year's worth of creative and cultural projects, and they are just getting started. I can't wait to see what else they do. I’m also looking forward to more outdoor shows with our vital venues and the Indiana Independent Venue Alliance. 


Cuong Tran, creative professional/designer 

Favorite moment in helping to set up Swish?

Being on Zoom calls with my fellow curators! 

Most challenging moment? 

Using Excel. Haha!

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

Bringing the street dance community together again and seeing how big our community has grown. We all love each other and it was awesome to see them shine!


Danicia Monet, Rokh

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know about before this project?

It was great to see the work of so many artists I was already a fan of, but two artists I was introduced to were Meghan Curran and Gretchen Katner. I loved the playfulness of Meghan's installation and the whimsy in Gretchen Katner's image.

Most challenging moment in helping set up Swish

Nothing was challenging about this for me. I was delighted to share the “MicroAffections” installation as well as curate the Self-Guided Public Art Crawl. The Arts Council did a great job of coordinating the logistics for this engagement.

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

I'm looking forward to Indianapolis enlisting a public art equity audit.


Eduardo Luna, artist and curator 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know about before this project?

Julius “Julio” Veal was one new artist that I discovered while selecting people who applied for Swish. It was great to chat with Julio by phone; he told me that he was very excited to perform in Indianapolis after being away from the local music scene while traveling and busking in many parts of the world. One of the places that he busked was the Dominican Republic, and we had a short conversation in Español. 

Favorite moment during Swish?

Working with a diverse group of creatives that are not only artists in their own right, but also creating platforms and opportunities for other artists in Indianapolis. 

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

There are two events that I am helping to curate locally: a "Día de Muertos” (Day of the Dead) celebration at the Eiteljorg Museum and a Mexican and Latino art exhibition that will be on display at the Indianapolis Artsgarden to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. I am also looking forward to attending events at the Tube Factory artspace, outdoor theater at Fonseca Theater Company, events at Belmont Beach Project, outdoor concerts at Phoenix Theater Cultural Centre, trying the new art playground at the Harrison Center, and checking out local and touring bands at Hi-Fi and the Melody Inn.


Lauren Curry, executive director, Indy Movement Arts Collective

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

I was so excited to learn that there are not one but two baile folklorico/ballet folklorico groups in Indianapolis. Shout out to Grupo Folclorico Macehuani and Ballet Folklorico Mosaicos for sharing Mexican folk dance and culture with the city.

Most challenging moment as a curator?

Because everything was on such a tight timeline, sometimes I wasn’t able to give artists the consideration they deserved. Even though all the public sees is an hour of performance, it takes years of work to make that hour happen.  That should be respected.  Shout out especially to Philia (@philiamusic) for bearing with me!

What are you most looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

Indy Movement Arts Collective (@indymovementarts) will be hosting an online PBS Telethon parody featuring dance performances and other shenanigans this summer.  I think it’s going to be hilarious so tune in to support local dance artists! Also, during this process, I got to know one of the other curators, Ari Beedie. She co-founded Woo Grl Music Festival (@woogrlfest), and I really hope Indy gets to see it return someday soon!


Mariah Ivey, spoken word artist, musician & educator 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

Honestly, there were a handful of artists/bands I didn't know. I'm not sure if I can narrow it down to just one, but what I will say is that after sifting through a ton of submissions and concluding a month of performances, no one can say that Indy isn't for art and/or lacks talent. We have it—in abundance.  

Most challenging moment as a curator?

Like any music festival and/or massive event, scheduling 250+ artists requires a great deal of flexibility. Balancing 16 credit hours in the thick of midterm season, work and meeting obligations, and other special projects while remaining present and available to my curatorial team and the artists was no easy task. Every waking hour I've had has been put to use, however, as it’s  been such a beautiful process filled with teachable moments. The reward was/is seeing our city come to life through art, and that's what made it all so worth it for me. 

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

I'm excited to see what our creative community continues to do after this season. While we are still navigating a global pandemic, my hope is that we nurture that creativity as a critical part of taking care of our whole selves. 




Mike Barclay, 60 on Center 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

Maxine Wallace, Greg Rose, and Meghan Curran all stood out to me from first glance. Each has a fresh perspective but an understanding of color and form that is invigorating. These are artists I want to watch as they develop their body of work.  

Favorite experience or moment?

Working with the Art Council's team. I have known Shannon Linker and Lindsey Lord from the scene, but we had really never worked together and our working styles just clicked. This was a high-stress project on a very condensed timeline so even though the pressure was on with very long hours seven days a week, we still were laughing and having fun. It felt really good to be part of a team after a year of home isolation.   

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

The upcoming Justin Favela exhibition I have curated under my new company, 60 on Center, for Buckingham Companies. The show opens April 23 in the CityWay Gallery. Working with Justin has been a dream for several years.




Nick “DJ Metrognome” Saligos

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

I was impressed with a bunch of the artists but a few that really stand out are 800 lb. Gorilla (nice ode to ‘70s/’80s funk), Bembe (great band with a lot of energy), and Ballet Folklorico Mosaicos (beautiful dancing and outfits and brought out a great crowd as well).

Most challenging moment as a curator?

Going through an ton of submissions, and then making collaborative efforts to decide who'd be the best fit (and on which stages). There were so many spreadsheets, emails, and Zoom calls in a very short period of time to ensure we could stay on track.

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

Returning to Coaches for my weekly Tuesday night party called Take That! Tuesday. We shut down just two weeks before our 14-year anniversary and just last week did a “Fake 15"-year anniversary since we still haven't returned yet. I'm also really, really looking forward to getting our Back To The Future party at the Hi-Fi going again every First Friday. 




Richard “Sleepy” Floyd, drummer, composer & producer 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

Guitarist Tommy Baldwin’s performance was really dope, and the dude can just flat out play.  It was a pleasure to meet him, and he’s someone I’ll definitely be on the lookout for. He has a bright future ahead. 

Favorite moment or experience?

Working with my fellow Swish curators, especially DJ Metrognome and Rob Dixon. Although I’ve worked with both extensively over the years, we spent many hours and late nights working through the submissions and setting our lineups. The knowledge and insight that these guys brought to the table really helped pull everything together. 

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

I’m most looking forward to art/culture being back on full display this year. 2020 was really rough on our arts community, but there was still an abundance of creativity. So I’m really looking forward to seeing that work pay off in the way of dope shows and also more equitable opportunities and pathways for artists to thrive, and not just survive.


Rob Dixon, artistic director, Indy Jazz Fest 

Did you discover any artists that you didn't know before this project?

I enjoyed getting a chance to hear Sickoboy. It was great to see people so young put something together on a professional level. I also loved the enthusiasm of their followers that showed up for their set.

Most challenging moment as a curator?

For me, personally, it was rescheduling the Lugar Plaza stage. The Swish team got word at the 11th hour that music at Lugar Plaza could not go beyond 5 p.m. when we originally had music scheduled until 7.  But thanks to the Swish leadership (GANGGANG, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and the Arts Council) we were able to all pull together and get things sorted out.

What are you looking forward to in Indy in 2021?

All the live music performances this summer by all the great bands we have in Indianapolis.


Pictured: Anistropic by artist Phillip Lynam.

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