I got it in my head that I wanted to be more of a part of the local arts scene in Indianapolis. The second thought that popped into my head: what local arts scene? I mean, come on, it’s Indianapolis. We’re not exactly the Mecca of the arts world so why would I expect the arts scene to be much more than drunken rednecks and dirty limericks?

I know. But I’m working on my prejudices.

My weekend investigation of the local arts began Friday night with my infiltration of The United States of Mind. The United States of Mind is a community based event space which offers drum classes, drum sales and repair, poetry readings, music and art related events as well as Indy’s only chai café. We are a communal center that enables diverse individuals to express, experience and share music, poetry, and art with one another.

This was actually my second time at USOM, the first being a reconnaissance mission two weeks before. I heard tell that they had an open mic night every Friday evening, but before I was willing to expose all of my friends to quite possibly the latest in Vogon poetry, I thought that I would check it out. For the most part–granted, I’m no poetry buff–the poetry was decent, in a couple cases, exceptional. There were a few songs and one rap performance, so it was all good. More of the same when we went again, though some friends of mine performed a few pieces.

Nothing made my ears bleed, so it was all good.

Saturday I meant to spend on another trip to see Brian, except in this case, Brian Keene. He was doing a signing in Morris, IL, so I thought that I would pop over and see that. I thought that I had communicated this to my wife. Apparently, as I reviewed the details of the trip, phrases like “three hours there”, “three hours back”, “hanging out for three to six hours”, “possible drinking and vomiting”, and most importantly “you having the kids all day” caught her attention and the trip got vetoed. Instead, she proposed that we accompany our friends (our practically adopted daughters since they’ve taken to calling me “dad”, not at all making me feel every day of my age) down to the Talbot Street Art Fair.

When the Talbot Street Art Fair opens for business at 10 a.m. on Saturday, it will mark its 50th anniversary. For the 250 artists and craftspeople who will be on hand, it’s likely to be business as usual — which means large crowds, brisk sales and a good time. If you’ve never been to the event, it’s a true street fair, with booths spread along Talbott Street from 16th to 19th streets, as well as along the side streets in that area. You’ll find everything from paintings and sculpture to ceramics, textile art, jewelry, photographs, prints, garden art and woodworking. And you’ll discover an event that’s a significant part of the city’s cultural history. At age 50, Talbot Street is the city’s oldest art fair.

It’s also pretty boring, especially when you have two kids in tow. It’s hard to convince a four and almost three year old that looking at jewelry can be fun. At least not when the heavens decide to open up and piss all over us in torrents. The rain proved brief, however, and we opted to spend the rest of the day at the Independent Music and Art Festival.

The Harrison Center for the Arts seeks to be a catalyst for renewal in the city of Indianapolis by fostering awareness, appreciation, and community in arts and culture. Harrison Center tenants include: 15 local artists (studio space),VSA Arts, Herron School of Art, the Harrison Art Gallery, Primary Colours, The Advent Project, The Nature Conservancy, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

The Harrison Center also hosted the Oncology on Canvas show in its gallery. Talk to me all you want about extreme horror, this art (“reducing life to the color of survival” as one artist put it) moved me in a much more powerful way. These paintings by real life cancer survivors, or their friends, both turned my stomach and was achingly beautiful. No one in our group could speak the entire time we toured the exhibit. We just moved from portrait to portrait in reverent silence.

I actually ended up making a lot of contacts at the IMAF. You see, one of the things I wanted a church ministry to do was be involved in the arts. Not do a “ministry”, for example “painting God’s way” or whatever, but getting out and serving the needs of artists, for no other reason that serving them. This is a lot of what The Advent Project and Redeemer Pres are doing, so I wanted to make some contacts and see what help we could be. Why invent the wheel if there are already people in place? It’s not like we’re in competition with them.

Not one for the independent music scene, it also turned out that I knew a lot of the bands, or people in the bands. The members of Wolfy are roommates of a friend of mine; USOM open mic night host T.J. Reynolds is a member of the drum group-cum-reggae band Undefeatable Beats; I used to attend a church with a member of Emory Salem; and my friend insisted that we stay to hear Extra Blue Kind, with the exception of Undefeatable Beats, was the band that I liked the most, though they were very different flavors.

All in all, if I had to miss Brian Keene’s signing, this wasn’t a bad condolence event to pass away a day.