Art Fair Anticipation: Dancer, artist, organizer discuss experiences with, expectations for Penrod Arts Fair


Veronica Teeter

Dancer and sophomore Lindsey Thole rehearses with her partner at Performer’s Edge Dance Studio. Here, she worked on the “bluebird” position.

Angela Qian, Reporter

When someone looks up “Indiana’s Nicest Day,” the first link will direct them to the Penrod Arts Fair website. It says the Somerset CPAs have trademarked the phrase, and with over 50 years of experience organizing the fair, it has become one of the largest single day art fairs in the nation.

Jonathan Kane, former Penrod artist and former CHS art teacher, was on his way to Canada, a place whose landscapes inspire much of his art, when he spoke about his experience with the fair. He said he had never had his art showcased in a fair until the Penrod Arts Fair eight or nine years ago, although he had visited the fair twice before, and he said he was very impressed with the artists, booths and artwork.

“It’s just so different to be an artist with a booth on the other side of the tent,” Kane said.

The director personally approached Kane to ask if he would take part in the fair, so he did not have to complete the application process most artists did in order to participate, according to Kane.

For most artists, however, once they complete the application, there is an art selection committee to determine who has a booth at the fair. The committee will then email the selected artists who must accept the invitation and pay the booth fees before the stated deadline. The list of accepted artists goes up on the website about two months later.

According to its website, the Penrod Arts Fair is a sizeable event, with over 20,000 people visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) to be a part of the event that showcases hundreds of artists every year. This year’s fair will take place on Sept. 8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and visitors will receive a map and an agenda upon entrance, according to Steven Riddle, principal in Somerset’s Entrepreneurial and Litigation and Valuation groups, the title sponsor of the Penrod Arts Fair. Riddle said there is also a more exclusive event the night before, called Evening with Penrod.

Riddle said the evening event has a more casual atmosphere than the full-day event, and it isn’t as crowded due to the fixed number of tickets sold and the reduced number of artists with featured art. However, he said the full-day event is still a great community event because of the good weather and it being family-friendly.

He said, “The night before is adults-only, but there are children’s activities—there’s a whole children’s section on the grounds of the art museum for the fair day. People can come there and spend a whole day or spend as much or little time as they want.”

Along with children’s sections on the fairgrounds, Riddle said there are also food, music and performance venues scattered throughout the grounds. According to dancer and sophomore Lindsey Thole, these performances feature dancers from various studios to advertise their own shows and studios.

As one of these dancers, Thole said she dances at the Ballet Theatre of Carmel Academy, a ballet school that condenses its spring show production every year for the performance at Penrod. Thole

said this will be her fifth time dancing at the fair.

She said, “A lot of times, it’s just a pain,” as the occasional rainy weather leading up to the fair often results in muddy grounds, which may cause issues for dancers.

“(Performing at Penrod) is really fun if the weather’s nice and because there’s a big audience, but the floor’s really slippery, so lots of people fall,” Thole said.

Kane said the weather had the potential to be a complication for his art as well. His art is pastel behind glass, and he said he was concerned about the damage that could occur from the condensation caused by the humidity and the rain.

Despite this, he said, “They say the sun always shines on Penrod, and it actually did on the day of the fair.”

Riddle and Thole also emphasized the sunny weather conditions during the fair. Even with the rain and mud, Thole said performing is fun because of the sun, and, as an art student herself, she said she likes seeing how artists will use the media she learned about in class.

Veronica Teeter
Lindsey Thole, Penrod Arts Fair participant, dancer and sophomore, works at the barre during rehearsal. She said dancing is harder than
it looks.

Riddle also mentioned he had a similar experience.

He said, “I really do enjoy the art and just walking the grounds. Generally, we have such beautiful weather. It’s just a really pretty day, and you can do whatever you want.”

Kane said displaying art at an art fair is often more work than it seems—artists must learn how to market themselves and promote their art in conversation as well.

“When people come up, they don’t realize everything that went on behind the scenes to get to that point. They come and see the work, and some walk by, but (others) stop and see the work. That’s very reaffirming as an artist,” Kane said. “I just really felt honored to be a part of that show.