Creating the movement: How the Beech Grove Artist Collective is cultivating the art scene in the city

By Jacob Musselman

The members of the Beech Grove Artist Collective pose for a photo. (Photo provided by Kelsey Behl)

Since the inception of the Beech Grove Artist Collective (BGAC), the group has been making gradual changes throughout the city to help improve the look and feel of the city.

Kelsey Behl, one of the members of BGAC, said the collective is trying to make Beech Grove an art destination and create a new cultural arts district like Fountain Square or Garfield Park.

“We don’t want to bring in developers, we don’t want to gentrify Beech Grove,” Behl said, “We want to make it our own cool place.”

Since BGAC has started regularly hosting events, the art scene in the city has boomed with local artists from the Southside and around Indianapolis. When the collective first started hosting First Fridays, they had around 10 artists come and for their First Friday in September, they had over 75 artists come out to Main Street. First Fridays are a common event in many art scenes where people set up along prominent streets in towns and buy and sell art.

In addition to their First Fridays, BGAC also hosted the city’s first Art Festival in Sarah T. Bolton Park where around 70 artists and makers sold art. Prior to their First Friday for September, the art festival was the largest art event in Beech Grove’s history. Then the First Friday was the largest. BGAC has grown from one block of Main Street for their events, to needing to find a bigger space than Main Street to host their events.

“We have no problem getting the artists to come,” Behl said, “We just need the community.”

Behl said for their Friday Fridays now, they have everybody from beginner artists, who are having their first show, to seasoned veterans in the art world. She said they try and pair them together in hopes they can learn from one another.

To have a successful art scene in a town, you need to have the support from the local city government to truly make it thrive. Dennis Buckley, the mayor of Beech Grove, has been supporting the collective in their effort to bring art to the city, and he believes it is important to bring art and people to Beech Grove.

The view on Main street in downtown Beech Grove during First Friday. (Photo provided by Kelsey Behl)

“It started out, like everything does, slower, but in these last few months, it’s really taken off,” Buckley said. 

Having the support of your local city government is important when it comes to enacting change.

Blue, one of the members of BGAC, said they’ve received the support of the city and the mayor in all of the things they’ve done so far.

He said it’s inspiring to see people coming to Beech Grove and spending time in the community.

James Martin, one of the members of the Beech Grove Artist Collective paints a landscape during a First Friday. (Photo provided by Kelsey Behl)

“People are coming to Beech Grove to buy art,” he said. “That’s just awesome.”

From their first few events, they’ve built up a few regulars on First Fridays, artists who regularly sign up and Behl said its nice having that little community of people who regularly support one another.

Behl said it’s nice to have that community of artists and in her home, she can have a collection of art from all her friends.

Behl and Blue described the state of art in Beech Grove as “growing” and that they still have a lot of work to do but that they’re proud of the work BGAC has done so far.

Kathy Saucier, a denim artist, sells her art along Main Street during First Friday. (Photo provided by Kelsey Behl)

“We believe we can be successful because we’re building off the success of each event and growing and growing and I really don’t believe there’s any limit to what we’re capable of in creating this vibe in Beech Grove,” Blue said.

In the future, Behl and Blue said the artist collective wants to add more art events in town on other days of the week besides First Fridays and their art festival. WALA on Main and Marketplace on Main are both art gallery spaces that, in the future, will host events to further the art scene beyond the weekend.

The view on Main street in downtown Beech Grove during First Friday. (Photo provided by Kelsey Behl)