“We Are Mirrored Patterns of One Another”: Tammy King brings art to community and community into art on the Near Eastside
In 2015, Tammy King walked into the second story of East 10th United Methodist Church amid a mass of old boxes and saw an art gallery. Since August 2016, Upper Room Gallery and Radial Point shows have been a unique, and perhaps unsung, spot on the map of art events around Indianapolis. Not only is it more family-friendly than other options, but it focuses on artists without extensive connections or resources to show their art. Radial Point and the inclusive practices at its core are a special part of what community members are doing in the IndyEast Promise Zone to expand and support arts and culture opportunities on the Near Eastside.
Tammy sees East 10th United, or as she describes it, “the front lawn of St. Clair Place,” as a place to bring community together through art. What came to mind for Tammy in trying to come up with a name for this new art initiative, was a kaleidoscope: “When you look in a kaleidoscope it’s a bunch of patterns and you can shift it and you might not even mean to and it is a different pattern, we are mirrored patterns of one another. So, I got to thinking about the point in the middle, the radial point. The point in the middle is our community and everything just radiates from that, our relationships and our patterns of life.”
Radial Point encourages those who do not necessarily identify as artists to explore and embrace that creative identity. The Upper Room Gallery and Radial Point welcomes all skill levels and has exhibited a little bit of everything. “We don’t stop at what someone else might normally think of as a ‘great piece of art,’ we say, ‘do you think that is a piece of art’ and if so, we put it up.” Further exemplifying its founding concept, the gallery has been the nexus for a Near Eastside connection to international issues. Its most recent exhibit hosted Love Without Borders, an initiative spearheaded by Kayra Martinez, to bring refugee children’s art to a wider audience. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to refugee families in need who are hoping to start new lives in countries such as Germany, Austria, Greece, and Serbia. “We raised quite a bit of money for those efforts, and residents really treasured that artwork.”
Radial Point at first operated every First Friday. “It was intense, but the purpose was getting watered down. I was very busy with people who already had the ability to find a way to show their art. You know, people with resources tend to know how to find more resources.” This led to a switch to a now-quarterly Radial Point sponsored show, with the Upper Room Gallery available in the in-between months for underserved artists and residents.
Not only are the Upper Room Gallery and Radial Point shows a venue for upcoming artists, it also provides a way for residents to see and own local art themselves. As an artist showing work through Radial Point or in the Upper Room Gallery, you must agree to sell your pieces for 25 dollars or less. This is not to discount the real, market value of the artists’ works, but to ensure that purchasing art for one’s home is accessible to all residents on the Near Eastside.
Tammy says that many artists will create specific things for that price range or sell their existing work for that price. Only once has an artist Tammy approached refused this arrangement. “The key is, is it reaching everybody? Does everybody in this community whether they live in a $300,000 home or rent in the most basic of spaces have a chance to take art into their homes? If it doesn’t fit that, then you’ve got to go somewhere else.” In fact, many artists said they have sold more at Radial Point shows than at other galleries.
Since its inception, Radial Point has hosted artists in conjunction with a kaleidoscope, shall we say, of elements like bonfires, storytelling with Arts for Learning, concerts with the likes of Punkin’ Holler Boys, and even light shows, bringing multiple art forms to the Near Eastside community. Tammy says, “We try things. That’s what I love. We just say, “Sure, let’s do it. Let’s see what happens!”