The first few weeks in September tend to be the busiest of Indianapolis’ arts and social calendar. Penrod. French Market. Greek Fest. Irish Fest. Jazz Fest. Art vs. Art. The list goes on. September is possibly the only month that Hoosiers can rely upon consistent, pleasant weather. The humidity of Indiana’s swampy summer is usually behind us. But enough warmth remains for scantily clad nights on the town.
The unfortunate part about jamming some of the city’s most well attended artistic events together is that sacrifices must be made. This year, as I have for the last several, my Saturday night was spent at Oranje. The evening marked the tenth anniversary for the event that bills itself as “Indiana’s Premier Arts & Music Explosion.” Explosion proves an adequate description.
Oranje can be overwhelming. More than 30 musicians and 40 artists fill and surround a warehouse at 23rd and Illinois for a veritable feast of the senses. A whirlwind of sights, sounds and tastes combine for one of Indianapolis’ can’t miss parties. At its best, my memories of the evening wind up a blur of experiences that I rarely separate into individual performances. They all merge together into a single, enjoyable mind fuck.
From an outsider’s perspective, Oranje seems like our city’s ill-fated attempt at trendy, artistic expression. And to some extent all the necessary clichés are in place—half-naked hipsters, experimental music, interactive exhibits. Non-natives may wonder what original thought Hoosiers could offer such a scene. Those who have attended know better.
I always leave Oranje motivated and inspired. This city is home to so many talented, interesting minds. In a state that prides itself on our small government, public funding of the arts is scarce. But the relative low cost of living allows artists to thrive for a fraction of the cost that larger cities, like New York and Los Angeles, demand. What Indianapolis needs to improve upon is providing these artists with a voice. Oranje accomplishes this in spades, but it’s not enough.
Indy’s residents should not wait until the second weekend in September to take in the arts. Terrific, worthwhile events take place all over this city every week of the year. Indianapolis’ greatest strength is arguably its accessibility. We can get almost anywhere in twenty minutes. We can park. With such opportunities all within arm’s reach, there is no excuse for failing to take advantage of all that Indy has to offer.
I thank the Oranje crew for the massive amount of planning and hard work that goes into this annual bash. Their contribution to the Indianapolis art scene over the last decade has opened a lot of local eyes. Now we’ve got to keep those eyes open and get them out of the house before next September. Let’s face it, folks. The Colts are not getting any better. Luckily for us, there’s more than football in Indiana.
Written by Rob Peoni
Photos by Katie Kirkhoff