Nice day, better cause: Penrod Arts Fair helps support arts, culture around the region

The Penrod Arts Fair is known around the region as “Indiana’s nicest day.”

But the impact the annual celebration of art, performance and food has is felt year-round throughout the year.

All proceeds go toward grants given to central Indiana arts, cultural and educational organizations. Last year, the Penrod Society was able to award more than $275,000 in meaningful grants to 71 organizations.

“Knowing that background is what drew me towards the organization, but seeing the impact it has on the community is an amazing feeling,” said Ronan Johnson, chair of the Penrod Arts Fair. “The need is huge, and that’s where we’re constantly striving to see if we can do better the next year.”

Organizers will hope for a similarly successful day on Sept. 10, when more than 300 artists take over the grounds of Newfields, the home of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Dancers will twirl on stage, while symphonic music and jazz will drift through the air. Try food and drinks from dozens of area businesses, or relax in

the festival’s beer garden.

All of it will come together in an event that

helps spotlight the arts for a great cause.

“For 55 years, we’ve had this event that brings people toge

ther and added another culturally vibrant element to the city, which is pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “When you walk around and the music is playing, and all of the restaurants and artists and patrons are there, it’s an electric feeling.”

The Penrod Arts Fair was founded in 1967 by a group of volunteers interested in supporting cultural activities and education throughout the Indianapolis area. The name “Penrod” is a reference to a literary character from Indianapolis novelist Booth Tarkington.

Put on by the entirely volunteer Penrod Society, the fair presents an excellent opportunity to support important initiatives all around the area, Johnson said.

Grants from the Penrod Society went to schools, arts groups, museums and other organizations throughout central Indiana.

“For a lot of these institutions, but for the funding we give them, wouldn’t be able to put on certain aspects of their programming or provide certain services,” Johnson said.

Last year’s event was overwhelmingly successful almost too much so, Johnson said. A perfect September day, combined with the return of the festival after a year’s absence due to the pandemic, led to long lines and a shortage of food options.

Attracting so many people was a good problem to have, Johnson said. But it was still a problem.

Organizers have worked throughout the year to address the issues, such as adding a third entrance to festival, doubling the number of food vendors taking part as well as doubling the number of volunteers helping.

They feel good about a smoother process this time around, Johnson said.

Artists will spread out on the Newfields campus selling everything from paintings to sculpture to multimedia work.

Patti Paris-Owens, an abstract multimedia artist from Bargersville, has been taking part in Penrod since 2017. The event has allowed her to sell a number of pieces and make contacts with art lovers throughout the area that proved beneficial throughout the year.

“Penrod brings an overall energy and beauty with patrons being both inquisitive and appreciative of fine art,” she said. “I’ve received several requests for custom work and follow up all through the year.”

Musicians such as The Doo!, Dean Martini and Dream Slice will rock the stage throughout the day, while special stages have been set aside for dance groups, symphonic music, jazz and blues.

A children’s area will let the festival’s youngest attendees tap into the inspiration around them and let their creativity flow.

“I hope people come out and smile and have a really good time. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” Johnson said. ”We want to create an atmosphere and an environment within our community that gives them the opportunity that’s different than what they’re doing almost any other weekend of the year.”


Penrod Arts Fair

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 10

Where: Newfields, 4000 N. Michigan Ave., Indianapolis

Cost: $20, kids 10 and under free