Additional writings by K.P. Singh may be found as Reflections of the Sacred in the Arts and Architecture

Original drawings of some of the images shown on this website are available for acquisition. Please contact KP for more information.

Penrod at 37

Penrod at 37: Bigger and More Beneficial

by S.L. Berry
The Indianapolis Star

September 5, 2003

The first time K.P. Singh exhibited his work at a Penrod Arts Fair, he set up a card table and nailed a few things to some nearby trees. Thirty-two years later, things are a bit different.

When the members of the Penrod Society open this year’s fair on Saturday, there’ll be 305 artists on hand, each displaying his or her work in booths that are considerably more elaborate than Singh’s original table an Singh, who does pen-and-ink drawings of historic Indiana buildings, will be among

In fact, this year marks his 33rd consecutive appearance at Penrod. “At this point, it ‘s about much more to me than being able to make my living as an artist,” he said recently over lunch. “It’s about connecting with people.”

K.P. Singh points out highlights of his drawing 'Cathedrals of Spirit.' Photo by Charlie Nye, Indianapolis Star

People have been connecting with one another – and with artists and arts organizations at Penrod since 1967. That’s the year a small group of young arts supporters banded together to create a fund-raiser for local arts groups. The result was an event that has since become one of the largest one-day art fairs in the country.

Since the beginning, the Penrod Society has funneled the proceeds from the art fair back into the local cultural community in the form of grants. Organizations ranging from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Eiteljorg Museum to the Phoenix Theatre and Young Audiences of Indiana have been among the recipients of Penrod grants.

“Over the past 37 years, we estimate we’ve given about $3 million to area arts organizations,” says Bob Welch, the chairman of this year’s Penrod event. “That’s something I’m not sure people are aware of, that we funnel the proceeds from the art fair back into the community.”

While planning for the fair, Penrod Society members had to contend with the fact that there’s a major construction project now under way at the IMA. But there’s no cause for concern, says Welch. The event hasn’t suffered, merely adapted.

With the exception of the construction area immediately surrounding the museum, Penrod is spread throughout the IMA’s sprawling grounds, from the greenhouse near the 42nd Street gate to a site in the southeast portion near the intersection of Michigan Road and West 38th Street.

In addition to artists’ booths, there are booths for more than 50 area arts organizations as well as six entertainment stages jazz, blues, symphony, dance, children’s and rock – and a children’s activity area. There also is an array of food and drink vendors, ranging from microbreweries to chain restaurants.

“The construction has forced us to maximize our use of space,” says Welch, “which I think we’ve done really well.

This year, we have a record number of artists, more project booths and more food vendors than ever before.” One of the new artists this year is Brenda Hettle, who handmakes glass beads through a process called lamp working. In addition to selling her creations, Hettle will demonstrate the process of making them. “Art is a solitary thing,” says Hettle, who is a painter in addition to a glass artist. “So there’s something wonderful about being in the middle of a whole group of artistic people at an art show. There’s a palpable feeling of excitement.”

That feeling is even more meaningful for Hettle, who originally exhibited at Penrod in the early 1970s. This year marks her return after 30 years away. “I was raising my children and working on my art at the dining room table when I had time,” she says. “I still came to Penrod – I just wasn’t showing my work. So it’s great to be exhibiting again.”

Penrod has changed for the better during her absence, says Hettle. “There used to be some questionable stuff on display in the early days. Over the years, the quality of the work has really improved.”

So has the diversity of the artists. From what was a local event for local artists in 1967, Penrod has become a nationally known event that attracts artists from across the country.

That’s what gives the event such a feeling of vibrancy, says Singh. “Penrod brings all kinds of people and cultures together for a day. It allows the winds of culture to blow through all of us.”