As longtime Indianapolis artists, Diop Adisa, Sean Stuart, and Stacia Moon can all bond over something in particular.
“We realized that Indianapolis doesn’t have a strong music infrastructure, from our vantage point,” says Adisa, a local rapper and producer known to most by his first name. “And, then we realized, ‘Well, that can be extended to other art forms.’”
In order to tackle this issue constructively, Adisa, Stuart, and Moon decided to start The Build — a series of regular discussions designed to have Indianapolis artists come together and share ideas and resources. Held at 6 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at Kheprw Institute, 3549 Boulevard Place, The Build has covered many topics in its two-year existence, including tangible artist needs (e.g. filing taxes as an artist) as well as more interpersonal struggles (e.g. how to communicate with venues and promoters).
While many may know Diop Adisa for his music, the Still Shinin’ emcee also has a deep-seated passion for community betterment.
“I was pretty much raised in it [community work],” he says. “My parents have always been community builders and social entrepreneurs. So it’s kind of just rooted in me — it’s just how I live my life.”
Much like Adisa, Moon also has a longstanding love for community work, as well as musical experience from both an artist’s perspective and a manger’s perspective.
“Blackberry Jam was the first band I played in here in the scene,” Moon says. “I just naturally fell into wanting to help the band in some of the areas the musicians needed help in. And when I looked at the things I was doing, I realized they were managerial roles.”
In addition to Blackberry Jam, Moon has played with and managed Kool’s Bazaar and Fighting Words (a poetry group with a backing band). Throughout all of her experiences, she’s witnessed some of the music community’s shortcomings firsthand.
“I realized how siloed Indianapolis was when it came to the music community,” Moon says. “Because a lot of my close friends are visual artists, I saw how well they network nowadays, and I really wanted something like that for musicians.”
“Being a manager, I got to see what people knew as artists,” she continues. “[I saw] what they didn’t know and what they were lacking. I get to share those conversations. I get to hear them from all sides.”
As a local producer and co-founder of much-loved Indy hip-hop blog Bringing Down the Band, Stuart could also relate.
“What Diop, Stacia, and I had in common was, ‘How can we help the music infrastructure in Indianapolis? As well as the artists and how they navigate,’” Stuart says. “There weren’t really a lot of resources around on how to help artists coming up.”
In seeing this need, the trio decided to start The Build in April 2017, inviting artists from all walks of life to come and be a part of a monthly conversation.
“The name is really about the intention, and it’s to build a stronger community between the arts,” Moon says. “Seeing people support each other at their own shows and seeing people collaborate with one another is the biggest positive that we’ve seen.”
“The more we share information and the more we share resources, the more we can build a platform and a framework for us to grow together,” says Adisa.
At early iterations of The Build, Moon explains that a lot of conversations between artists were centered around marketing and the desire to reach larger audiences in Indianapolis. “What makes money is pretty much the only thing people talked about,” Moon says. “They talked about that as well as just feeling disgruntled about not having a lot of support on the scene for artists, and that was from DJs to lyricists.”
As the series has progressed, however, The Build has tackled a myriad of topics. Last month, for example, a discussion on relationships between artists, venues, and promoters brought together a panel that featured Adisa, former HI-FI talent buyer Spencer Hooks, and White Rabbit Cabaret manager/owner Andrew McGaha.
“There are expectations by the venue, expectations by the promoter, and expectations by the artist that are not always spoken,” Adisa says. “Some of them need to be challenged, and some of them need to be refined. But the more we can look at how each of those positions in the community rely on each other and also impact each other, the better that process can be improved.”
Ultimately, conversations like this are why The Build exists.
“You can’t just do one thing and solve problems,” Stuart says. “It takes a community of people that want to work toward something. So it’s really cool just to see people get involved and share with their friends.”
Note: The inspiration for this story on The Build came as an extension from Seth’s story last week, highlighting Andy Duncan’s educational programming through Musical Family Tree.