Oranje: A Roundtable Discussion


This Saturday, one of Indianapolis’ largest and most diverse annual events will celebrate its 10 year anniversary. In a town not entirely void of struggling weekly and monthly events that come and go in waves, maintaining such a robust and well-attended event like Oranje is a huge accomplishment.

Oranje continues to thrive year after year as cutting-edge concepts in art and music are developed and brought to life, bringing its devoted patrons a fresh and exciting experience every time. It’s hard to know what to expect when walking up to a colossal industrial building with booming beats, flashing lights, and all walks of life lingering in every corner. But it’s also hard to know what to expect if you’ve never gone and experienced it firsthand.

Realizing that Oranje is a big ball of mystery for both veteran attendees and newcomers alike, I wondered what kind of impact the event has truly had on the community after ten years of operation. Rather than posing the question to Oranje founders Ryan Hickey and Adam Crockett, I wanted the candid views and opinions of the artists and musicians themselves. Instead of setting up an interview with Oranje’s parents, I scheduled an interactive discussion with four of Oranje’s best friends to talk, share stories and speculations, and reflect on the last 10 years.

THE PARTICIPANTS
NAME: Jack Shepler
STAGE NAME: Jackola
CRAFT: DJ, event promoter for On Track, and management for the In House DJ Collective
DAY JOB: web developer at Small Box
HISTORY WITH ORANJE: performer for the last four years

NAME: Brian Philps
STAGE NAME: Skittz
CRAFT: emcee and vocalist
PROJECTS: Breakdown Kings, Proforms, and soloist
DAY JOB: Special Projects and Business Development Manager for State Housing and Economic Community Development Agency
HISTORY WITH ORANJE: performing this year with The Breakdown Kings, has performed in the past as a solo artist and with The Mudkids (twice). As a patron, Brian has not missed an Oranje to-date.

NAME: Mike Altman
CRAFT: full time visual artist, illustrator, painter
HISTORY WITH ORANJE: participant for past five years

NAME: Brendan Fox
CRAFT: space design/graphic design
DAY JOB: co-operator at National Moto and Cycle (motorized board track style bicycles), graphic design and space design for restaurant and retail companies, brand strategist
HISTORY WITH ORANJE: affiliated with Oranje since its conception: started as booth space artist, graduated to space design, this year participating again with a booth display

THE DISCUSSION
First, tell us about a special exhibit or performance at a past Oranje that impacted you in a special or memorable way.

JACK: The first year I performed I had never seen Benji Ramsey’s video production before. They had an entire side of the building on the second level covered with what had to have been a dozen screens playing his visuals. I was just totally blown away by that. I think that was also the year the power went out. (laughs- all nod in agreement)

MIKE: I remember when the power went out. One of the guys running a collage art booth found a bunch of flashlights and handed them out to people so they could walk through his booth. It actually added to whole charm that Oranje is in the first place because it’s so focused on interactivity and just different kinds of art. So it was really cool that he was smart enough to figure out how to do it so that people could still see his art and make it something that they enjoyed doing.

BRENDAN: The first couple of years it seems like art was more of the focus than music, but as the years progressed it kind of started leveling out. At the time, my flavor of music wasn’t quite what Oranje’s was, but I remember Loretta. It was two brothers on stage and they had a strong impact. They just had the energy.

BRIAN: I don’t really have any standout or memorable exhibits or performances because I’m such a butterfly and I flit around so much that I have a tendency to not really soak in things the way I should. And I will admit that my first three or four years going to Oranje I think I kinda took it for granted. I was there, tagging along with some DJs and my buddies, but it was more of pure interest and curiosity. But then it grew on me and it got more and more enticing to me every year because it was continuing to happen. “Oh, this again? This Oranje thing again?” And then after about the third or fourth year I got to meet Adam and Ryan and tried to figure out how I could be more involved. Things just started to fall into place and whether I was involved or not, I was committed to coming every year.

JACK: I’m always really impressed with the interactive parts of the event. Like the year that Butler Scion had a truck sitting out front wrapped in white for people to paint on the car. Or the year Indy Mojo had the giant wall with all the different kinds of paint to paint on it. And all the different booths with sentences that were started and you were supposed to finish them. Or the live tweet wall back when Twitter was just getting popular.

An interactive, life-size Lite-Brite wall made with water bottles and food coloring.

What does Oranje’s tagline and description mean to you? What do you think it conveys to the community?

“ORANJE is a contemporary art & music event showcasing progressive artists and musicians. The goal of ORANJE is to create an interactive experience of art and music presented in a stimulating, urban environment.”

MIKE: I think that there’s just a plethora of words in that description that fall short of what the actual event is… because those are the only words that we really have. You start to get into “What is contemporary?” Is it modern? Is it future? Low brow? What is it? Nobody really knows how to describe the art, but we have to pick a word. So that’s what we do.

Mike Altman displays his work at Oranje.

JACK: I think they could easily replace all those words with the word “awesome” but it gets pretty repetitive.

BRIAN: It’s a living museum of current events for one night. (all attendees ooh and ahh) It’s all those things- its what’s happening right now in this area. There are people who assess what’s submitted and ask, “What’s the going thing right now? What’s going to be popular?” But it’s also a business, so you have to present things that people are going to want to see. But also, people have to be willing to take a risk and they know they’re going to come out and see something that they may not have seen before. They have to trust that Oranje is going to provide an experience that they will… at the very least, appreciate at the end of the night- even if they may not like everything they see and hear.

I think that one of the key things that people never talk about with Oranje is the space. It doesn’t force anything on people. It you want to just go off 20 yards in private and drink your beer and look off into the stars for a few minutes, then come back and go upstairs and look at some art- you can do that. To scour this whole area and building for five hours and for $20- that’s priceless and one thing I’ve always appreciated that really isn’t on the surface.

MIKE: The people that are here are allowed to have an adventure of exploration into this archeological find of art and music that’s all just been lumped into this giant, ugly building. But because it’s been filled with art and music, it’s become visually and sonically entertaining and enriching. You get to discover bands that you wouldn’t have discovered or thought “Ehh, I should go see that guy,” because they are right there; you weren’t even looking for it, you were just walking by, and you had to stop.

How much do you think the vague description of “a contemporary art and music event” plays into misconceptions or misunderstandings about exactly what Oranje is?

BRENDAN: I’ve always struggled with the phrase, because it doesn’t have a direct answer… but then again, it is kind of a hidden blessing because it does ask that secondary question- “Okay, yea, it’s a contemporary art and music event, but tell me more,”- and then you open that door to sharing your own stories. In our social media world where everything is so fast and easy, it’s difficult because it’s not just a one liner. It’s like catching headlines on my phone from ESPN. I don’t even read the articles; I just browse the headlines and I feel like I’ve got the news… except for the ones that are vague. I’m like, “What the hell does that mean?” and then I have to click and read. I think it leaves that interpretation up to the person telling the story.

MIKE: I think its important that people understand that it really is a music and art event. I think a lot of people think you just pay 20 bucks and come get drunk and walk around a big ole’ building all night long. I’ve had people say that they don’t want to come because that’s what they think it is. And I say, “You need to come because that’s not at all what it is.” Sure, there are people who do that, but not the majority. The people that are here are looking to share some sort of creative evening of interaction- whether it’s discussion of the art or engaging of people through the art. I just think that’s it’s so much more than a beer party that costs 20 bucks.

JACK: I kind of think of it as a gallery opening. You have an artist putting out their new work. They’re celebrating their new art. You have live music. But then taking that, and multiplying it by 50.

Live art at Oranje.

What’s the one thing that people consistently don’t get?

MIKE: Why there’s a “j” in it. (all laugh)

BRENDAN: I hear a lot of people say, “It’s $20? I ain’t going to that, man. It’s not worth it.” Well, then they really don’t understand what’s all involved. I mean, you go to a local show at The Vogue, or even The Patio back in the day, and you’re in $6-$12, if not $40 for headliner. Okay, that’s one band. You come to Oranje- you see 40 artists and 25 acts, right? If not more…”

JACK: The $20 cover does also adds value to it, too. If the cover were $5 it would kind of make it seem like it’s just an everyday thing.

MIKE: I think it’s priced perfectly. It keeps the people out that are just looking to goof off, but it’s not so high that it keeps somebody away who’s serious about having a good time, listening to music, and buying art. As a vendor of art, that’s very important to me- that it doesn’t cost so much to get in that you can’t spend any money on the artists once you get inside.

JACK: I’ve noticed that, too. And one of the impressive things about Oranje is the wide variety in pricing of the art, too. You don’t have to have a hundred dollars or five hundred dollars to leave here with some cool art. There’s a wide variety.

BRIAN: I’ve heard a few people comment that they think this is some high-class, wine-and-cheese party. But there’s no cheese here. (all laugh) I just commented on a blog the other day about how eclectic this is. There’s no dress code. Just have some shoes on and have an open mind and be ready to look at some art and listen to some music. You can have a tattered shirt and pants and a hole in your sock. That’s okay.

MIKE: You also have people who go the other end of the spectrum on the clothing. I’ve seen people dress to the 9’s in here. And it’s like, “Wow you guys really did it up.” They’re going to a big- deal party and you can tell they’re ready to have that kind of night.

BRIAN: It’s become a good end to a date night. Dinner, then go to Oranje.

BRENDAN: I like the randoms that come. They want to be a part of Oranje, but they’re only coming as a patron. So they dress in some weird-ass outfit. Or someone’s got a six-foot top hat and his girl’s got some crazy Spiderman skirt thing going on. They’re just here to enjoy, but yet, they want interact in their own way, too. So not only am I checking out the art and listening to the music, but (slaps Mike on the arm) “Hey, look at this guy walking by… That’s a great outfit.”

Know No Stranger dresses in costume and interacts with Oranje attendees.

Whose backing and endorsement is essential to Oranje’s success? In what ways could the community support of Oranje grow or expand?

MIKE: I think the obvious answer at the very, very beginning of that is: nothing happens if Adam and Ryan aren’t doing their thing. And Beth. And most especially, Peakay. Because, if Peakay doesn’t hook you up with electricity, you’re done. So, don’t make him mad. (all laugh) I think that the whole staff is just very important to making it happen. What they do ahead of time- we’ll never understand all of it. They’re the foundation. And then the artists and the musicians- if they don’t jump in and say, “We get it. We know what you’re trying to do here,” then Oranje isn’t Oranje.

JACK: I think the sponsors are pretty important. I love that a lot of the interactive stuff comes from the sponsors. All the things I mentioned earlier- the sponsors don’t just want to be here and put up their banner. They want to be part of the interactivity of Oranje.

BRENDAN: Oranje has some great sponsors and it helps tremendously with what they do, but I still would like to see that massive sponsor come through and do whatever they can behind the scenes to help Oranje branch from being a once-a-year show in Indy. You need a solidified, consistent, good, large sponsor to be able to make that happen. Some of the local sponsors they get are great because it helps out so much with that one annual show. But at that level, Oranje stays a one night event in Indy. Sponsors are great and highly needed to make an event like this work, but I’d like to see somebody with coin really make it so that Oranje can have the ability and time to grow it farther than just Indianapolis.

MIKE: These people with coin support other art endeavors, but there’s a lack of support for stuff that is contemporary, progressive, interactive, and urban. They get behind the ballet or the symphony or something that is easy to wrap your head around. But art isn’t always easy to wrap your head around. I think that some of these big coin places need to understand that even though it can’t all fit into a nice little format, it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong or bad. It just makes it not fit into that format. And it’d be nice if somebody with some serious ability to support it would realize that.

BRIAN: Oranje was built on word of mouth. Everything that we’ve mentioned is very important- right down to the patrons that participate… because they’re the ones that go out and share that story. That’s who tells where they went and what the experience was like.

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After forty minutes of jovial discussion about Oranje the message and consensus was clear:

1.) Oranje is what you make it; the experience is different for everyone.
2.) The only way to increase the city’s Oranje-awareness is to share your own story. Each individual attendee is the event’s best advocate.
3.) There is something for everyone to appreciate at Oranje.

What is your favorite memory of past years at Oranje? What do you like most about the event?

Are you a first-timer this year? Who or what helped you decide to attend this year? What are you most looking forward to?