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The art of empties: Sun King's CAN'd Art

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Jake Lee's New Belgium-inspired CAN'd ART piece.
  • Jake Lee's New Belgium-inspired CAN'd ART piece.

Warhol had his Campbell's. So why not turn beer cans into fine art (or at least really good art)?

Nine local artists gave it their best shot as part of CANvitational, Sun King's showcase for the country's best canned craft beer. New to the second edition of the fest is CAN'd ART, a Sept. 19 show at the Artsgarden featuring pieces made from cans supplied by participating brewers.

"We handed them a couple of aluminum children and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with them," says, Jeremy Rudolf, the "beer traffic control freak" for Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado.

Rudolf says his brewery jumped at the chance to take part of the expanded event based on their long-standing relationship with Sun King. "When they raise their hand, we know the project is going to be something that's fun, that's productive, that's something we want to be a part of," he says.

Sun King co-founder Clay Robinson says while visiting breweries like Oskar Blues around the country he noticed that artists were already appropriating the detritus of the brewing industry.

"I've seen that people have taken cans and recycled them into art," Robinson says. "It gives new life to the cans."

After last year's daylong inaugural CANvitational proved a success, Robinson and his crew brainstormed ways to grow the event into a two-day affair.

"It's a culmination of a lot of pieces, parts and passions that flow together to create a unique event that's going to be a lot of fun," Robinson says of CAN'd ART.

Sun King selected nine local artists after soliciting proposals and then matched them with brewers. They are Hector del Campo, Jake Lee, Lesley Baker, Lydia Burris, Carl Leck, William Ray, Kyle Rowe, Phil Velikan and Paula Wright.

"It's a great opportunity for these artists to connect with an audience that will be receptive to what they're doing," says Shannon Linker, vice president of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, which will receive proceeds from CANvitational. Organizers expect more than 40 breweries to participate.

Linker hopes the event will encourage brewers to purchase artwork and become involved with the arts in their own communities, just as Sun King has positioned itself as a steward for art in Indianapolis. "They've been so supportive," she adds. "They have immersed themselves in the arts community here."

Avon-based artist Hector del Campo says he was thrilled to learn his proposal had been accepted for the show, and praised Sun King for "throwing down" for the arts in Indianapolis.

"It's another venue for young art makers to get their stuff out there," says del Campo, who also teaches at Ivy Tech. He produced a three-dimensional piece using cans from Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, Maine. "There are certain galleries that are hoity toity. I don't have a studio downtown; I make all my art in the garage, on the sofa, on the kitchen table."

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