A Conversation with Ray Mills, Founder and Creator of IMAF


This year marks the 14th anniversary of the beloved Independent Music + Art Festival; so after 14 years of IMAF filling the airwaves with luscious local melodies we think a little perspective is in order. Enter Ray Mills.


Back in 2001, Mills, then a resident of Herron-Morton Place and lover of local music, found himself immersed in Indy’s music scene as a band manager. “I worked as a band manager for a while, and I was going to a lot of shows back then,” Mills explained. “I was traveling around with an Indianapolis band called Extra Blue Kind, and I was just so shocked at how little bands like them were making from the music venues. It was just ridiculous. These bands were being treated like a tossed-aside commodity. It wasn’t right.”

So out of a deep respect for the cultural contributions of local musicians, and through a collaboration with the recently established Harrison Center for the Arts, Mills created the Independent Music + Art Festival. “The first year we booked around 8 bands, and everyone was scheduled for sets that were anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes in length,” Mills said. “Each band that day was paid well for their time. We also recruited volunteers for the biggest all day pitch-in you could imagine.”


From IMAF’s humble first year of 8 bands, a community pitch-in, and around 100 attendees (including dogs), this event now hosts 12 bands on 2 stages, over 100 vendors with the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, and around 7,000 attendees.

“We had no clue what would happen, but we went for it,” Ray Mills said with a twinkle in his eye. “Now my baby is all grown up.”

The 14th annual Independent Music + Art Festival kicks off a noon on Saturday, June 13th. We hope to see you there!