2007 was the year that Indianapolis lost one of the biggest political supporters of the arts the city has seen, possibly ever. In addition to his encouragement of arts funding, Bart Peterson’s eight years in office as mayor did much to elevate the public awareness of our city’s arts offerings, and Peterson saw to it that collaborative efforts promoting the arts in the city took center stage in tourism efforts. In the visual arts, specifically, collaborations such as the Julian Opie citywide installation added a certain edginess to the downtown area with British artist Opie’s “Signs,” digital works of pedestrians and stylized images of animals strategically positioned to make the most of public spaces. This and other Arts Council of Indianapolis collaborative public art efforts streamlined nicely into those of other institutions such as the Indianapolis Art Center’s unveiling of its sensory trail and ARTSPARK, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s continued work on its own Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.
Moving indoors, exhibition-wise, the IMA flew in 50 tons of Roman art for its Roman Art from the Louvre blockbuster (still on view). The exhibition was accompanied by pumped-up marketing efforts and interdisciplinary cross-promotional efforts, including an exhibition Web site (did you know IMA director Max Anderson speaks fluent Italian?) with video updates, and the institution’s plethora of offerings on YouTube. On the topic of the city’s larger institutions, the Eiteljorg celebrated its first decade lauding Native American contemporary fine art with its fifth international Fellowship — with its own support flanks of podcasts and YouTube offerings.
In other news, one of the city’s more provocative private venues for visual art, Galerie Penumbra in Fountain Square, closed as a gallery. Owners David and Cheryl Mattingly plan to hold special events in a studio space elsewhere in the Murphy. The gallery and the Mattinglys’ fine eye, will be missed.