2011 in Review: Visual arts 

click to enlarge Maxwell Anderson - INDIANAPOLIS MUSEUM OF ART
  • Maxwell Anderson
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art

Maxwell Anderson exits the IMA

Maxwell Anderson’s departure from the Indianapolis Museum of Art at the end of 2011 may not be the biggest arts story of the year, but it’s a contender.

Anderson, who will become director of the Dallas Museum of Art in Jan. 2012, greatly enhanced the IMA’s international reputation. Under his directorship, the museum designed and launched a digital network, ArtBabble, that linked up the IMA with partner institutions, such as the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The IMA also organized the U.S. Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

One of the greatest achievements realized (although not conceived) during his tenure was 100 Acres: Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. During this time, the IMA also started to organize traveling exhibitions in a major way, including a recent retrospective of work by African-American artist Thornton Dial, now on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Another action Anderson took that received praise at the local level was to lift a previously instituted admittance fee. (A $5 per vehicle parking fee was subsequently instituted in Sept. 2011). But the elimination of 33 full-time and 23 part-time security guard and gallery attendant positions in 2010 generated some controversy.

Amos Brown III, host and managing editor of Afternoons with Amos on WTLC-AM, took issue with the decision to eliminate the security guards’ positions. “Not only were they a racially diverse group, it was individuals who were predominantly over 40,” he says.

While Brown acknowledges the value Anderson has brought to the IMA, he also believes that the museum’s relationship to the city has some room for improvement under a new director. He is not alone.

“The next challenge is for the IMA to return to the balance of connecting to the community,” says philanthropist Jeremy Efroymson. “I think that Max did a lot of international things, and maybe the next person needs to have, to add to that, more of a local emphasis, more local programming, being part of the community, and things like that,” he says.

click to enlarge Works from Big Car's collage party. - DAN GROSSMAN

Big moves for Big Car

This was a year of transition for Big Car. In December 2011, Big Car Gallery closed its doors for good, ending a 7-year-long string of First Friday art openings, music performances and genre-bending events in Fountain Square’s Murphy Art Center.

Big Car isn’t stalling, however; in fact it’s revving up its activities, having opened Service Center for Culture and Community this past summer. Located in a former tire shop adjacent to Lafayette Square Mall, Service Center joins Big Car’s Made for Each Other Space (on Indy’s Near Eastside) in bringing community-building art programs into under-served parts of the city.

In the future, Big Car’s executive director Jim Walker sees opportunities in these venues for a certain kind of event that took place occasionally at Big Car Gallery.

“I really loved to watch when everyone contributed a collage to the wall during our collage party,” says Walker. “It’s those kind of things that we’re going to do more and more to help make the city better, to focus on expanding an audience. And [it's] not even an audience; it will be more like a partnership with all kinds of people.”

And for those people who might miss Big Car’s presence downtown, don’t worry. The nonprofit organization is soon moving its offices to Earth House, and it will collaborate with that organization on some programming.

“We aren’t going into Earth House thinking ‘Okay, we’re going do what we did at Big Car in Earth House,’” says Walker. “What we’re really more interested in doing is going to Earth House and seeing what’s really at the top of the pyramid for their mission. [We’re looking at] what we can we do that would match their mission and help them go further in the direction that they really want to go.”

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Dan Grossman

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