Paula Katz, formerly the director and curator of the Herron Galleries at the Herron School of Art and Design, was named interim executive director of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art on Monday, taking over a position vacated last week by Shauta Marsh, who had held the position since 2012.
Katz had been working on a part-time, contract basis for iMOCA since September. “Since I was already involved with them and have some familiarity with the board — as well as an extensive background in curating — it made sense to appoint me on an interim basis to try to have as seamless a transition as possible,” she told NUVO.
In a press release, iMOCA's board members “expressed their gratitude” to Marsh, who led the museum through a period of transition that included the October 2014 opening of a second gallery, located in the CityWay development. She told NUVO that she plans to work for Big Car Collaborative, the non-profit she co-founded, on a volunteer basis following her resignation.
Katz said iMOCA's board will look for a permanent executive director in the coming months, and that she hopes she gets the nod. “I've been very excited to be involved with iMOCA from the beginning," she said. “I had some opportunities to do some writing and guest curating for them along the way, but then to step in in a more long-term function for them has been fantastic. They're such a dedicated organization, and Shauta has had a fantastic run with them.”
Katz said the exhibition schedule is in flux but confirmed the next two shows: an “audience-participatory” exhibition by Herron professor Kathryn Armstrong at CityWay gallery and an exhibition by Minneapolis-based artist Erik Ullanderson, guest curated by the IMA's Scott Stulen, at the Murphy gallery. And she confirmed a March 12 artist's talk by Trenton Doyle Hancock, currently the subject of a mini-retrospective at iMOCA's CityWay gallery.
Also in the offing: A new website, a plan to travel exhibitions to bring in a little income, and the introduction of “iMOCA insiders,” a membership program geared to individuals and corporate members that Katz says will offer supporters “more activities and opportunities — like professional development opportunities, and one-on-one meetings with me and guest curators.”
Katz had been developing iMOCA insiders while working part-time for the museum — she calls it “her baby” — and hopes that it will give patrons a chance to engage with and support the museum while getting added value beyond the museum's free exhibitions. Membership costs will start a $25 for discounted groups such as artists, military, seniors and students.
Finally, Katz plans to do more programming at CityWay in the coming months. “We're still trying to imagine the full potential of that space,” she said, adding that the two shows the museum has mounted in the new gallery were “well-received” on a critical level. She hopes to partner with businesses within the CityWay development — an iMOCA-themed Plat 99 cocktail might be in order — and, in general, find ways to reach an audience that's slightly older and more wealthy, on the whole, than its clientele at the Murphy. She also hopes to extend the gallery's hours.
Asked what she can apply from her job at Herron to this new position, Katz joked that “we could Malcolm Gladwell this and say I've put in my 10,000 hours,” alluding to Gladwell's debatable claim that 10,000 hours of practice are sufficient to achieve expertise in any discipline.
She continued: “In the art community, it's really about networking. Having been in this region now for six and a half years, I've established a big network. And when you are in transitions like this, it's really about tapping into that network and utilizing your own strengths but also the strengths of so many other people you've been fortunate to know. When I moved here and took over at Herron, there really weren't a lot of exhibitions on the schedule and I had to fill in shows quickly. That was an amazing experience — and I had guidance and help there as well. The board has been fantastic, helpful, amazing and supportive.