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.

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.”

[page]Indy arts organizations huddle up for the Super Bowl

The Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association (IDADA) spent much of 2011 revving up for the Super Bowl. The results of the Arts Council’s XLVI Murals Project are already on view in outdoor locations all over Indianapolis. Local, regional, and nationally known artists created 46 murals for the project, ranging in subject matter from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Kurt Vonnegut.

Meanwhile, the IDADA Pavilion will feature installations that showcase local and regional artists, assigning each of them a space within the pavilion to create a site-specific piece. Pieces will include video art, mixed media works and experiential environments created with sound and light.

The Pavilion, in the old Indiana State Museum building at 202 N. Alabama Street, will then open for free to the public on January 14.

“We feel like the opportunity with the Super Bowl festivities, and everything leading up to the Super Bowl, that it would be an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the local and regional arts talent,” says IDADA Pavilion coordinator Mark Ruschman. “And the best way we saw to do that at IDADA was to draw attention to us through this venue, draw people in to see what we have to offer.”

Ruschman and his IDADA colleagues believe that they will be the first nonprofit to get the ball into the end zone, as it were, with such a project.

“We think that this is the first time a small arts nonprofit has partnered with local philanthropic organizations and other arts organizations to put on an event like this, particularly when it’s free and open to the public,” Ruschman says.

The 2011 gallery scene

STUTZARTSPACE, located in the Stutz Business Center, was not a particularly hot First Friday destination prior to 2011. But under the curatorship of Andy Chen, the gallery had mounted stunningly forward-leaning shows, including Unclothed: Exposing the Art Nude in November.

A panel discussion by the same name, as part of the Spirit & Place Festival generated a capacity crowd. It’s doubtful that a panel discussion entitled Uncovering Covered Bridges, say, would have garnered such an audience. The art nude exhibition's notoriety and success seemed to suggest that there’s a large audience for cutting-edge, figurative artwork in Indianapolis.

A show that ran concurrently with the Stutz Unclothed show was also one of the year’s highlights: Bodies of Waters, jointly sponsored by Big Car Gallery and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA), which featured work by artists inspired by the movies and life of filmmaker John Waters.

Other standouts this year were solo shows by Jonathan McAfee (especially his Some Girls show at Earth House), Joseph Crone (at Wug Laku’s), Malcolm Mobutu Smith (at iMOCA) and Carla Knopp.

Primary Colours, in addition to moving its offices to the Fountain Square’s Murphy Art Center, also established the Primary Gallery in a second space of the Murphy Building jointly operated with Mt. Comfort Gallery. The two galleries run the space jointly and alternate the months of their First Friday openings.

But the IDADA First Friday art scene isn’t the only monthly art walk in the Greater Indy area. This year Carmel, which has its own Second Saturday Art Walk, welcomed three new galleries into its Art & Design District. Eye on Art Gallery and French Bleu Gallery are run by Jerry Points and Susan Mauck, respectively. (Both artists formerly had their studios in the Stutz.) And this year Kathleen O’Neil Stevens opened her Renaissance Gallery, which usually features an eclectic mix of photographic work and painting.

As for notable transitions, Christopher West left Dean Johnson Gallery as curator in Sept. 2011, becoming an acquisitions associate with Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper. The Dean Johnson Gallery is still, however, supporting local artists by showing their work in its exhibition space.

Herron prepares Art Therapy program for 2012

The Herron School of Art & Design is launching an innovative graduate art therapy program in 2012 that won't simply teach educators how to gather people around a table and get them to express their feelings through art making. Rather, the program will teach practitioners how to use visual and arts media and the creative process in the assessment and treatment of various mental and physical disorders.

Program director Juliet King, who received her Master of Art in Art Therapy Degree from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, Penn., has spent the last 15 years as a clinician, professor, and administrator of art therapy education.

“Art Therapists are currently working in many different contexts, including: medical facilities, eating disorder clinics, domestic violence shelters, the Indianapolis public school system, rehabilitation treatment centers, and in private practice,” says King.

Some partners will include: Riley Children's Hospital, Wishard, St. Vincent’s Health, the Julian Center, Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis Art Center, and the Veterans Administration.

“We are cultivating the education of clinical practitioners that help those in need through this life enhancing work,” says King. “Additionally, this program will help to create healthcare positions and employment opportunities within the city and state.”

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Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.

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