"Transitions are inevitable and the visual art community saw its share of them this past year. Two of the city’s best-known artists departed our shores:
Textile-installation artist Rebecca Lyon, who explores ethereal realms in exquisitely complex forms, removed herself with husband-painter John Detwiler to New Mexico, while Becky Wilson, a painter with a wonderfully playful and layered aesthetic, and visual art mover-and-shaker husband Alan Schoff took off for California. All four played significant roles in the visual art community here, and their influences will be missed.
On a more somber note, the community saw the passing of two other strong figures: Ed Sanders, a stalwart “painter’s painter” known for his moody, electrically charged paintings and large-scale Christ drawings, passed away this year, as did photographer Jack Hartigan, whose artistic voice was coming into its own with a more political edge. Jack was also a tireless supporter of the arts and worked for a number of cultural institutions over the years. The absence of both men is a significant grief to those who knew them and their work.
On a lighter note, few if any galleries closed their doors this past year — possibly a first for the city in many years. Galleries come and go, and in a growing city like Indianapolis, a revolving door is commonplace. A few new visual art spaces have popped up; we’ll likely hear more from them in the year to come.
What else was memorable? Too much to mention in such a short space, but I’ll attempt some highlights. Certainly, the Indianapolis Museum of Art made the biggest splash with its succession of re-openings following its initial post-expansion reopening: the Contemporary, African, American, Asian and European galleries all welcomed the public with their newness and expanded riches — all offering a different perspective but all reflecting an attempt on the part of the institution to make its art connect with the public more meaningfully, with changes such as added wall text and more public programs than ever before.
This was also a year of collaborations: The Arts Council of Indianapolis spearheaded a public sculpture effort that has made the Massachusetts Avenue cultural corridor a more compelling stroll for visitors and residents alike. Likewise, its Julian Opie extravaganza allowed for public art along the Avenue and other visible points, from White River Park to the near end of Massachusetts Avenue. British art superstar Opie’s digital displays of moving figures still traverse the downtown where pedestrian traffic is heavy, giving the city a decidedly more urbane edge.
On a smaller scale, IDADA (Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association) member galleries continued to strut their stuff with the usual roster of exhibitions, pumping up the foot traffic with group marketing efforts. First Friday events continue to draw crowds to multiple venues.
The visual art community continues to grow and change — two necessary qualities in an evolving cultural metropolis (have we earned that title yet?).