Sunday, April 16, 2006

Interview: Maxwell Anderson

[above image: "Raft of the Medusa" by Theodore Gericault]

I would like to take this time to thank Tyler Green over at Modern Art Notes, for his support of On the Cusp and his generous role in assisting us, by way of paving the road of communications between us and Maxwell Anderson. So, thanks once again Tyler it is very much appreciated.

For those of our readers who may not have read our initial post on Maxwell Anderson and his appointment as the new Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art you can read it here. I would like to thank Max as well for his willingness to take time out from his busy schedule to allow us this interview. We hope that through this interview, the arts community in Indianapolis can get to know a little more about the man who is to be the new Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and to get a reading on what we may expect from him over the next few years. I am quite interested in following what he does over the next several months and can't wait to see how he turns things around. I expect the impact he will make at the IMA will extend beyond their walls and into the Indianapolis area art community. Things around here may start to pick up. We can hope.

And now, on with the interview:


OtC- What was the first work of art, or experience with the arts, that made an impact on your life?

My dad was an English professor, and he had two year-long leaves of absence that took our family overseas, when I was 6 (to France) and 10 (to England). Growing up in New York City meant school trips to the Met, but that turned out to be a warm-up to exploring the medieval fortress at Carcassone, gaping at Gericault's Raft of the Medusa in the Louvre, seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, sifting through boxes of Turners in the reserves of the Tate Gallery, or setting foot in the then empty, windswept precinct of Stonehenge. We lived modestly, but had countless gifts of experience like these.


OtC- How is Indianapolis's reputation perceived in the broader contemporary art world and where might you see it in 5 years, 10 years

Lisa Freiman has a great reputation in the field. Lots of colleagues from museums including the Metropolitan have called and written to say how lucky I am to be working with her. The Amy Cutler show exemplifies how, with the right curatorial leadership, an artist in her early 30s but already of international stature (whom I was very happy to have in my third and last Whitney Biennial) can be at home in a one-person show at the IMA.

I'm especially excited about how we can make the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park one of the world's most compelling intersections of contemporary creativity and the natural environment-an environment which can be both manicured and tousled. That will come as an unexpected surprise to urban lovers of contemporary art. As a 100-acre preserve surrounding the IMA, it stands to become, once we get it underway late in 2007, a key component of life in Indianapolis, and a laboratory for current artistic practice on the international stage.


OtC- What are your first impressions of the Indianapolis Museum of Art? the good? the bad?

Lots of room, cheerful staff and volunteers, an air of expectation, a work in progress, and a need to wire us up to the community at large.


OtC- What were some of the deciding factors for you, to take this position in Indianapolis?

I have a chance to help insure that in a few years we can offer residents and visitors an unforgettable combination: innovative displays of the legacy of past civilizations and art movements, a fresh take on contemporary life through the eyes of today's artists, and the natural beauty of our grounds, including the Fairbanks Art & Nature Park as well as Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens. The IMA's endowment is a backstop against commercial seductions that have pushed many museums to make choices unrelated to or at odds with their mission. The Board is very engaged in pursuing best practices in governance, and has extended a warm welcome to me and a commitment to see that the IMA has the resources it needs to flourish, the staff and volunteers have been really enthusiastic about what we can all accomplish together, and patrons past and present are ready to help us build on what Tony Hirschel, Bret Waller and directors before them brought to Indianapolis.


OtC- What do you feel is the role and responsibility of an art museum Director today?

A steward of unassailable ethical standards, a leader who rallies the community around a lively, persuasive vision of the Museum's potential, an art historian whose judgments are informed by love and knowledge of art of all times, and a manager who grapples fairly and sensibly with the hard competition between growing costs and growing needs.


OtC- What are your immediate plans/goals for the IMA? Your long term goals?

Short-term, I want to learn about the spirit of the IMA and Indianapolis and how people have shaped and informed each. Long-term, I hope to make the IMA an indispensable feature of life in Indianapolis and a must-see experience for visitors to Indiana, by acquiring and presenting artworks that make us think differently about our daily lives.


OtC- Should we expect staff and management changes to take place in the near future?

I am coming in with no assumptions about staff or management changes. It will be important to think through what the Museum's recent expansion requires of us--Larry O'Connor has very ably steered it in its opening year, and once the permanent collection is fully installed we can review how the public experience and our professional support of it are meshing.


OtC- What do you feel the current art collection is lacking?

I have a lot to learn about the collection-many of its strengths are well known internationally, including the Josefowitz post-Impressionist Collection, examples of which I had on loan in Toronto; the Holliday Neo-Impressionist collection, the Turner holdings; the Edo-period paintings, the African collection, Chinese ceramics, textiles, and studio glass. I am looking forward to drinking in what is not on view now, as well as the range of the American, European, decorative arts, African, and contemporary collections. Thus far the goal has been to build on strengths, rather than chasing a comprehensive collecting mandate. That makes good sense.


OtC- What changes do you foresee in the IMA's acquisition practices?

Too soon to say. Most acquisitions are through gift and bequest-we will continue to make important one-off purchases, but we also need to encourage collectors in the region today, cajole Hoosiers who have moved out of state, and stimulate others to become collectors.


OtC- Any chance the IMA will start using more Internet technology, blogs, podcasts, streaming video lectures, etc., to better reach a greater audience?

No doubt. I'm very impressed with the plans in place today, and will get up to speed on these. We will make more of the collection electronically illustrated with in-depth information, and use folksonomy to engage audiences locally and around the world. We have a terrific in-house team already working on providing access to programming through video and audio, and I foresee making the IMA a model of transparency in revealing the collections, exhibitions, programs, and life of a great museum.


OtC- Once you feel you have achieved the goals you have set for yourself in respects to the IMA, do you think your commitment to Indianapolis may subside, to move on?

We haven't even gotten there yet! With our second child on the way next month, my wife, son, and I are thrilled to be making a home for ourselves in Indianapolis. We've lived in the South (I ran a museum for 8 years in Atlanta and was hard to pry loose), in Toronto, in New York, and in LA. My wife, although raised in Texas, was born in the Midwest, and my dad was born in North Dakota; I in turn have always found myself at home wherever I've lived. There's something great about being able to make a contribution to a community ready to embrace the goal of greatness with zest, and that readiness is very clear in Indianapolis.

Cheers,

Max

27 Responses to “Interview: Maxwell Anderson”

Anonymous said...
April 16, 2006 at 10:30 PM

Well, Max seems to be able to answer all of the questions with aplomb and at the same time make you feel that he's actually saying something. But, well, he really isn't.

I suppose this is to be expected.

But, and here's checking to see if he ever looks over here, how about some answers about his expectations of the IMA.

It's an institution that gets between 120,000 and 150,000 visitors a year. That's less than 500 people a day on average. I bet there are McDonalds in Indy that get more people in than that each day.

If you ask Hoosiers about the Indianapolis Museum of Art, I would bet that most think it’s the State Museum and, anyway, they would prefer to go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

So, really, how is the New IMA doing? Better than the Old IMA? Uh, no. The IMA Cafe closed last week. The great Wolfgang Puck has suffered his first defeat at the IMA. Pucks is still open, but the 'inexpensive cafe' is closed. So, for that $8 salad you can now sit on the outside of the gift shop and watch, well, a shopper looking for a gift.

How’s that new special events pavilion doing? What’s it like to preside over a museum that is part museum part (unsuccessful) catering hall

How about vibrant and new programming at the New IMA? Well there doesn't seem to be much of that (what happened to AMP?). It seems like it has been a lot more of downsizing than anything. When was the last time you were surprised or impressed by IMA programming? For what should be the leading cultural institution in the state, one is left inside a building that seems about as architectural interesting as one of those office buildings up on North Meridian

So, Max, what are you gonna’ do with the IMA? What are the realistic goals?

How do you make an institution that has been historically irrelevant to Hoosiers suddenly relevant? Advertised well ... no. Compare, for example, the way the two block busters were advertised this fall: ask yourself which though you think of first the one that was at the State museum, or the one at the IMA. I think I see the Lord of the Rings ... I’m not saying I preferred the Lord of the Rings. There really was no comparison. The International Arts and Crafts show at the IMA was as good as it’s ever been at the IMA.

Sure the Amy Cutler is an interesting show. It's well done and there's a tidy catalogue. That's one small show. Side note here: Can Lisa Frieman do no wrong? I suppose it just proves how easy it is to look great when you follow someone that wasn't. Wait, isn't that what Max is doing here? Tony Hirschel and Lars O'Conner? Certainly not tough acts to follow. Here’s to your looking great, Max!

But I digress. Max says that his first impression is that the IMA has "Lots of room, cheerful staff and volunteers, an air of expectation, a work in progress, and a need to wire us up to the community at large." The "wiring up to the community at large" is the rub. What do you do when the community at large really doesn't want to be wired up?

What are realistic expectations? Should Max be targeting a certain number of new visitors? Or is that a sure slippery slide into crappy exhibits just to boost attendance?

What are Max's top 5 goals at the IMA that would prove that in 5-7 years the museum is *much* more successful than it is now?

Attendance?
Endowment?
Staff?
Programs?
Exhibits?

What should we expect from Max after his first year? What should we be looking for next summer?

The Anono


Anonymous said...
April 17, 2006 at 12:41 AM

He hasn't even started yet! Why not permit him a crack at his work before passing judgement. Clearly he's right that Indy is ready to see great things happen, let's allow them.


Liriodendron said...
April 17, 2006 at 7:48 AM

Nice interveiw! Keep it up!

Well, here's a suggestion from "Mrs Uncosmopolitan"...what do I know..... not much but naive gut reactions.

So the cafe's gone, bummer. The first floor seems so empty, there's not much to do when you walk in but stand around and try to decide whether you are lost yet or not. There needs to be something that appears interesting and "fun" to casual first time museum goer, right off the bat....to draw them further in and relax them.
How about a casual, local artists gallery, that changes every 4 or 5 months, and sort of has it's own little mini identity within the museum. Feature 8 to 10 local artists, have it be sort of coffee shop/bohemian style. Get people in to see something they might be a little familiar with, and make them feel a connection with their city and art. This also draws the artists here/now, who already have an interest group around them, and (imo) would make the museum more interesting/fun, less scary.


Anonymous said...
April 17, 2006 at 4:13 PM

Totally agree and desagree.
What they need is a a gallery that will give exhibits to local artists, like the ones in many museums around the country including the MCA in Chicago. They have an exhibit every month there by one artists living in Chicago. I can even say let the assisten curators curate those (no brainer that Lisa won't be able, or want to do it). We don't need another coffee shop with a bunch of crap by local artists on the walls. We do need to showcase a selected group of contemporary artists we have here.
nanotech


Anonymous said...
April 17, 2006 at 6:05 PM

Here here! The 12 x 12 space at the MCA is my favorite part of that museum sometimes!


Liriodendron said...
April 17, 2006 at 7:05 PM

Well...you do have a point about not needing another coffee shop with local artist crap on the walls!(haha!) I was thinking of non-crap, just in a more casual setting than the regular galleries.


Lisa Hunter said...
April 17, 2006 at 7:19 PM

To the first anonymous poster: Having worked in museums in New York, I've seen firsthand how much difference a director with vision can mean to an institution. I can think of several formerly sleepy museums can became cultural hubs -- in just a few years -- with the right director.


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 8:04 AM

Lisa Hunter: sleepy museum or not, Indianapolis is not New York! I'm sure Max is painfully aware of this. If he's not, he soon will be.

If you were to tell me that you knew a director that suddenly made the Hispanic Society of America up on 155th Street relevant and popular (without moving it downtown), well then you'd have something. Comparison not possible between NYC and IND.

And for all of the others who think what the IMA really needs is a gallery to showcase local talent ... well I want to say something rather direct and vulgar. But I'll settle for direct: eat me. It wouldn't amount to anything and no one would go to the IMA to see it if it were there. Also, this isn't even close to Chicago! The 'art scene' here is just beginning to develop. There is no MFA program here. Many of the young artists here are working things out to see if they want to go to graduate school. The BFA program at Herron was stale for years and is just now starting to invent itself as something contemporary (furniture program not withstanding).

I wonder if IMOCA prefers local artist (Brian Presnell) or national artists ... or if they would consider splitting there galleries in two -- one for local one for national. What if the building were bigger, would they consider doing it then? Do they get more people -- for the length of the show -- for the local or the national show?

Finally, can you really think of that many artists in town that need more exposure than what they are already getting? When there was talk about the injustice of Brian Presnell at IMOCA I don't remember there being a cry for a few particular artists that 'really deserved' to be there. I can think of a few that had more exposure. But can you think of any artists who is so on the edge of something big that he/she just has to be at IMOCA by the end of the year ? I should go re-read those posts. But are there artists here in town that really deserve to be at IMOCA or the IMA. Aren't they getting a lot of exposure with all of the First Friday events? There are a lot of places to see artists here. I should think that just about anybody who puts together a cohesive body of work (and had a studio in one of the studio buildings) could get some kind of show here.

Dreaming of a hub,
The Anono


Christopher said...
April 18, 2006 at 9:07 AM

Thelma Golden has done a pretty darn good job at the Studio Museum in Harlem.


q said...
April 18, 2006 at 12:11 PM

First, give the man some time! We can all agree that he is not going to hurt the situation at the museum or in our community by his being involved. Mr. Anderson will only help.

Second, exposure for a local artist does come in many forms. The difference between many of the First Friday venues and the museum is that is has a national reputation as an institution showcasing art where a show at the MSG or Stutz or Harrison Center or Big Car or wherever else does not hold automatic clout on a national level. Getting a show and getting a show at a museum is like comparing apples and oranges concerning the boost a museum exhibition gives an artist's cv.

Third, they should have a designated space at the museum for local artists to display. Yes, some artists won't get to show their work b/c it wouldn't be what the museum wants to display but not showing the work of local artists sends the equivocal message that there is nothing worth showing locally. People bitched b/c Brian Presnell got a show at IMOCA. I didn't personally enjoy much of the work but I applaud him for getting a show there. Have any of you whom have bitched publicly or privately about his being awarded a show put together a proposal and put it in the mailbox? Probably not.

Fourth, why do we (you) constantly have to decimate the aspirations some of us hold for Indy as an art town? Shut up with the it will never be NYC crap. We all know that! Thank you , Mr. Obvious. Let it be what it will be and help foster its growth instead of pissing all over it.

I could go on for hours but my bitch session is tomorrow night so I have to save some rants concerning negativity.

Mr. Anderson, I personally thank you for giving some of your talent to our city in whatever capacity it might turn out to be. Good luck with your wife's pregnancy and hopefully to watching you family grow here as our art scene does.

Give him a chance people,

Quincy


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 12:50 PM

I'm not negative and haven't decimated Indy in any way. In fact I consider myself cautiously optimistic.

But look at the facts. The IMA has undergone a massive rennovation and expansion and it seems so far this has created but the tiniest spark in the community.

There are indictations already that the New IMA's is proving to be much of the same and may have over sold itself. Is the Cafe closing an indication of failure? Or miscalculation in the plans?

I think it quite fair to question this and to question what the new director would want to do in the next 5 years to make the New IMA succesful and relevant. I think that knowing more about his expactations is very important.

Of course everyone is going to make comparrisons to what is perhaps the best art city in the world. They are difficult but necessary. (The Harlem Museum is a good example, but Harlem probably has had more going on there since the early 90s than Indy. Didn't one of the former Whitney curators go there after working for Max?)

You have to measure yourself against the top to know where you stand. Would it be better if we called Indy a great art city in comparrison to Fort Wayne?

Sure I realize the importance of creating a unique identity.

Apperantly no one has noticed that the New IMA has had a gallery devoted to local things? It's just beyond the gift shop. They've had a show from the Indiana Water Color Society. I can imagine that those folks' cvs are all the better for it. Perhaps you should consider joing that group if your interested in putting the IMA on your cv. Or put a proposal in there. Perhaps I was a little strong on the eat me.

The Anono


Liriodendron said...
April 18, 2006 at 1:05 PM

The watercolor society thing is a group show. I'd like to see featured locals. You are too bitter to eat Anono.....;)


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 1:18 PM

My fucking goodness... how ignorant a lot of you are! Yes I say that with my freaking nose up in the air.

First of all Quincy, stop kissing the New Yorker's ass because that won't make him buy anything from you or give you a show there.

Second I do agree with you Quincy about the difference between exposure in the Murphy building open house and a solo show at the IMA. They should be helping to promote the best of local artists to a national platform. Plus try to send your resume to galleries in NYC when all you have are exhibits in these galleries here in Indianapolis. The IMA should care about local artists and a good reason for that is that the local arts community would be rallying to get people in there since at that point they would feel included and part of it (if you allow me redundant statement).

So Ms. Lisa Hunter, it surprises me you wrote a book about collecting art in a budget and you don’t know the first thing about artists and what they need. Do you write for Intake?
On those Brian Presnell days I could name my self as a deserving artists but that would be conceited of me. Yes I’m being sarcastic, god… I feel like I have to explain everything here.

nanotech


q said...
April 18, 2006 at 3:05 PM

I like where this going. Now there seems to be some conversation going.

I don't expect him to buy any of my work just as I haven't expected any other board members at the IMA to. If Hoosier Hospitality is my Achilles' heel, I'll take it! I've got three kids and another on the way. This is a great city to raise kids in, in my opinion. She's due in a month I believe.

Concerning the cafe and the other aspects concerning the museum you see as lacking to the public...I blame it on advertising from the museum's aspect. Even more to blame is our community for not paying mind to the arts in the capacity all of us as artists hope it would. But all of this relates back to the comparison of Indy to NYC. The communtiy in NYC appreciates the arts to a much larger degree than our community so art institutions have to work with a smaller pool of patrons. I take it upon myself to help the arts in this city by educating people about it. I recommend all the artists in town try it. Why are the Colts getting a new stadium? Because the people support it. We need to educate and inform the public at every intersection that the arts are something that they need in their lives too. It is really depressing to me that football trumps art. We (artists, art institutions, etc...), however, have to accept this as our responsibility.

Maybe the IMA could host an annual juried exhibition similar to the Swope in Terre Haute? That would be a start to help local artists in a more visible way. It seems to me from what little I know that the IMA is rolling out some improvements slowly but surely. I think one has to realize that what works in other metro areas is not going to work here b/c the public is different and wants different things or needs to be enticed differently. Have you read the survey compiled by Next Generation Consulting? We have some demanding people to please!

Something artists need to realize is that people cannot read our minds. I say this in response to nanotech's response to Ms. Hunter concerning not knowing what artists need. Enlighten us! What do you need? Put it in writing. I don't want you to take offense, I mean it in a positive way. I don't know what you need. It is different for everyone.

Oh, and last, where can I get the contact info. for the watercolor society? maybe I can get in the IMA that way! I'll cross my fingers.

Quincy

Quincy


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 4:00 PM

If you are in the market you know what your needs are, and so should Ms. Hunter. It's a matter of common sense.
And quit petying people to buy your work by telling them how many kids you have!

Nanotech


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 4:38 PM

i bet you children don't remember the 80's when the IMA had a huge consignment gallery near the front entrance and you could sell or rent work there... It was some people's FIRST place to visit in the museum and it was expertly curated and none of it was coffee house crap, some of indy's biggest names hung there..

sad, no plan was made for this type of re-addition.

love,

grandpa


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 7:55 PM

Great. I thought I would respond to the questions asked in the interview and consider some things going on at the IMA. And then this is where we land. Smack in the 1980s of the IMA.

Some guy called grandpa saying that the best days at the IMA when the director would go out to galleries in Chicago and New York, haul back all the things that had not been sold that year and display them as 'contemporary art.' And then on other years they would have 'Indiana artist' on the third floor.

And what did that bring? Why don't you go find out what the attendance at the museum was then? Did it help the community and launch the 'art scene' forward? Did it allow the museum to make important acquisitions?

I feel like going back to the initial response of simply saying eat me about all of this.

If you want a real museum in this city you are going to have to let go of the idea of it being some kind of community gallery to 'showcase Indiana talent.'

Okay the MCA has a contemporary gallery with Chicago artist. Guess what, that's a Contemporary art museum. The IMA is supposed to be encylepediac.

Plus, above all this, there is a gallery at the IMA to show exactly what all of these posters are asking for.

And, Surprise!, no one goes to the museum now.

Anybody have ANYTHING to say about expectations about Max Anderson other than turning the museum over to local artists?

And to think Quincy was saying that I was decimating the 'aspirations' around here. There could be nothing more decimating than the IMA being forced to showcase 'Indiana Artists'.

The Anono


Lisa Hunter said...
April 18, 2006 at 8:57 PM

Whoa! I think some of you misunderstood what I was saying. Let's try again:

Several years ago, I worked for a museum that was every bit as demoralized as some of the posters here feel about the Indy museum. And a new director completely turned it around, in about three years. I've seen other places have the same experience.

This isn't exclusive to New York. And neither are good museums. Max Anderson did great things in Atlanta and Toronto. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in Indianapolis.

Who knew that was so controversial?


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 10:46 PM

Lisa:
What museum did you work at in NYC that was demoralized? And then turned around?

What other places that have been cultural back water have been completely erected by museum directors?


Lisa Hunter said...
April 18, 2006 at 11:18 PM

Well, I can't tell you which NY museum, for obvious reasons.

But I CAN mention lots of smaller or midsized cities with vibrant art museums. Fort Worth, Texas, has fabulous museums -- and not just the Kimball. The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is great. The Hudson Valley has a couple of top contemporary museums (Storm King and Dia Beacon). Even tiny Marfa, Texas, is an art hub.

If you're so sure Indianapolis is a hopeless "cultural back water," why do you live there, Anon?


Anonymous said...
April 18, 2006 at 11:59 PM

hey, kids, it's grandpa again.

now, don't get all riled up, Anono.

my point about the consignment center was basically that many of the artists that showed work there finally got their start because NOBODY ELSE would show them. And they've since moved or gone to better things (read: other city's galleries).

i don't recall them hauling back stuff from other cities and showing them in the consignment gallery. that sounds a little off, but then, grandpa may just need a nap to get his synapses firing again.

another point that was probably not made clear was this one: imagine the excitement a young artist might have when they get to show their work IN A MUSEUM for the first time. Imagine how inspiring it would be to be hanging next to the big names of the era. what other places in our little burg can a young artist experience that level of exposure excitement and resumé fodder?

right now? NONE.

nitey nite, kids. grandpa is gettin' tired.


Anonymous said...
April 19, 2006 at 12:04 AM

Quincy, for god's sake, put down the vodka and get a vasectomy! It's 85 bucks and an outpatient procedure, takes a day to recover. Think of the planet, man!


W. David Lichty said...
April 19, 2006 at 4:55 AM

I have to step up in support of the anonymous person's original post, despite the small amount of near childishness that followed. Scott lobbed some softballs in his interview. That's appropriate - the guy just showed up, so to speak, and he ought to at least be greeted with a polite handshake. But the interview was mostly what any such interview was going to become - a collection of PR answers. I don't mean that as a slam. The questions were direct, and the responses sounded honest, but were likely general out of necessity (he's so new, he hasn't actually been installed yet - how specific can he be before he starts?).

But the anonymous person or group's questions are really just as appropriate, even at this juncture. Its questions reflect as much concern for the institution as do Scott's; they just come from opposite approaches. Scott seems to want Mr. Anderson to be comfortable enough to answer candidly. M. Anonymous seems to want to push him into the same straightforwardness by listing some very real, tough to dodge, salient issues. Frankly, being anonymous, it is in the best position to do that. I'm reminded of a line from Blue Thunder, when a mentor and a rookie are being chewed out by The Boss. Rookie speaks up, and The Boss says, "You're supposed to be stupid, son. Don't abuse the privilege."

The anonymous individual or group is *using* the privilege of being anonymous to spout a bit on some spout-worthy concerns. It's not judging Mr. Anderson, rather the situation into which he has stepped. It's asking, "Do you see this, and will you do something about it? If so, what?" Should it wait until Mr. Anderson has started? I think not, because the issues raised are those of initial approach. They're "first things".

Even if Mr. Anderson doesn't directly respond to those questions, it may still benefit him, rather than offend him, to have encountered them. There is as much wisdom to be gained from Glass Half Empty folk as there is from the Glass Half Full contingent. It might direct his eyes a bit as he takes the new place in. I believe that Scott intends to follow up with Mr. Anderson. I don't know if he'll dig as deeply as this Anonymous being would, but I have to admit, I hope someone eventually does. Such challenging questions can be taken as measures of respect. Asked out of real concern (not just as jabs), they imply that the interviewee is up to the challenges they bring. I would like to think that, given time to get a perspective and give due thought, Mr. Anderson could handle them with candor.

Ms. Hunter's responses are worthwhile as well. Indianapolis isn't a Big Art Hub simply because it isn't, not because it cannot be. It's probably the case that an elitist art community would not thrive here as well as it would on the coast, but elitism needn't be essential to the phenomenon. Other elements present there but lacking here may be just as discardable, replaced with qualities specific to this place, and unavailable there. New York is a model. It doesn't have to be the model.

Right now, the most vibrant, thriving Classic Film series in the state is not anywhere near Chicago, nor downtown, nor on the north side of the city. It's in Franklin. Franklin! Mayberry. Lake Woebegon, if you will. These people show films every two weeks to often sold out houses (of 450 seats), comprised mostly of townspeople, but with some traveling from other states to attend these events. If I were thinking demographically about places where such a thing should or shouldn't work, there are towns that would be lower than Franklin, but it would still be far from highest on the list.

And yet, it is the place. Nowhere else is this happening with as much regular success.

A director with vision, in any creative arena, will think and work to make that kind of thing happen, and it's easiest to build fully anew when you're at rock bottom. For the right mind, that's a position of hope because it affords the greatest freedom and potential. It is true that Mr. Anderson should be allowed to get a grasp on the situation in Indy, and to develop a vision. It is also true that vision should expected of him, perhaps even demanded, and as much as possible - assisted.

Hard questions can be a part of that.


Anonymous said...
April 19, 2006 at 8:39 AM

Oh, thanks David for the long ass nothing! You could've saved my time if you told up front you were just gonna analize all the comments.


Liriodendron said...
April 19, 2006 at 9:54 AM

Hmmm.....well, he's got his work cut out for him, and I hope he pulls it off. (making IMA a must join/see destination for many more Hoosiers than it has been in the past.)
He mentions the grounds/gardens for contempory art, that could be fun. Our family enjoys the IAC's new Artspark, and the canal area off the State Museum.
I do agree with the comment that the advertising could have been more. I still feel the ground floor entry needs something better. As for the cafe....for the price, I prefered having lunch at the restaurant. Perhaps the Puck cafe can become something better than it was, or a more functional snackbar for the many emploees/volunteers.
Local art is good. Sounds like it worked in the past, and can work in the future too.


Anonymous said...
April 20, 2006 at 4:39 PM

I am anything but local, yet I have a vested interest in the furutre of the IMA and its reputation, both nationally and internationally (why not aim high?). I also have a certain fondness for the IMA--it's like an expensive racehorse with impressive bloodlines that nonetheless always comes in last; a change of jockeys brings a sense of hope.
The preceding postings, for the most part, have evaluated the IMA primarily in terms of what the IMA means to practicing artists and the contemporary art scene. This is only a part of the museum's complex mission and distorts perceptions of what the IMA collection consists of. It is a mistake to think that this public art collection exists primarily for artists. Moreover, it is misguided and irresponsible to think that local, public enthusiasm should have such a heavy hand in shaping this particular museum; this is not The Children's Museum. At the IMA, longterm vision and outside opnions are critical.

Max Alexander is right on target in putting emphasis on the strategic development of the museum's collection, which is its single greatest asset and its raison d'etre. Great museum collections take hundreds of years (as well as great war crimes) to develop, so we can hardly blame the IMA for being an awkward adolescent. But when you compare it to the little gem of the MidWest, the Toledo Museum of Art, one realize that what separates the winners from the losers in the patron factor. Toledo had the Libbys, god bless them. Alexander's challenge will be to reach very rich, very generous and very committed patrons who are willing to work with curators in order to buy for the museum, not for their living room decor.

I suppose it is ultimately the coorporations (not to name obvious names here) who will be courted to fill this role. They need to be convinced that the IMA can contribute to the quality of life in the city: this factor is a significant means of convincing out-of-town and overseas talents to transfer to Indy to work in their offices and laboratories and, yes, basketball teams. The museum fits into a big picture and lots of bigmoney and longterm city-wide, and regional interests are at stake. For the better, I think, if someone of "unassailable ethics" is at the helm. Hail Max. Viva Max.


Christopher said...
April 20, 2006 at 5:00 PM

Viva the anonymous poster above!


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