Sunday, July 23, 2006

Art vs. Sports, Some Thoughts for Discussion

Here in Indianapolis, this issue of Art vs. Sports seems to never go away. Perhaps it is the fact that we are always bombarded with news coverage and press on every aspect of local sports from the Colts, the Pacers, the Indy 500, the Brickyard, all the way down to highschool sports coverage. Seriously, do we really need to cover high school sports? What's the point? And I know it gets frustrating to the art lovers in town when every team starts threatening to leave town if we don't build them a brand new stadium or a new arena, always costing millions of dollars. Each threat make me wonder about the teams loyalty to the city to start with. Now, it is no secret that I am not a sports fan. It is not that I dislike sports it is simply not what I am interested in watching, well, except for the occasional boxing match. Something pure about boxing that I like. Man vs. Man, one on one, a balanced battle. But we must understand that this is not central to Indy, rather it is an international trend. More people prefer sports over art. Thousands of people will go to a single sporting event where only a few hundred may attend a gallery opening. Why? Will things change? Can they change?

We often discuss the lack of art education in schools when we debate why more people are not into art. And while I do feel that we need to increase the art education in all schools I recently started to question whether that would solve all the problems. If kids were to study and understand some art history while in school would they be more inclined to go to art events? Would we have more art fans? Of course I think that the numbers would shift some, but I do not think we will ever be on the same ground as those who are sports fans. Sports will always draw more fans than art. Why do I now think this? What is to blame? Art. Artists. The Art World. We must take some of that blame on ourselves.

Here is my theory on this. Art and sports each have a set of rules that are specific to their area. In sports, let us say football, once you know the rules of football you can follow the game. Same with baseball, tennis, boxing, basketball, etc. Once you know the rules of the game in a sport you can follow it. As years go by, teams may change, players will change, but the rules will be the same. Someone who once learned about baseball as a kid can come back and watch a game 30 years later and instantly understand the game. Now, in art we have set things into motion that prevents this. Art has always attempted to revise the rules. To push the envelope forward, as we say. To try and make something new and different. This is what makes art great. But it is also what makes us lose our public. The speed in which things currently change in the art world prevents the general public to keep up with how to view and understand art. Let's say you studied art history in the sixties, lost contact with the current art world but wanted to hop back into it now. Instantly you have lost all conception of the movements and styles that have taken place over the past 30+ years. Of course you would be confused. Can artist continue to make art that is "contemporary" or "avant guard" and still be welcomed and enjoyed by the general public? Can art museums help in this education of the public and still put on shows that are relevant and exciting to artists and those already in the know? Though I do not think art can ever compete with sports in a numbers game, I do believe that we can greatly increase the publics interest and love of contemporary art and all that is stands for. What's your thoughts?

22 Responses to “Art vs. Sports, Some Thoughts for Discussion”

Anonymous said...
July 23, 2006 at 3:57 PM

It comes down to the "promotion" of art and art events.

Unfortunately too many people in key positions, in art organizations, museums, and galleries are in it for the exploitation of the art world and artist. If you look around some galleries are purely an outlet to promote another more lucrative business or service. And often many talented artists will never be featured by these galleries unless you are in their power list. The art world in Indianapolis, as in many places is very political.

About a year ago I organized a national exhibition to benefit a great cause. The exhibition includes artists from around the United States including 5 with Indiana ties or live in Indiana. Every media outlet and gallery neglected to feature such worthy cause. some international media picked the story and supported the efforts. Sad, when this exhibition was conceived in Indianapolis. One can say because I am not a member or the arts organizations on in some kind of "board" the efforts I've made, thru the exhibition I mentioned, will never be supported in Indianapolis.

Yes, Indianapolis is a sports town. Sports rule over everything, even public safety (millions spent in the new Colts stadium and yet we can't reward those who keep us safe.)

Perhaps artists in Indianapolis need to take control back from the countless baseless organizations promoting the arts for their benefit only.

Artists don't need to be slaves of the system. We all need to be smart about how we do things. Lets not say "how high" when the system says "jump."

Maybe, the Indianapolis arts community holds a press conference and announces their new member and signs him/her to a multi-million arts contract. Not to mentioned the other millions in product endorsements. Maybe then will the media pay attention. But if this happens then arts has become as popular and diluted as sports and entertainment arts.

"It is easier to grow corn in New York City than arts in Indianapolis."


Scott said...
July 23, 2006 at 4:05 PM

"It is easier to grow corn in New York City than arts in Indianapolis."

That is about the funniest thing I have heard this week. Thanks.

Anonymous said...
July 24, 2006 at 9:41 PM

SO, what exhibition are you referring to? Others can hardly comment on your great effort if they don't know what you are talking about.

"If you look around some galleries are purely an outlet to promote another more lucrative business or service."

Seeing as how you are anonymous, you wouldn't mind metioning which galleries you feel are doing this.

Christopher said...
July 24, 2006 at 11:31 PM

I didn't write the anonymous comment but I don't think it's a mystery or a secret.

Dean Johnson = Dean Johnson Design

Editions Limited = frame shop

4 Star = recruiting firm

Flux Space and Galerie Penumbras' owners all have full time jobs

Stutz Gallery = another design firm

Is there a gallery in town besides Ruschman that's not afraid to dedicate themselves to solo contemporary shows and not have another source of income? Not that I know of but correct me if I'm wrong.

Back to the art vs. sport topic at hand, I believe the two are pretty mutually exclusive with different audiences. The important difference I see is that sport can live without art, art can't live without sport.

The audience for art is very limited and focused, and the possibilities for expansion are few and far between. Sport on the other hand has the ability to bring entire communities together if only briefly.

One thing art can do that sport can't, is infiltrate and make sport better. Sport can't make art better, fractionally more accessible maybe, but not better. Where as art and creativity can be succesfully integrated into sport.

Sport, being more universal, has the potential to bring wider audiences to our city. Take my Formula 1 post from a couple of weeks ago. The people that come to Indy for that race are certainly not coming here for our world class cultural institutions, but the race brings tens of thousands of affluent, educated people and that may trickle down to the arts.

Make no mistake, I am a sports fan, an arts fan first but a sports fan none the less. I believe the arts community here shouldn't mock the sports community here for the strides they have made internationally, but embrace it.

I'll repeat what I said in an earlier post, international attention on our city from any industry can not hurt the arts community, only strengthen it.

Anonymous said...
July 25, 2006 at 10:50 AM

Q: SO, what exhibition are you referring to?

A: Most of the galleries mentioned in Christopher's respond received the press release for the exhibition and follow up emails. Sadly, no gallery responded back. Also newspapers and news media outlets received the press release more than once.

Q: Seeing as how you are anonymous, you wouldn't mind metioning which galleries you feel are doing this? (Referring to galleries as an outlet to promote more lucrative business or service)

A: Christopher's respond names a few of them. And, yes, it is not a secret. Only hardly talked about. It was pointed out to me by another active artist in Indianapolis.

On art vs. sports.

Local government decided to kick artists out of a few prominent quarters in the downtown area. For example The Stutz Building became The Stutz Business and so did the Faris building. Then the same local government took over the arts in the form of the mayor's art initiative project and partnering with the Arts Council.

You don't see the local government moving the Colts out of downtown and then taking over their operations. It won't happen because the clts have sole ownership of the team, marketing and promotional purposes.

The key word is control. In Indianapolis artist don't control where they can show because most galleries receive funding from the local government. thru partnering, thus rejecting those artist whose work desn't reflect the system's criteria.

Like Christopher, I too am a sports fan and have attended the Formula 1 race. I am not bashing sports just pointing out the facts.


Christopher said...
July 25, 2006 at 1:41 PM

Artists are displaced all over the country, not just Indianapolis.

The artist seems to be a resilient creature. With their ability to adapt to all kinds of different environmental situations. Without the artist, who would have ever heard of Brooklyn, Wilshire Blvd, or the Mission District in San Francisco? The West Loop in Chicago or even charming Fountain Square here in Indy.

Yes the artist is indeed a curious specimen.

john clark said...
July 25, 2006 at 2:35 PM

My reference is a little different than the local artworld or sports: I come out of thinktankery and especially international policy. Hoosiers are perceived (and perceive themselves) as insular and provincial. To a certain degree, the perceptions are rooted in reality, but only to a certain degree. An awful lot of people around here do care some about international issues, and they wish they could learn more. In some cases, they aren’t even fully aware of how much they want to learn more until you give them the opportunity. I can reach them by writing reports and op-eds, or by doing TV and radio interviews. But by far the most effective means is in person, talking to groups. I talk to around 100 groups around Central Indiana: Rotarians and Kiwanians, older adult education programs and colleges, churches and ethnic associations, high schools and graduate students. Last Thursday we released a study of Mexico and Indiana, and by the end of lunch I had committed myself to another 22 speaking gigs in the coming months. Not for money, usually the best I hope for is a nice mug or mock-leather portfolio. A rubbery chicken lunch with nice old people.

This is retail think-tank work. Folks from the thousand think tanks in DC have no idea that life can be this way … they might talk to groups like this outside the Beltway once or twice every few years. I can tell them that it’s part of my research, immersing myself into the way global issues are discussed in the Heartland. But the reality is not that I just talked to 120 nice old people about Venezuela because of research. I did it because Central Indiana needs a more informed citizenry. Slow process, it really is. But it is happening. Last week I zapped out an e-mail that there would be an interesting and important discussion with some mayors from Israel and the West Bank, three days later 350 people showed up, not only eager to learn but in many cases even more eager to do something to help these spunky mayors when they go home. That wouldn’t happen in DC. And more public intellectuals are coming to understand that they have to get out of college classrooms or law offices or wherever and engage themselves with the community.

What’s the moral of this story for the local artworld? Most of those 100 groups I talk to would be absolutely delighted to host a talk by a real artist who’d explain what is happening in the art community, or give a preview of an upcoming exhibit. Explain why this isn’t just a bunch of stuff pasted on the wall, or plastic cardinals on a rail, or pictures of cartoon birds. Help them understand what it will be like when they go to a few galleries on First Friday. That’s the key: help them. It may not be a majority of the local population, but it is at least a large minority that wants to be more knowledgeable, more sophisticated and cultured, who want to be better than they are. They want to feel proud that they are living in a city that has a vibrant intellectual and art community, and they want to think they are part of it. Some of them are older adults who see retirement as an opportunity for education, some are 20- and 30-somthings who miss the challenges of their college days, some are 50 year old businesspeople who would like to impress their golf partners by implying they are Medici-like patrons of the arts.

A lot of these people aren’t going to a gallery or even one of the safe museums unless they are invited, unless they are confident they won’t be made to feel dumb or out-of-place. And there is no way they are going to provide money the way a city government or foundation can. They aren’t the patrons who’ll drop $20,000 for a sculpture. But they are the sort who would be eager to splurge on a $950 painting “by that nice young artist who invited us to her exhibition.” And people have friends they drag to events once they have experienced how pleasurable it can be to consume art the way it was intended.

I apologize if this sounds cheesy or self-evident. It is a way of working around the institutions that previous comments say are obstacles to developing the sort of artworld we want. Whether it is worth the effort is another question.

Scott said...
July 25, 2006 at 5:29 PM


Thanks for your wonderfuly insightful comments. I think your position obviously gives you a different out look than many of the people in the community . And I do think it is worth the effort to reach these people and educate them. I like this idea of doing this in a casual setting where they would feel more comfortable and not intimidated.

Anonymous said...
July 26, 2006 at 11:35 PM

Dear "S"-

You still didn't answer my question. What exhibit are you talking about? This national exhibit that the galleries and media ignored?

To imply that because a gallery owner has another source of income, the gallery is somehow inferior to those that don’t is absurd. It isn’t about being afraid, Christopher. Running a gallery takes money, probably more than most people realize. How many local artists do you know that live purely off profits from selling work? Any? Almost all artists have another source of income. Does this make their work inferior in some way? Of course it doesn’t.

Regarding, “Often many talented artists will never be featured by these galleries unless you are in their power list.” (I am assuming that you consider yourself to be one of these talented artists) I agree with you. If you want to exhibit, you have to play the game. It’s called networking. I suggest you become familiar with the concept, or you’ll be saying the same thing about the galleries 20 years from now. Talent and good work do not make a successful artist. Of course the art world is political – here and everywhere else.

“Just pointing out the facts?” I'm not sure where you are getting your information from, but I suggest you find another source. Allow me to offer the following:

1. You wrote “In Indianapolis artist don't control where they can show because most galleries receive funding from the local government. thru partnering, thus rejecting those artist whose work doesn't reflect the system's criteria” That is a total load of shit. The only galleries that receive governmental funding are those who are a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Privately owned galleries are not eligible for public money.
2.The Stutz Business Center has been the Stutz Business Center since Turner Woodard rehabbed part of the building in the mid 90’s. He started renting studio space to artists from the beginning. Before he came around, there were no artists there. The local government had nothing to do with any of it.
3. The Faris family sold their building, which was full of artist’s studios and some galleries, to Eli Lilly in 1999. Yes, the artists were pushed out. However, The local government had nothing to do with any of it.
4. Our local government did not “take over” the arts through the Mayor’s Cultural Tourism and the Indianapolis Art’s Council. Actually, I believe that both have enhanced the art community considerably. The Public Art Program? Good. Online artists database? Good. Weekly opportunities email from the Arts Council? Good. Were you around during the Ramona years? It was bad,

Scott said...
July 27, 2006 at 12:11 PM

I'm gonna go and take a guess that the exhibit being discussed is, 25 Above Water. (

This was a Katrina relief show that had been written about in a few papers outside of Indianapolis.

Anonymous said...
July 27, 2006 at 1:54 PM

I actually know a few artists that live exclusively of their work. I'll name 2: Kyle Ragsdale with his paintings jam packed with paterns and Artur Silve, who's work is seen on the post above. I'm sure it isn't easy to seel those things, and I'm sure there is struggle involved. You see, gallery owners have to be more than just business owners, they have to open the gallery knowing that they need to find the crowd that will buy the art that they choose to represent (a lot of work there, more than a regular business, but doable). I saw the other day that Frank Gehry documentary and he said that in the begining instead getting pissed off about not selling his weird creations, he needed to find that small group of people who were interested in that kind of construction. I thought that was highly positive way to think. Artists can do it, I'm sure gallery owners can too.

Anonymous said...
July 27, 2006 at 3:05 PM

Having owned a gallery, help run another one and worked part time in yet another, I can say in all honesty that there are more galleries than Ruschman (who, by the way, shows more non-indy artists than Indy ones) who had no other line of business to keep them going. Penumbra's owners are teachers, no great salaries there. And they are barely making it. It's extremely expensive to give shows month after month and see no income back from your efforts. You have to have SOME other source of cash or you simply can't make it here.

Although she has exhibited highly questionable conduct, at least Jennifer Kaye of LAMP seems to have figured out the system: Charge the artists for everything and then pay them as late as possible when they sell something. Sure, it's a vanity gallery, but at least it's still open. As much as I hate co-ops, at least they get traffic and keep the doors open as well. There's always a work-around to the present politics of Indy Galleries. The biggest shame is when Indy gets an arts initiative and then gives immediately commissions an out-of-towner.

How about an "Artist's Rights Parade" ? We march, en masse, down to the mayor's office, each holding a piece of our work and a sign, saying "BUY THIS ART OR I'LL LEAVE INDY FOR GOOD!"

Anonymous said...
July 27, 2006 at 3:08 PM

back to sports versus art:

education is the key. we keep removing art education in this state yet keep upping high-school sports budgets.

do the math.

Christopher said...
July 27, 2006 at 3:18 PM

Just wanted clarify to the anonymous poster of 10:35 pm that said:

"To imply that because a gallery owner has another source of income, the gallery is somehow inferior to those that don’t is absurd. It isn’t about being afraid, Christopher...."

That's not at all what I wanted to imply. I in fact admire anyone who can put forth a visual arts venue and keep it going by any means necessary. And if it provides a little kickback to the 'parent' company then more power to 'em. I was just responding to the previous comment.

Anonymous said...
July 27, 2006 at 8:39 PM

I've lived places where arts are more recognized/better funded than sports. I think that it is a cultural thing, not an inherent human tendency, to be drawn to art or sports or even to conceive of them as mutually exclusive inclinations.

As for the question of art education, see today's NYT...:

A study to be released today by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum suggests that it does, citing improvements in a range of literacy skills among students who took part in a program in which the Guggenheim sends artists into schools. ...The study found that students in the program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills — including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning — than did students who were not in the program.

The results of the study, which are to be presented today and tomorrow at a conference at the Guggenheim, are likely to stimulate debate at a time when the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind has led schools to increase class time spent on math and reading significantly, often at the expense of other subjects, including art.

Anonymous said...
July 28, 2006 at 12:06 PM

Scott, Your guess is right, the exhibition I was referring to is "25 ABOVE WATER" ( The exhibition/sale is still going on until September 15, 2006. A national touring exhibition kicks off in September. The exhibition has been featured and mentioned in STEP inside design (March/April, May/June issues), Ping, Boing Boing, Omaha World Herald, Tampa Bay Times, Design Observer (NYC), Liquid Treat, and many other newsblogs.

My comment about local galleries and news media not responding was more for a courtesy response even if that means they are not interested in the exhibition. There are a few places in town that I have exhibited work in the past, Herron Gallery, Dean Johnson Gallery, Clowes Memorial Hall. Dean Johnson Gallery is very much in touch with the art world in Indy and very open to new work. As a former New York City graffiti artist I am elated that Dean Johnson Gallery is currently showing "Bombing: 101." I've also exhibited in New York City from 1991 to 2003. My graffiti work has been featured in the Graffiti Hall of Fame in New York City. The Bronx NYC-based graffiti crew I am a member of has been featured world wide in magazines, documentaries, and books. Most recently "Broken Windows: Graffiti NYC" by James and Karla Murray. In bookstore everywhere and

For 15 years I've worked as a graphic designer (I worked on the look for Conseco Fieldhouse and SAP United States Grand Prix = sports!) to return back to my roots "art." Today I occasionally do art direction and consulting for advertising agencies and design studios. Just this summer I am traveling a few times to New York City to meet other artists and promote "25 ABOVE WATER" an exhibition from which I am not making a cent. This has been a labor of love for nearly a year.

Another studio/project I established is "DEPARTMENT OF WORLD SERVICE" ( This is an initiative to raise awareness of world relief efforts. This project is receiving international support. I am currently networking with others in South Africa, India, Eastern Europe, and Russia.

Yes. "Talent, Marketing, Promotion, and Networking" are big factors of success.

Maybe I still have a lingering bad taste from years past dealing with the arts in Indianapolis. Although some of the old mentality is still present new fresh talent is rising in these organizations. Hopefully for the benefit of the local artists.


Anonymous said...
July 29, 2006 at 12:06 PM


In the days following hurricanes Katrina and Rita a group of fellow artists united to aid hurricane relief efforts by creating "25 Above Water," a collection of limited edition posters by artists from New York City, Rhode Island, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Lincoln NE, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland OR, San Francisco, and Indianapolis. Proceeds from this collection benefits the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. 25 Above Water has been featured in numerous publications and news media worldwide.


September 25 - 30, 2006
Herron School of Art and Design / Indianapolis
Marsh Projects Gallery
Free Admission
Open to the public

Opening Reception:
Monday, September 25, 6 - 9 pm

Coffee and Conversation:
An informal conversation with featured Indianapolis' artists.
Friday, September 29, 9 am

Sponsorship opportunities are available for this event. For more information please contact



Scott said...
July 29, 2006 at 12:18 PM

Congrats, I look forward to seeing the show.

Anonymous said...
July 30, 2006 at 1:49 PM

Thanks Scott!

I'll see you there.


Anonymous said...
August 1, 2006 at 9:19 AM

S writes: "Yes. "Talent, Marketing, Promotion, and Networking" are big factors of success."

You can leave off talent. Success hasn't been about talent for over 2 decades. Unless, of course, you are talking about the talent it takes to do marketing, promotion and ass-kissing.

Anonymous said...
August 11, 2006 at 9:33 PM

Editions Limited is a fine arts gallery representing the best artists in this city. Willie Faust would not have had a career if not for Editions Limited. It shows how little so many of you who claim to be immersed and concerned about the arts community truly know about the profession you claim. Lois Tempelton, Christos Koutsurous (can you say $10,000 paintings?) are repped at ED. It's a gallery's gallery as is Lucas.

Wise up and take note.

Jennifer Kaye deserves far more credit from her peers (she doesn't need it to be successful) than she gets as evidenced here also. Do not underestimate.

Someone mentioned playing politics above in a comment. You all just hurt each other by constant complaint, slandering peers. That's what I see in the local arts community as evidenced in this blog.

You need to be professional yourselves and get in touch with what is working in the arts in your community instead of bringing each other down.

Being a sports down has nothing to do with why YOU may believe the arts is struggling. Look at yourselves and be proactive.

Liriodendron said...
August 12, 2006 at 11:18 AM

I enjoy going to Lucas Gallery.
Sports and art are so different...I have difficulty comparing them. Sports is a go watch the game being played, takes and hour or two and occupies your time. Art is already finished, you look at it and enjoy or and sports tie up time in different vs art put a little sport in art, but not during the creative process...shrug....

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