The Experiment

This year for my birthday, my wife and I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art because I wanted to see the traveling Ai Weiwei exhibit while it was in town. Fascinating collection of provocative, disturbing, convicting works and images.

My wife captured this thought, one of several typeset on the museum walls for the occasion.

Study questions:

If the artist works hard but doesn’t change any aspect of the world, not even a minute tweak, is the result still art? How many tries should they be allowed?

If the artist has no definitive aspiration, can they still effect change? What sort of deadline should we give them?

(Mood: contemplative. Music: Bob Mould, Black Sheets of Rain.)

My Kid Could Paint That. And Did.

alien worlds, high school art class

This weekend our local school system held its biennial art fair, a celebration of the efforts and creations of students of music and art from all age groups. I had one or two drawings on display in my junior year, though two decades later I no longer remember which ones. My wife and I were pleased to learn that my son, now in his final month of high school, would have several pieces on display this year. We made a point of checking out the fair not just for the sake of parental beaming, but because we knew this might be our last chance to view his works.

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Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit, Part II: When It’s Time to Slash and Burn

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Most of this decorative frippery could be dismantled and sold as scrap metal. (photo credit: Valerie Everett via photopin cc)

Last weekend’s suggestion-box entry regarding possible economic improvement measures at the Indianapolis Museum of Art wasn’t intended as the launch of a new MCC series, merely a one-off, tongue-in-cheek response to other online reactions. Then again, I wasn’t expecting to see the IMA recapture the headlines this soon.

On Monday local news sources confirmed that our city’s largest art museum has eliminated twenty-nine employees (11% of the total staff) as part of their ongoing efforts to stem the losses from previous years’ shortfalls, and as part of new director/CEO Charles Venable’s plan to minimize budgetary dependence on the museum’s endowment fund, which weathered considerable battle damage during the 2008 recession. I don’t envy the position in which Venable and his survivors now find themselves, though I’m a little bitter that they didn’t even try any of my awesome ideas before swinging the axe of doom.

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Tips for Running an Art Museum for Fun and Profit

Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which would make an awesome small-vehicle stunt-racing track. (Photo credit: Serge Melki via photopin cc)

In an era when taxpayers are overprotective of their disposable income and unappreciative of any art beyond the confines of their smartphone apps, I don’t envy the complicated role of the museum curator. Your purpose in society is to sort through millennia of art history, negotiate the opportunities to host the cream of the crop, settle for what’s available, and present the results to an audience that hopefully finds it all enlightening and engaging enough to leave behind some dollars on their way out. Best-case scenario: their donations and gift shop purchases are just enough to fund the next exhibit, cover the staff’s wages, and maybe even buy yourself a new tie.

Sadly, not all museums are enjoying the best of times today. Here in my hometown, our very own Indianapolis Museum of Art has struggled to recover after $89 million evaporated from their endowment in the 2008 recession. A recent Indianapolis Star interview with its new director, Charles Venable, revealed a few ideas the museum hopes to implement in order to recover lost ground, some of which have raised eyebrows of local patrons: a Matisse exhibit with a sizable surcharge (admission to IMA is normally free); late-night cocktail parties; and possibly an exotic car show. A few cost-cutting measures have already been taken, but financial stability can’t be achieved merely by clicking your heels three times and repeating the mantra, “Do more with less! Do more with less! Do more with less!” That way lies not wish fulfillment, but bankruptcy.

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2013 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts: From Best to Not-Best

Shawn Christensen, CurfewEach year since 2009 my wife and I have made a day-long date of visiting Keystone Art Cinema, the only dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not. A few of the past marathons have varied wildly in quality, but this year’s proved a superb bunch. To be honest, this is the first time in memory that I’ve preferred the live-action contenders to their animated colleagues.

Presented below are my rankings of this year’s five Live-Action Short Film nominees, from the most effective to the slightly flawed. None of these appear to be streaming online for free as the animated nominees are, but it’s my understanding they’re available on iTunes or on Video On Demand if your carrier offers the channel called Shorts HD (ours doesn’t). Links are provided to the most official-looking sites I could locate. Enjoy where possible!

Curfew: Writer/director/editor/star Shawn Christensen plays a deadbeat at the end of his rope, granted a fateful reprieve in the form of a phone call from his estranged sister, begging him for one night of babysitting the niece he hasn’t seen since infancy. The premise easily could’ve been expanded into a ninety-minute dumb-adult/smart-kid mismatch comedy starring Jason Bateman and a doomed child star. The tentative reunion, expectant life lessons, and mandatory cutesy musical number belie the sharp turns taken in the later scenes, when we learn more about the rift between siblings, and about how Mom spent her evening out. A charming, disturbing, sometimes intense drama about family, forgiveness, and our sad propensity for overlooking our importance to others who love and need us.

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2012 Road Trip Photos #26: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 2 of 2: Art of the Riverside

Previously on Day Six: While my son held down the fort back at our Pueblo hotel room, my wife and I spent a romantic evening strolling along the city’s Arkansas Riverwalk, which domesticated and decorated a stretch of the same bumpy river that we’d watched bubble and babble beneath the Royal Gorge Bridge mere hours and miles prior.

As with any well-executed riverwalk, art is a key contributor to quality of leisure. Clean sidewalks, neatly trimmed grass, and vivacious flower arrangements are to be expected, but artistic expressions are a much-appreciated means to enliven any pedestrian attraction. One of the key pieces along the Arkansas Riverwalk is Walks Among the Stars, a Lakota Sioux woman cast in bronze and clad in an actual quilt.

Walks Among the Stars, Arkansas Riverwalk

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