Guest Post by Wendy Lee Spacek
Greetings from INDPLS, new friends!
Caroline and I saw one another a few weeks back at a poetry reading I gave at Heavy Gel in Chicago. I gushed about life in Indianapolis to her, so she asked me to send a monthly dispatch from the Circle City all summer long, and I’m delighted to do so. You may be thinking: INDIANAPOLIS?!?! WHERE IS IT? WHAT IS IT? You may even be thinking “more like, IndianaNOPLACE!” and I assure you, many a naysayer has said that (including our own Native Son, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.)
But let me relay to you a tale of a place that has touched me deep down in my soul like not so many things can. For a number who live here, Indy is the most magical Midwestern city; Steeped in possibility, affordable, walkable, bike-able, jam-packed with public art and home to some seriously nice people.
Indianapolis is the 12th most populous city in the United States (sandwiched between #11 Jacksonville, FLA and #12 San Francisco.) As of today our population is approximately 834,852.
Indianapolis is the state capitol of Indiana. The capitol used to be in Corydon (pop. 3,122) but in 1820 some powerful dudes decided to move it to the very center (almost) of Indiana. In part because most capitols are located in the center of their states and partially because they mistakenly believed that the White River could be used as a highway for boats. Well they were wrong- Indianapolis is the largest city in the United States on a non navigable body of water.
Being our capitol city, downtown is the center of government, so we have a high density of beautiful, historic government buildings, memorials and monuments.
Speaking of these beautiful, historic government buildings, this May First Friday (the night out for art here in Indy) brought a once-in-a-blue-moon, one-night-only opportunity to enter the former City Hall building on Alabama Street for an exhibition of work by 47 current, former or graduating students from Herron School of Art and Design. Aptly named VACANT, the exhibit took inspiration from the wildly successful TURF exhibition held in the space during Indy’s moment in the spotlight: Super Bowl XLVI.
The show was curated by graduation Herron Seniors Taryn Cassella, Anna Martinez and Andrea Townsend. Where TURF was an exhibition of installation art, VACANT included work across mediums. I especially enjoyed Jordan Ryan’s section off the main library detailing the history of the building. A good review with some pictures from the exhibition an be seen on Indy’s weekly arts newspaper, Nuvo’s website.
Vacant Old City Hall Building. Image via Historic Indianapolis.
Jon Keown’s artwork in VACANT. Imagine via Nuvo.net.
This is actually one of the most exciting things I’ve seen lately. The paintings themselves demonstrate a super high level of skill, extremely tight and in an incredible array of colors. The addition of Chromadepth 3D glasses was almost too much to take. I spent at least an hour circling through the gallery taking in florescent anthropomorphized fast food and dancing psychedelic popsicles popping out at me. It was a visual treat. Plus, Tripper was there and his whole outfit was in Chromadepth and he was a really nice guy.
Images via Monster Gallery
The very next day brought the long-anticipated opening of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (an 8 mile bike & pedestrian path that connects the city’s seven designated cultural districts.) It was an all-day event that featured tons of free activities along the entire trail. A sampling of what I saw/did: petted an albino skunk, talked to a miniature therapy horse, saw a knit bombed house, and saw live performances by 9 marching bands! The marching bands were my favorite part because of their historical context in celebrations/mourning, as well as their significance for youth. Six high school bands converged on Market St. downtown with the sole purpose of playing “Get Down on It” by Kool & The Gang.
High School Marching Bands converging on Market St.
John Marshall Community High School’s drum line playing “FREAK THAT” on closed down Market St. Downtown.
A contemporary twist came through the addition of a free performance on the ground/steps of the Central Library by Chicago’s own Mucca Pazza as well as a Brazilian-style party parade down the trail led by Bloomington’s Jefferson St. Parade Band.
Mucca Pazza performing in front of the American Legion Mall
Late in the month brought the Broad Ripple Art Fair a fundraiser for the Indianapolis Art Center, (my place of employment) which included 225 local, regional and national artists. My participation was working the Make Art Take Art Leave Art Market where people could make and trade art for free!
I also hosted a poetry reading at Indy Read Books, our only independent bookstore within the downtown area. Here is a Vine from local Poet Doug Manuel’s reading.
My friends and I also painted this mural (on the sly?) on an electric box in our neighborhood:
And lastly at the end of every month the Indianapolis Museum of Art hosts an free event called Final Friday and I typically find myself there. The music is curated by DJ Kyle Long of Cultural Cannibals and features both a DJ set by him and a live performer or band. This month was a Pakistani via Brooklyn garage band called The Kominas. Overall it was a good event. Although I did get in trouble for trying to dance with a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
The Kominas playing at the IMA
Ai Weiwei’s Installation “He Xie”
Kyle Long DJing in front of Robert Irwin’s, Light and Space III, 2008.
Until next month!
Wendy Lee Spacek is a poet who lives and works in Indianapolis, Indiana. She likes her city very much. She is a core volunteer of the Indianapolis Publishing Cooperative (Indy Pub Co-Op), publishes small editions of handmade books under the name Soft River and is an arts administrator at the Indianapolis Art Center. She will be posting monthly all summer long about her encounters with art, culture, creative experiences and resources in her city.
It is Sunday all over again and the world is a flutter with mother’s day sensation. The plethora of touching mother/child photographs everyone is posting on facebook, the emails, the phone calls, magazine covers and television advertisements. Even the florist in your grocery store has likely been staffed and stocked to the brim. The week’s content seems to resonate with this day, reflecting as it does on the easily overlooked but essential elements of every day life: community, loss, courage, house plants, children in museums, life on other planets, success stories, and why it might be alright to be a vulture after all.
We lost a dear colleague this month —
“A pioneer in green architecture and sustainable development, Kevin Kurtz Pierce, 55, of Chicago, IL, passed away May, 2, 2013, following a “lengthy argument,” as he drily referred to it, with glioblastoma multiforme. For the past 15 years Pierce specialized in sustainable design. Memorable projects include the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the city’s flagship green building and the first U.S. municipal structure to be certified “Platinum” by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Additional award-winning structures include Bethel Center and the Chicago headquarters of Christy Webber Landscapes.”
Perhaps the only way to answer absence is through bravery and (a perhaps impossible) trust. Anthony Romero happened to post the very next day about courage :
“I don’t know how to be courageous. I don’t think that I am now but I know, at least I feel, that I must be in order to make it through this moment. Recent months have seen us, as Americans, wrestling with the baseline hatred and oppression that we had so naively believed we had moved beyond, a desire we know now to be a desperate fantasy. I believe Cornel West to be true when he tells us that courage will lead us to other virtues, other strengths that might enable us to not only make it through our time but to imagine a real alternative, a utopian dream no farther than our beds. What I mean to describe here is not a kind of free imagination but, as Žižek has described, “a matter of the innermost urgency”, an imagined alternative to a situation whose solution is so far outside the coordinates of the possible that one is forced to imagine an alternative space.”
New post on PLANTS! from our new guest contributor, Faye Kahn:
“The houseplant’s original intention was for the interior decorator, whose profession hinges on the art of arrangement. Houseplants usually function as decoration in the home to soften our transition from nature to domestic space. It freshens the air, appeals to our aesthetic senses, & reminds us of idealized places we aren’t (outside). This relationship to interior decorating is recognized by many plant-wielding artists, including & exemplified by Claire Fontaine in her Interior Design for Bastards show (2009) whose statement immediately admits its awareness of ’[t]he close and ambiguous relationship between art and decoration.’”
Are you interested in more plant convos? Because two more (no doubt of thousands that I am missing) come to mind 1) a great list of indoor houseplant art examples by Corinna Kirsch, and 2) an interview with Claudine Ise and Chicago’s own house plant photographer/sculptor Heidi Norton. Conclusion? Plants Are Trending and Kahn wants to know why.
Jeffrey Songco sends word from California by way of a great interview with S. Christopher Kardambikis:
“There are about nine people in the world who can pull off a Clark Kent outfit – you know, the button-down business shirt that is unbuttoned to reveal a giant S. Christopher Kardambikis is one of those people. The Superman reference can point to a number of things: Christopher’s dashing good looks, his nerd-level interest in comics, and/or his weakness to Kryptonite.”
Eric Asboe talks about the free day at the Walker Art Museum, May Day Parades, and Puppet Theaters in his post “Young At Heart: One View of the Twin Cities”:
Every first Saturday of the month, admission is free to the Walker Art Center with family oriented activities throughout the day. The activities not only make use of multiple areas of the museum, they are inspired by and derive from major exhibitions on view in the galleries. This month’s Free First Saturday, Some Assembly Required, was inspired by Abraham Cruzvillegas’s exhibition The Autoconstrucción Suites, which explores assemblage, local, found materials, and “self-construction,” utilizing “improvised building materials and techniques” when “materials become available and necessity dictates.” Artist Eric Syvertson guided children through making bird’s-eye views of their ideal landscapes, the maps of their ultimately functional worlds. Children were also invited to continue building and adding to the autoconstrucción begun by the Walker Teen Art Council. The changing, expanding structure juxtaposed the teens’ collages with children’s drawings and minimalist inspired tape paintings. In the most living of the autoconstruccións at the Walker, the structure became a new space of creation with the entrance of each child. The works they left behind continued to shape the space into which others entered and altered for their own needs.
And here I am going to circle back around to the beginning of the week — because I want to end on the comic that Jeriah Hildwine included. Last Monday, Hildwine reflected on the meaning of community in the art world, suggesting we might learn something from Vampire bats:
So what, then, does the concept of community really mean within the context of the art world? The answers that spring to mind come in the form of analogies: the art world as ecosystem, the art world as family, the art world as neighborhood. Any of these metaphors can provide insight into the nature and structure of a subculture, but they can also be misleading, as well as potentially offensive and therefore divisive: the vulture is an invaluable part of the ecosystems it inhabits, but few would want to be called the vultures of the art world.
February 14, 2011 · Print This Article
Which museum job is the hardest? It’s a question that can be endlessly debated; for my part, I’ve always thought that museum guards have a pretty tough go of it. Guards always have to be the bad guy, telling people to step back from the painted white line, put away that camera, back up from that sculpture. And if an artwork gets damaged, who do you think is on the front line of blame? Yep, the older woman in uniform who requested a wooden stool to sit on during non-peak traffic hours. What a lot of people tend to forget — or don’t realize in the first place — is that many museum guards are also practicing artists who are as keenly invested in the works on the walls as are museum patrons and institutional staff. Robert Ryman worked as a vacation relief guard at MoMA. Numerous other artists, famous and not, have served their time guarding the objects that give white cubes their meaning. For about a year now the magazine SW!PE has focused on work by New York-area visual artists, writers and performers who were, or still are, working as museum guards in New York at the time their work was made. From SW!PE’s mission statement:
This magazine exists to disseminate and exhibit the artistic output of workers, in turn exposing the dignity, humanity, and brilliance of these works and the people who created them. It is both a celebration and a battle cry, not only of the artists showcased inside, but for all workers.
Guards Matter not only calls attention to the simple fact that the guards (workers) matter, but that the matter they produce is important. It was in this grand tradition that SW!PE was created. We hope for it to act as encouragement and at the same time, a platform, for a very special group of artists to be seen, but more importantly – heard.
Starting with their fourth issue, due out in early 2012, SW!PE will expand its scope to accept submissions from people employed as museum guards all across the US. Submission guidelines can be found here. The one thing I did note with this magazine is that the artists included are predominantly male. I’m assuming that’s simply because there are more male-artist-museum guards out there than female ones? Though I don’t know why that should be.
Related: Check out this article from the Los Angeles Times from last January – it discusses a special radio documentary made by Portuguese broadcaster Sofia Saldhana called “The Sleeping Fool” produced for local NPR station KCRW. The Sleeping Fool offers glimpses into the various thoughts that drift through the heads of museum guards while on duty; it won the best new artist award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival last year. You can listen to “The Sleeping Fool” here.
Also: Esopus has an ongoing series in its magazine (all print issues) called “Guarded Opinions” in which a museum guard is invited to give his or her impression of the art they oversee. (Here’s where issues of Esopus are sold; in Chicago, it’s available at Quimby’s, The Art Institute, and a bunch of other places).
And finally: An artist’s book by the late conceptual artist Don Celender –known for his interviews with filmmakers, prison wardens, religious leaders and labor figures about the art they like — titled Observations, protestations and lamentations of museum guards throughout the world; it’s hard to find, but you can hear a podcast discussion of the book produced by The Art Gallery of Knoxville by clicking here. (Celender is #10 on the list).
I’m fascinated (alas, only from afar) by the Louvre’s Special Guest program and in particular with its use of acclaimed novelists as guest curators. (I’ve posted on this program before, here). The Louvre has featured Toni Morrison in this capacity in the past; right now, the novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco is unveiling a series of exhibitions and other programs relating to the topic of “The Infinity of Lists” which draws upon his book The Vertigo of the List. This, along with an email from one of our readers (hi Elizabeth!), has got me thinking about the relationship between books and museum exhibitions – and in particular about what happens when novels are the inspiration for museum exhibitions – or even for museums themselves. Read more
Here’s what’s got my attention, web-wise, so far this week:
*San Diego Museum of Art director Derrick R. Cartwright appointed director of the Seattle Art Museum.
*Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno hopes to initiate massive fundraising drive for free Museum admission.
*No Boys Allowed: yearlong exhibition at the Pompidou Center is for women-only.
*Scope Basil is only three weeks ago away, and still ‘aint got no permit.
*”I spent a year asking why the contemporary art bubble was the biggest, bubbliest bubble of them all”: Ben Lewis’ The Great Contemporary Art Bubble preview clip on YouTube ( ART21′s Ben Street has a funny post on the film too).
*Speaking of Twitter, it could be coming to a t.v. near you.
*Beautiful/Decay needs YOU to help pick the theme for its next limited-edition publication. Winner gets a copy of the book. For free!