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Roll Out the Barrel

I have a real love/hate relationship with water…curious for someone whose body is about 60% water! Two years ago a groundhog family (unbeknownst to me) took up residence beneath my front porch. Their digging re-routed rainwater toward my home’s foundation causing extensive damage and ultimately necessitated a new foundation, a French drain, and the re-building of my porch…$$$!

Now I’m obsessed with keeping excess water away from my home, and coupled with a heightened awareness of environmental issues, I have fast-forwarded to rain barrels. Previously the only thing I knew about rain barrels was a song I was taught as a child:

I have since learned there is WAY more to rain barrels than I had previously thought! Water is such a basic need that it’s not surprising humans have been devising methods of collecting it since ancient times. The Valens aqueduct brought water from surrounding hillsides to the medieval city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) to be stored in reservoirs and giant underground cisterns like Yerebatan Sarayi, pictured here:

In the desert, ancient Egyptians dug a network of underground cisterns that collected rainwater. Over these cisterns, Egyptian armies built fortresses that were almost impervious to enemy invasion. Clearly, collecting and recycling water is not a new concept.  As scientists began to understand the need for good sanitation and indoor plumbing became more available, older methods of water collection lost their popularity. The collected water was too contaminated. Today, we are vitally aware of the need to be good stewards of this precious resource!

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Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, Musings


Dial-ing In: Target Audience

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is filled with amazing pieces of work. I know that because I’ve been here, a lot. In fact, a lot of people who have never been to the IMA know it’s filled with amazing works. Our challenge isn’t convincing the public there is art here; it’s convincing people there is art relevant to them here.

Meg Liffick is the Assistant Director of Public Affairs here at the IMA. Meg and her team tightrope a difficult role between the curator and the museum-goer. The curator, as I understand it, is the head-of-household in the gallery and the coming/going/hopefully staying artwork is his or her children. It’s the curator’s job to know the artwork inside and out. It’s Meg’s and her teammates’ job to translate that expertise to a viewer who doesn’t know anything about the artwork or any artwork for that matter.

So how do they do it? How can someone be motivated to come to an art museum? Well, they have a few tricks up their sleeve.  Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial is our most recent exhibition/huge marketing undertaking. Dial is an extremely bold artist. You won’t find political, social or historical commentary listed as any of the many materials Dial employs in his art, but they’re there. Because Dial’s work embodies such strong emotions, it’s the very kind of art some people are afraid of. It can make you uncomfortable—not because it’s vulgar or offensive–but because you might not know how to feel at first. We’re used to the art of the snap judgment, not the art of the deeply expressive Alabama welder.

Thornton Dial. Photograph by David Raccuglia.

All of our marketing materials (brochures, posters, radio spots, etc.) are designed here. “We do everything in-house. Everything.  That’s what’s special about the IMA—we all collaborate, no one does anything alone.” says Meg.

The marketing around the city for Hard Truths pushes the story or experience of the exhibition and Dial, himself. Meg explains, “Once they’re on-site we allow people to form their own perspective, but we need to give people a reason to come initially.  We wanted to communicate that these works were largely 3-D.”

"Stars of Everything," 2004, 98 × 101. 1/2 × 20. 1/2 in., Collection of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

The people involved with the IMA’s marketing have to create a way to honor and advertise the art, however, most –  if not all of them – don’t have formal art history training. Meg explains, “We don’t have art backgrounds, but we can communicate passion.” This exhibit is a completely different experience; one that not everyone would jump at initially. But it’s still relevant. It’s important to have some surprises in life, to (as our radio spots encourage) “Be amazed.” “Be inspired.”  I think Meg says it best, “Museums are here to fulfill the need that you have of finding spirituality, creativity and inspiration.”

Filed under: Art, Exhibitions, IMA Staff, Marketing, Thornton Dial


The F-Stops Here: A New Photo Policy for the IMA

Next Tuesday, March 1st, the IMA officially adopts its new Photography Policy for the entire Museum campus, including 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens, and Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. This new policy comes out of a need to further protect the works of art in the collection and avoid any potential infringements of copyright laws. As a general rule of thumb, visitors and professional photographers will be able to identify the areas/pieces that cannot be photographed by looking for this symbol:

As some of you may recall having read on the IMA’s Blog last year in Picture This by Tad Fruits, the season of “peak shutterbug activity” will quickly be upon us. We would like to take this opportunity to inform and educate those who want to bring their families, friends, or clients for their next photo shoot to the IMA grounds.

For the general visitor to the IMA very little is changing. We simply ask that you remain cognizant of your surroundings – both the artworks and other visitors. You may photograph for your private use, which includes sharing images with your family and friends through social media sites like Facebook and Flickr.

We ask that all visitors, professional photographers, and guests do not walk in any plant beds or climb upon any of the sculptures. We want the grounds to be as beautiful in October as they are in April. This request is as much for your safety as it is for the safety, longevity, and conservation of the artworks at the IMA.

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Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Photography


The Chase

This post was co-authored by Rebecca Long, Curatorial Assistant for European Painting and Sculpture to 1945, and Petra Slinkard, Curatorial Associate of Textile and Fashion Arts/European Painting and Sculpture to 1945.

Emilio Pucci, scarf, "La Caccia," 1959. Gift of Murph Damron (2009.26)

Fashion designer and Italian aristocrat, Emilio Pucci is perhaps best known for his brilliant, sinuous prints. Inspired first by the atmosphere on the Island of Capri, Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento (1914-1992) began designing clothing for women in 1949, opening a small shop a few years later. Preoccupied with the absurd constraints popular clothing of the time imposed on women; he re-conceptualized menswear for women, as resort wear. Loose fitting shift dresses, palazzo pants and blouses, created out of luxurious hand-painted silks. The instantly recognizable Pucci brand was highly sought after for much of the 1950s and 1960s.

Emilio regularly looked to his heritage for inspiration; his ancestry can be traced back to both Lorenzo de Medici and Catherine the Great.  “Possibly the greatest misconception about Emilio Pucci is that the prints that made the brand famous are abstract. In fact, they are drawings, often simply inspired by objects, or Pucci’s home surroundings…” (Pucci: Fashion Story, 2010, pg. 107)

Considered a Renaissance man by many , he was “… fascinated by his roots, and art and architecture; you can actually see it in his work. On my honeymoon in Capri in 1953, I remember going to his shop and being struck by how much the designs resembled Florentine mosaics. It was really extraordinary, although I don’t think a lot of people realized it.” –Rosita Missoni (Pucci: Fashion Story, 2010, pg. 42)

In 2009, the IMA acquired a silk scarf by Emilio Pucci, titled La Caccia or The Chase from his Botticelliana Collection, 1959.  The motif for the scarf is inspired by the Stories of Nastagio degli Onesti by Sandro Botticelli.

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Filed under: Art, Textile & Fashion, The Collection



Our guest blogger today is film historian Eric Grayson.

Detour (1945), tonight’s Winter Nights film, comes from a little independent studio despised for its cheap pictures.  The studio, PRC, was said to be an acronym for “Putrid, Rotten Crud.”  (Well, it wasn’t actually “crud,” but you get the idea!) This moniker was so pervasive that today, when a PRC movie is recovered, we often find that this phrase has been marked on the film can by an unhappy projectionist.  Why then would the IMA choose to show a film from such a studio?

The answer is simple. Detour (1945) is an exception to the rule.  Director Edgar G. Ulmer never let a tiny budget hamper him.  Like many film noir directors, Ulmer had a background that stretched back into the German Expressionist era in the 1920s.  The Black Cat (1934) was his first major American film as director, and it was made at a time when Universal was strapped for cash.  Rather than shoot it as a traditional horror film in a drippy castle, with expensive sets, Ulmer rewrote the movie to take place in an ultra-modern fortress, with spartan interiors that cost little to make.  The film was a hit, and Ulmer seemed on his way as a top director.

Shortly afterward, Ulmer met his future wife Shirley, who was married to producer Max Alexander, nephew of studio boss Carl Laemmle.  Shirley and Max divorced, she married Ulmer, and the new couple were banned from the Universal lot.  Ulmer’s career was over before it had really begun.  He was banished to small studios for many years, where his talent for stretching a dollar was tested every day, especially at bottom-of-the-barrel PRC.

PRC specialized in westerns and cheap horror films.  At the time, theaters would pay a flat fee for a movie that could play in the bottom half of a double feature.  If PRC could make a movie for less than that fee, then it was profitable before it ever played in theaters.  Their profits went up as the film budgets went down.  Who cared if it was any good?

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Filed under: Film, Public Programs, The Toby


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