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Creative Reuse + Smart Design = Sexy!

Tonight at The Toby you can interact with two raconteurs who are also experts in zero-waste.  One is Timo Rissanen from Parsons School of Design, a sustainable fashion guru.  The other is innovator Michael Bricker from Indianapolis’ own People for Urban Progress. Timo, originally from Finland, is excited about coming to IMA and offers up his thoughts on zero-waste and plans for tonight’s discussion in a blog post on his website.

Consider this image:

If Americans throw 12 million tons of textiles each year into landfills, isn’t that a lot of free raw material for new design business up-start?  When can “trash” be turned into cash?

Leave your comments below or continue the conversation at tonight’s event where @imamuseum will be live tweeting. Follow #IMAtalks to catch some of the Twitter chatter or to propose your own question to the audience and presenters.


Q&A with Heather Henson (Progeny of the One-and-Only Jim)

Heather Henson

The IMA welcomes Heather Henson, President and Artistic Director of IBEX Puppetry and a crew of kite makers for aperformance in 100 Acres this weekend to mark the Spring EquinoxHeather and her comrades perform a puppet show in the sky – the story of a young crane.

IMA’s Facebook friends had a few questions for Heather.  Here is the interview, conducted yesterday while the kite makers practiced in the unseasonably hot sun.

Is there a theme or story behind your kite performance? And if so, how do you decide on the concepts?

This show [called Celebration of Flight] is about a young whooping crane learning to fly with a flock.  The whopping crane’s life cycle makes a good archetypal story. The show is about how birds fly with the season. Our concept was to find the dance in nature and represent that flow. You know, we’re at that point in time halfway between winter and summer, with a perfect balance between day and night. We’re in the middle of the country and the birds are flying back north. It’s a moment of crossing over.

Cranes mean a lot to me — I’m a board member for the International Crane Foundation.  Cranes are still endangered, but the numbers are back on the rise.  Humans have really stepped in to help the cranes.

Rehearsing for this weekend's performance.

What is your favorite performance that you have ever done?

We once did a show in a cathedral.  It’s great to work in scared spaces.  Though landscapes are also sacred for me.

Do you have a favorite puppet?

Whichever one I’m working on at the moment – unless I’m mad at it.  Right now it’s the adolescent crane puppet.

Do you prefer stage, cinema or gallery puppetry?  Why?

I prefer stage because that’s where the most magic can happen.  The perfection required for cinema is a challenge, and in a gallery you can see the craftsmanship of the puppetry up close.

Is it common for puppeteers to also do character voices?

Yes…but I don’t!  My dad loved to sing and I’m not a singer.  But most puppeteers certainly use their voices.

What is your favorite memory of your father, Jim Henson?

I remember that he’d be working so hard, and one of the first things he’d do when he got home was take me for a walk in the woods. We lived in Bedford, New York, which was near a wildlife refuge.  His love of nature was often reflected on The Muppet Show.  I remember the show where Linda Rondstadt guest-starred and sang Blue Bayou with a chorus of frog puppets.  My dad was born in Mississippi and he loved that style of music and the countryside.

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The Oldest Art

Recently at The Toby we hosted a talk by an expert on beads named Lois Sherr Dubin. Referencing the Native American art, Nigerian art, and fashion art on display at IMA right now, she led us on a mind-bending trip through time and place, reflecting on these diminutive glass, ceramic or bone doo-dads that humans have endowed with the power to signify social status, connect to the spirits, and more. The earliest known beads, made from seashells, date back to 100,000 BC.

What about the earliest-known drawings? They exist in a cave in France, and are believed to be more than 30,000 years old. The newest film by documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog (of Grizzly Man fame) is a journey into the Chauvet Cave, and a reflection on the profound urge to represent reality—with pigment on a surface.

image courtesy IFC films.

Egged on by Herzog’s rapturous narration, the film’s camera washes over the cave paintings with lavish attention. Beasts of all sizes are depicted. Charcoal brush strokes capture the grace and strength of a horse in motion. Footprints hint at rites of passage and perilous journeys. The film is immersive; the drawings are ghostly, and yet so there. (Read reviews of the film here).

Cave of Forgotten Dreams premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. I saw it at the 2011 South by Southwest film festival and fell in love.

You can see it here at the Indianapolis Museum of Art any of four times between Christmas and New Years. Use it as an excuse to get out of the house and get a fat dose of profundity.


Liquid U.

Katherine Ball, intrepid resident of Indianapolis Island, wants you.  Come and learn from your fellow citizens—including those who are extra funny, such as Indy Fringe favorite Phil Van Hest— about new ways of thinking about water this Friday night, Sept. 16, at Big Car’s Service Center for Contemporary Culture and Community in Lafayette Square:

Katherine’s calling this free gathering Public Social University (PSU).  It’s a concept borrowed from friends in Portland, Oregon, from whence she hails.  PSU puts a unique twist on learning by combining it with other (often seemingly unrelated) subjects, encouraging non-experts to speak about their experiences, and adding a playful energy.

Learning from non-experts.  How refreshing is that?   This Friday, the poetry, history, reality, and politics of water will abound. Check the flyer above for the workshops being presented, or download your very own copy and please share it with others.

Bonus: come to PSU, and you will also see a watery art & design show: ten designers’ responses to the shapes and patterns of the White River watershed.

Want to reduce your carbon footprint while attending Public Social University?  Meet Katherine and other avid cyclists to bike over to the Service Center.  They’ll be convening at Freewheelin’ Community Bikes’ new workshop, 3355 N. Central Ave., at 5:30 pm.

See you Friday.  If you’re craving more aqueous-ness, don’t forget the FLOW project and its multitude of events…


Design for Social Impact

Designer Emily Pilloton is the most practical of prophets: her life’s work is to engage people with the transformative power of design.  First she founded Project H Design: “design initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health, and Happiness.”  Then she worked in the developing world making products to improve the quality of life.  Now, having traversed the US evangelizing about design, given a TED talk, and written a book, Pilloton’s latest effort is no less than redesigning public education and thereby reviving a struggling southern community.

Pilloton speaks this Thursday as part of the IMA’s Planet Indy series.  Here, she muses on a few questions in advance of her visit:

Q: What have you learned about the relationship between thoughtful design and the solving of large social problems?

We have learned that thoughtful design can address large social problems, but works best on a small scale. Instead of saying “how can design solve homelessness?” we’ve found that the best design initiatives are actually micro-local, that they address things on a very small scale for a defined group of people in our own backyards, and these solutions can serve as models for others to do the same in their own backyards. One million people with one design solution each will always be better than one person’s solution for one million people.

Q: In 2010, you toured the country in an Airstream trailer engaging with people about design.  What did you learn from that experience?

We learned a lot about how misunderstood design is among the general public, and how disconnected that is from the desire of the next generation to do good. People viewed examples of brilliant humanitarian design as “inventions,” or “the next million dollar idea,” rather than the result of a human-centered process that really does have impact. Students, on the other hand, took to the road show naturally, seeing the power that creativity can have on everyday lives. On a more practical note, we learned that two people and a dog, for 75 days in a confined space with no water or kitchen, is not a fun way to live. But we definitely have some good stories.

Q: As a designer and educator, what are you up to right now in Bertie County, North Carolina?  And why did you choose to take your energy to a rural community?

My partner Matthew Miller and I both have resumes that say we’re designers/builders, and the day-to-day schedules of high school shop teachers. We teach our Studio H curriculum within the public high school, offering students one year (two semesters + summer build) intensive design and construction education, put towards big built community architecture projects. We love working in a rural place like Bertie County because the impact we can have is exponential. There is such a need to do things differently, and to break the instinct to do the same things done in the same ways since the 1800’s. Design is an opportunity to shift the ways in which we view the future of Bertie County, or any place labeled economically challenged or resource-poor.

Pilloton’s talk at the IMA is also part of the fascinating IndyTalks series.  The post-talk Q&A period will be focused on Indianapolis specifically: how can design thinking make this city a better place to work, learn and live?


About Anne

Job Title: Assistant Director of Public Programs

Interests: Poetry, cinema, environmental activism, the Chicago Bears, hoboism

Favorite Movies: GoodFellas, The Big Lebowski, Touch of Evil, Killer of Sheep (newest favorite)

Favorite Music: Throaty female singers from the 70s (Joplin, Nicks, Ronstadt, Raitt)

Favorite Food: Homemade ravioli

Pets: Byron, a fat gray cat that my mom now houses since I got married and my husband's allergic

Something you should know about me: I'm more rebellious than I appear

Anne has written 39 articles for us.