2012 Forty Under 40: Michael Kaufmann

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Michael Kaufmann
Where were you, and what were you doing in 1991?
In the winter I was a freshman getting destroyed on the San Pasqual varsity wrestling team because I was the only kid for the 103 pounds slot, doing everything to stay off of my back. Then in the spring I was on a youth mission trip in Moscow on Easter week, watching tanks roll into the city by the hundreds and the economy crumble in the span of 48 hours. That summer I was my Steinbeckian moment, working the pear harvest in North California and growing five inches taller.

When you graduated from high school, what did you think you wanted to be as an adult?
A non-conformist.

Was there an event in the last 20 years that had a great impact on your aspirations and/or career path?
The birth of my sons, Moses and Atlas. They and their mother keep me anchored to the reality that is outside of myself. Their strength, sweetness and love for play is a constant and gracious reminder to make sure you add a few dance moves into your steps.

Have you been mentored by (or had any significant interactions with) previous Forty Under 40 honorees?
I am especially grateful to Brian Payne, Tamara Zahn, Keira Amstutz and Jane Henegar, who helped me make a transition from my working in the city to working for the city (in the civic sense). I am also grateful for Molly Chavers and Trevor Belden and the rest of IndyHub for its great work in weaving folks into the social and civic fabric of Indianapolis. I also now have the privilege to work under Matt Gutwein’s visionary, strategic and passionate leadership.

Where/what do you want to be 20 years from now?
I want to be here in Indianapolis riding my bike and mass transit through dense, healthy, mixed-income neighborhoods, with walkable streets, transformed public education, a comprehensively connected greenway system, indigenous retail, complete with not only best practice but innovative ecologically restorative infrastructure and architecture.
I want to buy my groceries from a locally owned corner store selling chemical-free urban or urban-proximity produce. I want to take in culture not only from our large institutions offering simultaneously cutting edge, relevant and historically significant exhibitions and programming, but also from sometimes-messy, do-it-together grassroots arts organizations making it up as they go along. I want to live in a city that welcomes people of all shades and varieties and offers them opportunities to invent, create and grow. I want to be part of the team that helps realize this vision.


Director of special projects and civic investment, Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County
Age: 36

Michael Kaufmann thrives on collaboration. His involvement in several key art and civic organizations made him a natural choice for his work as director of special projects and civic investment for the Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County.

Kaufmann describes his job this way: “I convene, I collect, I catalyze and I concept.”

On the job since February 2011, Kaufmann, who has an art degree from Bucknell University, has been working with architects and consultants to determine how Wishard Hospital’s collection of nearly century-old art by Indiana masters will be used in the new hospital under construction.

“We thought it was important to bring art along, and also acknowledge how it’s changed,” he said, noting that some new art will also be displayed in the new hospital. He also programs the hospital’s public arts program.

Kaufmann is also involved in the hospital’s urban gardening efforts, such as the Wishard Slow Food Garden at White River State Park and a voucher program that allows people on food stamps to buy fresh produce at the winter farmer’s market.

His job is also about forming partnerships between Health and Hospital Corp. and other organizations. Kaufmann, who moved to Indianapolis seven years ago from Escondido, Calif., finds a lot of overlap between his work and outside activities. He is on the advisory board for the Spirit & Place Festival, the board of IndyHub, and worked with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Music Crossroads to bring together 20 innovative music presenters for a symposium in August 2011.

Before coming to the Midwest, he played in a band and installed art in Olympia, Wash.; was a label developer for Asthmatic Kitty Records, which records Sufjan Stevens; and worked for the New York Public Library as a film archivist.

He and his wife, musician Liz Janes, have two sons, ages 4 and 6.

“I think it’s a really exciting time to be living here,” said Kaufmann.•


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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...