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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