Efroymson back at IMOCA

May 30, 2009
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I'll take a break from my NYC dispatches so that IBJ reporter Kathleen McLaughlin can offer this report.

Philanthropist Jeremy Efroymson has a rather unorthodox plan for leading the contemporary art venue that he co-founded out of financial straits.

Efroymson will become executive director of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, or iMoCA, the organization announced Friday. He will work for free while implementing his strategy of using freelance curators.

“It is a fairly unique scenario,” co-founder Stephen Schaf said. “We’ve always kind of don things differently at iMoCA.”

The freelance curators will replace iMoCA staff curator Christopher West. His last day was Friday.

Schaf admitted that iMoCA is struggling to make ends meet. He said the board of directors discussed folding, but Efroymson, who is not currently on the board, stepped forward. “Some people think it takes somebody throwing half a million dollars at museum,” he said. “It takes so much more than that.”

Efroymson has been a key financial supporter, as well as visionary. For the past three years, he underwrote the salary of former executive director Kathy Nagler, Schaf said.

Nagler departed recently to help the Indianapolis Museum of Art with fund-raising. Schaf said iMoCA didn’t have the money to support her position after July 1. The museum, which has galleries at 340 N. Senate Ave., has one other paid staff person.

The museum tends to receive grants for specific shows, but has not been able to raise enough operating revenue, Schaf said. “No one wants to give us money to pay for equipment. No one wants to give us money to pay for technology. No one wants to give us money to pay for salaries.”

The new strategy is an attempt to capitalize on the grant-making trend. Schaf said curatorial expenses will be built into the budgets for specific exhibitions. He added that West will curate an exhibit running in conjunction with the August Gen Con convention, as well as an architecture show in the spring.

Schaf declined to talk about iMoCA’s finances because he said they’re under review for the upcoming fiscal year. The most recent available financial statement filed with the Internal Revenue Service is from 2006 and shows iMoCA with revenue of about $104,000.

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  • Dear Readers,

    The above blog posts contains an error about the extent of Jeremy Efroymson's financial support for the executive director position at iMOCA. Katherine Nagler, who recently left the position, informs us that Efroymson made a salary grant for two years, not three.

    We'll update the blog post soon. (I don't have access to the magical blogware.)

    -- Kathleen
  • This is astounding news about IMOCA! This museum, I have found, confuses a GREAT number of people... unfortunately. Looking forward to the future ideas!

    Maybe... if the people who are actually interested in the arts, understood the financial specifics... then there would be more support. I get involved with the arts on a 'low budget', donating time & artwork, networking, and talking up the arts in Indiana.

    Artists and Patrons/Sponsors would be wise to work together!

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