Max Anderson, the Indy years. Your thoughts?

October 21, 2011
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Yesterday's news that Indianapolis Museum of Art CEA Maxwell Anderson is leaving for Dallas has the arts world buzzing. No matter what you think of him, you can't deny that things have changed dramatically for the IMA since Anderson came to town five and a half years ago.

So chime in. What are your thoughts on the best and worst of the Anderson years? What will be his legacy?

(And, just asking, why didn't any Indy theater company stage one of his grandfather's plays while he was here?)

Your thoughts?

  • Max
    First of all best wishes to Max Anderson and his wife and children. I didn't agree with many of the decisions made at the IMA. I feel the board of trustees should have stepped up to the plate and raised the money for some of Max Anderson;'s more controversial decisions or abandoned or delayed some of his and their plans. Time will tell whether many of the problems during his tenure was due to the character of the IMA board or Max. I tend to think that Max was overly dictatorial and the board was and is too enamored with some of the changes at the IMA to realize that most people who are a part of the museum basically have no faith in the decision making anymore. Yes the endowment spending had to be cut, but the board shouldn't have allowed spending to get so out of hand on projects. The parking issue now seems like another mess that is developing. Why, because the administration was so adamant that the museum admission be free that they had no choice but to charge for parking.I dont think anyone in the museum will miss the stresses of working at the museum under Max, but these stresses won't resolve if the board of trustees remains arrogant about how they lacked the guts to do their job of oversight during his tenure. Just an opinion.
    • Good comment
      I thought your comments were very observant and thoughtful.
    • Plays
      I don't think anyone would have gotten the connection. Looking over the list of plays the only candidates would have been "Bad Seed" or "Anne of A Thousand Days" (neither of which is a comedy). I didn't even know "Key Largo" was a play. Most of these were also written for a different time and an audience. Good point though.
    • Why no Anderson plays?
      There was a time when Mr. Anderson's plays would attract audiences, but most dramas of his era don't draw at the box office.

      I suspect Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre might have staged a Maxwell Anderson play at some point, had they not lost their 30-year home in IMA's Showalter Pavillion during the tenures of former IMA directors, Bret Waller and Tony Hirschel.
    • IMA Supporter
      I do think the board members, and they know who they are, need to raise the money immediately to fully fund the department of design arts and do what can be done to make sure that this project is completed. We now have a gallery that takes up a large part of a floor that needs to be completed well to be successful. Raising money for support of this needs to be done. It is probable that the curator is gone with this news, but maybe not if action is quickly taken and he knows he has museum support. A lot has been put at stake in this project and it needs to get done. Hopefully some traditional supporters of the museum will return now that they feel more welcome.
    • Better not Bitter
      It’s always disheartening when high-profile Indy leaders jump ship. It makes you wonder if that was their plan all along. I’m also thinking of ICVA’s Don Welsh who surprised a lot of people when he went to Chicago, one of our biggest tourism competitors, after only a couple of years at the Indy helm. At least Max stayed longer, albeit only 5 years. There are so many variables that can lure great leaders away: bigger salaries, warmer weather, family ties, etc. We can't control those. But we can control how we respond. Better not bitter!
    • Snow job
      Anderson did not raise the money needed for many, if not all, of his "visionary" projects. His legacy will be that he wildly overspent and ran a dictatorship.
      All similar to his leadership at the Whitney, but the difference is that that board fired him while the IMA board called him a thoroughbred.
    • He did do some things right
      I think Sacred Spain was an excellent show and it was free. The cafeteria is certainly run better than it was under Puck. There were certainly some other highlights. Miller House and so on. Would have liked to see a big big acquisition in European or American art but these happen when they happen. Most occurred under Bret Waller. I am just trying to be objective.
    • A Fan
      I, along with most of the local populace, was not privy to either the Board room politics or the financial statements. But I thought that Mr. Anderson brought a great deal of energy and life and creativity to the IMA and think that increasing access to the musuem has a lot to do with relevance to the community. So, sorry to see him leave.

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