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LOU'S VIEWS: Old favorites still satisfy

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Lou Harry

It’s so easy, when writing about arts and entertainment, to get completely caught up in what’s new.

But while temporary exhibitions, visiting artists and limited-time-only offerings are a big part of what makes a vibrant cultural scene, focusing entirely there ignores a lot that’s of lasting value here.

So this week, rather than review something new, I thought I’d highlight some of the long-term residents of Indy-area museums and attractions from the Indianapolis Museum of Art to the Indianapolis Zoo.
 

Walrus at the Indianapolis Zoo Aurora the Walrus is a must-see at the Indianapolis Zoo. (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Zoo)

Indianapolis Zoo

While the polar bears seemed to relish the attention more and the Guinea baboons were certainly livelier, I always made it a point to visit Nereus and Aurora, a pair of Alaskan walruses, every time I visited the Indianapolis Zoo.

Little did I realize that my most recent stop would be the last time I’d see Nereus, the male of the duo, who died Oct. 21.

I’ll miss the lumpy guy, one of the few walruses in captivity in North America. But I’ll still stop by and hang out with Aurora, who now has four seals to keep her company.


Glass Sarah charmingly teaches kids the art of glassblowing at the Children’s Museum. (Image courtesy The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis)

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

There’s always a lot going on at Indy’s big-draw kid attraction. But while the Dinosphere is impressive, The Power of Children is moving and inspiring, and ScienceWorks is great for hands-on experimentation, my favorite corner of the Children’s Museum is an unassuming interactive area in the basement.

There, on a computer screen, the animated Sarah (voiced by local actress Claire Wilcher) takes kids through the process of blowing glass. The combination of the right voice, the right visuals, easy-to-use controls and minimal extraneous information make this interactive rise above most others of its ilk, which often serve as barely disguised TVs or video games. Sarah the glassblower, though, is educational, fun and relevant to the exhibition that surrounds it. And, trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time standing behind my children as they’ve spent quality time with her.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Whenever I have guests in town, I make it a point to get them over to the IMA. Regardless of what’s in the temporary galleries (right now, that’s “Andy Warhol Enterprises”), I can always count on a strong reaction to James Turrell’s “Acton” and Do-Ho Suh’s “Floor.”

The former is, at first look, more optical illusion than work of art. Housed in its own room, the timeless 1976 work looks like a dark, monochrome canvas on the wall of its own gallery. Close in on it, though—and dare to reach your hand into it—and you’ll “see” that there is nothing there. The rectangle is actually cut into the gallery wall. The art happens in our eyes and the takeaway is a change in perspective toward the things we see—and the things we think we see.


IMA Look down at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “Floor” and you’ll see hundreds of tiny figures holding you up. The remarkable piece is by artist Do-Ho-Suh. (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art)

A more recent addition to the IMA’s contemporary art collection, “Floor” includes a platform that visitors are welcome to stand on—sometimes stepping up before realizing that hundreds of tiny figurines are “holding up” the floor. You can see the palms of their hands and the tops of their heads when you look down.

At the extremes, you can interpret this with “It takes a village” positivity (“Just look at all the support the world gives each individual). Or you can feel the oppression of these anonymous people, toiling to keep everything—including you—in balance. No matter what your reaction, this is a dynamic work that I take more from with every IMA stop.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Every year, the Eiteljorg purchases one of the pieces from its “Quest for the West” art show, a move that not only demonstrates the value of the work being shown, but also helps build the museum’s permanent collection. The acquisition for 2007 was H. David Wright’s “Uninvited Visitor,” a dramatic winter scene fraught with the anticipation of a violent encounter. Like many of the Eiteljorg highlights, the piece is not only narratively interesting, but also seems to have a time and temperature of its own.

Indiana State Museum

While there’s always a lot going on inside the Indiana State Museum, it’s the outside that I make sure I show visitors. That’s where Indiana’s 92 counties are each represented by artwork attached to the building’s limestone exterior. (Henry County’s spot, for instance, features both a Wright Bros. plane and a basketball court.)

Sure, you can buy “The Art of the 92 County Walk” book at the Museum store, but first it’s more fun to discover them in their natural habitats.

Conner Prairie

Two words: hatchet throwing.



Do you have favorites of your own from these or other permanent collections? Visit this story online at www.ibj.com/arts and add yours to my list.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com. Twitter: IBJArts and follow Lou Harry’s A&E blog at www.ibj.com/arts.

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  • Thumbs up
    Where's the Like button on here? Wonderful insight into different things to do - especially useful to plan family Thanksgiving visit in Indy! Thanks

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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