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Hot topics:

September 10, 2007

Hanging out at the art world's water cooler, but don't know how to break the ice? Here are several topics IBJ has identified that will be on the tips of the tongues wagging in the local arts scene. Read and discuss amongst yourselves.

What do you think of Max Anderson's leadership at the Indianapolis Museum of Art?

Since taking over in mid-2006, staff say Anderson is constantly beating this drum: The IMA is a top-10 encyclopedic museum; it's time we start acting like it.

And many moves coming out of the IMA reflect this drive to be in the forefront, such as pushing a discussion of green development and sustainability for the Art & Nature Park, signing up to lead a national effort studying how to let the masses have a voice in describing art through "social tagging," and setting out new policies for acquiring objects that predate the United Nations' protocol to protect antiquities.

Anderson has also succeeded in lining up some big bucks to endow staff positions, including his own. Has Anderson brought new vitality to the IMA? Is it now getting more national notice and does it need it?

Will the property tax debate

have an impact on arts funding?

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson must find $52 million to cut from the 2007 budget because property tax bills will be held at 2006 levels until a reassessment is completed to redo the messy initial assessment.

So far, the money the city sets aside for the Arts Council of Indianapolis-just over $2.5 million in a $1 billion budget-has been untouched. And the proposed 2008 budget leaves the funding flat.

Arts backers are of course quick to herald the economic benefit of the arts, pulling out the recently published study by Americans for the Arts, which found that direct and indirect spending on the arts amounted to $469 million in Indianapolis in 2005.

The final decision on city funding won't come until mid-September, but do these tight times make it harder to argue for the arts? If so, is there any leverage for more public funding or passing a designated percent for the arts ordinance?

What would be a good public arts display to follow Julian Opie?

First, there were the Tom Otterness sculptures in 2005. Then came the Julian Opie works, which (my, how time flies) have ended their yearlong stay. What might be next?

Sources say the Arts Council of Indianapolis is in talks with Chakaia Booker for the next round. The New York City artist creates works from used tires, cutting and molding them into intricate sculptures. Booker has reportedly been in town scoping out sites and, unlike Otterness and Opie, would create at least some of the works from scratch for the exhibit if she and the council finalize a contract.

Is the "Be indypendent" campaign creating buzz?

Launched July 4, the grass-roots push is supposed to spur consumers to buy locally produced art instead of picking up framed prints at Target. The Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission split the roughly $20,000 bill for advertising and to print 55,000 black-and-white bumper stickers and 30,000 square artsy stickers for a campaign that directs people to www.beindypendent.org. There, consumers can get a helpful guide to buying art for the first time.

Has the campaign triggered any successes? Will other groups pick up the "Be indypendent" banner to herald their locally produced veggies or locally owned coffee shop? Where will the Percussive

Arts Society land?

Mum's still the word about where this headquarters might make its permanent home. The group moved from Oklahoma and has landed in temporary housing at the Symphony Centre at 32 E. Washington St. It now has seven full-time staff members on site, but wants a permanent home that will accommodate even more personnel and a museum.

The collection ranges from fragile historic drums to current drum sets visitors can play. It also includes percussive instruments from around the world. Once everything's out and set up, the display will be open to the public.

Winter nights anyone?

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is cleaning out the 550-seat Tobias Theater, the former home of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre before it moved to Marian College. The hope is to open the space next year. The initial plans are for it to serve as a rain-out option for "summer nights," the popular outdoor film screenings. And the IMA wants to roll out a "winter nights" film series and maybe a few performances.

How much traffic will the new

auditorium at the Central Library see

and what fun things can we expect?

The 329-seat auditorium will be ready when the library opens late this year. The library's adult programming team is already busy booking the space with everything from poetry readings to a stop by "Antiques Roadshow." There will be storytelling, a genealogy program, author lectures, music and more. What do you want to see there?

Will the Carmel Performing Arts Center poach Indianapolis audiences?

It's not scheduled to open until late 2010, but it's huge, boasting a 1,600-seat orchestra hall and a 500-seat theater. The orchestra hall is set to become the home for the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, which now performs and practices at high schools and churches.

The Carmel orchestra is a quasi-professional group with a professional administrative staff and a split orchestra-about one-third of the musicians are paid. Executive Director Alan Davis said the group is planning how to "ramp up" its infrastructure to fit its new home but doesn't know yet if the orchestra will move to an all-paid core.

A Carmel venue would be of interest to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, too, according to spokesman Tim Northcutt.

"That particular market is a strong base for us," he said. It's too early for anything concrete to be planned, but Northcutt said the ISO is always looking at new venues for performances. Who's making moves in the local arts world?

Eleven years ago, former classical ballet dancer Don Steffy came aboard at the newly opened Pike Performing Arts Center and built programming from scratch.

"It was just a beautiful building wall-to-wall carpet, dead silence, me and an open agenda," Steffy said of the beginning. But its reputation built to the point that when Steffy left this spring to take the reins at the Indianapolis Children's Choir, 30 people applied to replace him at Pike.

Steffy said he's excited about the opportunities to see the choir grow to the next level. He'll oversee a staff of about 30 administrative and artistic workers compared with a staff of five at Pike. Steffy said one of his charges will be to boost the internationally acclaimed choir's local profile.

Jeff Maess, general manager of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis since 2000, replaced Steffy in late August. Maess said he's familiar with the space because the philharmonic rented it for six seasons, but he's looking forward to really getting into the job. The philharmonic has begun looking for a new leader.
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