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Indianapolis Art Center head Carter Wolf to retire

April 15, 2014

When Carter Wolf signed on to replace long-time Indianapolis Art Center President and CEO Joyce Sommers, he promised the IAC board at least five years of service.

Now, just over five years later, Wolf has announced to staffers and the board that he is stepping down.

“My first board chair told me that anyone you hire to replace someone who’s been in a position over 25 years has a 2% chance of succeeding,” said Wolf. “It’s like losing a great coach—the poor guy who follows has to live up to that. Joyce grew this place from almost nothing. She was an incredible fundraiser and had great talents. My MO is being a change agent. And that means you have to know what you need to do and know when to step aside and let somebody else come in.”

Carter WolfThe IAC will be conducting a national search for that somebody as Wolf completes this fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31.

Wolf isn’t concerned about the transitional time. “I have changed the system around so that I’ve become less important,” he said. “I have seven directors who would all be fine if I disappeared tomorrow. I’ve empowered them and they’ve responded very well to that.”

For many, the Indianapolis Art Center is synonymous with its fundraising Broad Ripple Art Fair. Under Wolf’s watch, BRAF has added more opportunities for emerging artists and created more inside-the-building activity to make the connection clearer to the public.

He’s pleased to tout a 25% increase in class enrollment since he signed on—which he attributes in part to the creation of shorter-term classes, including single-session events—and almost $350,000 spent on improving studios. This year, he’s helped shift 93 faculty members from contract workers to (mostly) part-time employees. “One,” he said, “it’s the right thing to do. It also helps create a more definitive relationship with the faculty. We want to nurture that.”

Wolf took heat when, after joining IAC, he chopped the budget and dismissed IAC VP Dave Thomas. “You have to run it like a business,” Wolf said, “but you can’t forget why you are there. If you only care about the bottom line, then you are failing. If you want to do more but don’t pay attention to the budget, you are also failing. It’s about balancing those two.”
Prior to taking on the position at the Art Center, Wolf served as executive director of Horizon House. His plans post-IAC are yet to be determined. “I’ll still be a donor and I’ll still be a student,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having more time to take more classes.”

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