Art Works Blog

MICD 25 Spotlight on Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana

Detail rendering by artist Mary Miss of FLOW (Can You See The River?) marking different uses of water on and near the Indianapolis Museum of Art building and grounds. Courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) is one of the nation's oldest and largest museums. Its 152-acre campus includes an art museum, two historic houses and their gardens, a theater, and an onsite conservation science lab. We spoke with Department of Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant Amanda York to learn more about the museum's MICD 25 project.

NEA: Please describe your MICD 25 project and what you hope it will bring to the city of Indianapolis.

AMANDA YORK: The IMA is working with New York-based artist Mary Miss to create a series of site-specific installations along the White River called FLOW (Can You See the River?). The project will reveal important and unique elements of the water system through a series of installations at stopping points along the river and canal, engaging residents and increasing awareness of the watershed and the role it plays in the city?s life.

The collaborative project envisioned by Miss will take place along a six-mile stretch of the river, starting at the Central Canal in the Broad Ripple area continuing to White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis. Multiple stopping points along the river will draw visitors? attention to focal points of the water system, using carefully placed mirror markers and oversized map pins to create a series of reflections---engaging the viewers and portraying them as an integral part of the watershed.

NEA: Why is it important to have arts and culture at the table when planning community revitalization efforts?

YORK: Engaging the community in the arts has to extend beyond the walls of the IMA. A primary mission of the IMA is the serve the creative interests of the community. This specific project demonstrates how art not only can be integrated within the community, but can also address major social and environmental issues facing individuals today. Having arts and culture at the table offers a fresh look at ongoing issues and demonstrates wider interest and commitment to community revitalization.

NEA: How do you think a project like FLOW (Can You See the River?) benefits the civic life of your community?

YORK: The IMA?s MICD 25 project is city-wide not only in scope, but also in partnerships. FLOW (Can You See the River?) will bring attention to the White River and its social, political, and economic impact in Indianapolis while uniting a large group of academic, civic, and arts organizations.

In addition to the IMA, the content for FLOW is being developed in collaboration with the City of Indianapolis, United States Geological Survey, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Center for Earth and Environmental Sciences, Butler University Center for Urban Ecology, Marian University EcoLab, White River State Park, Indiana State Museum, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis Zoo, HARMONI (a group of residents, business owners and Indianapolis public/private leadership committed to rejuvenating the Midtown area of the city), Indianapolis Art Center, and several neighborhood associations.

NEA: Given the nature of your project, how do you define the term ?public art??

YORK: At the IMA we explore many different types of public art, from art installed in our museum's formal gardens, to outdoor performances, and to the constantly evolving 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. As the IMA?s most recent effort to bring public art to Indianapolis, 100 Acres contains eight inaugural site-responsive commissioned projects. The content and structure of these projects vary widely, including platforms and spaces for viewing nature, such as works by Alfredo Jaar and Kendall Buster, and places and opportunities for play, as exemplified by works by Los Carpinteros, Atelier van Lieshout, and Jeppe Hein. The Park also features works that are physically inaccessible to the public yet serve as subjects for contemplation and interpretation, such as installations by Tea Mäkipää, Type A, and Andrea Zittel.

Mary Miss?s FLOW (Can You See the River?) adds a unique dimension to the Park as the first commission to expand beyond the border of 100 Acres. Miss?s project will engage local community members as they go about their daily lives. People walking and biking along the river and canal for leisure, exercise, or transportation will encounter installations that provide information linking their actions to the health of local bodies of water. FLOW will be the first of Miss?s model of ?City as Living Laboratory,? which artfully engages local science and ecological organizations with city leaders and planners to educate the public in unexpected ways. While the characteristics of this project do not define public art at the IMA, they do exist within our overall strategy of providing opportunities for today?s most dynamic and inventive artists to create work that is engaging, accessible, and free of charge. In our diverse programming, we hope to constantly evaluate and redefine the meaning of ?public art? on the museum?s grounds and in our wider community.

NEA: How important is MICD 25 funding for the success of your project?

YORK: MICD 25 funding has been essential to executing the artist?s intended vision of the project. From design and fabrication of site elements and public programming to professional evaluation opportunities and personnel support, grant funds underwrite core project components. Additionally, the support of the Indianapolis Mayor?s office and the NEA has given FLOW an increased presence in the community. This local and national support has enabled the IMA to more effectively fulfill the primary goal of this project---to raise Indianapolis residents' awareness of the White River and its importance in their daily lives.

Visit the MICD 25 page on our website to learn more about all of the projects.

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