Spring Arts Guide: Thinking about innovation

Needless to say, there was a bit of a hubbub on social media. Two criticisms arose: One, the edgy ideas weren’t good or were offensive, and two, the museum shouldn’t be asking the public to help decide its shows. As in all debates between the new and the old, you could tell everyone’s opinion teetered between the camp of traditionalists and purists and the camp of edgy innovators.Too many people believe that something must be serious, honorable and unpopular, or frivolous and populist. But the country’s history is paved with influential artists who brought something new to the table — and captured the attention of millions.

Among the new things the IMA has brought to the table: a trivia night, movie nights, anInternet cat video festival, album listening parties, a video game-themed playable carand a concert for college students. These new events, many of them created under the helm of curator for audience experiences and performance Scott Stulen, coexist within the same artistic ecosystem as the museum’s fine arts exhibits.

While the IMA’s events and exhibits can be categorized separately, the best art comes from merging the old and new. That’s why one of the most exciting exhibits of 2016 is “Mini Golf at the IMA,” running May 6 through Oct. 30. The interactive art exhibit ‘s 18 holes were designed by regional artists featuring various themes paying tribute to Indiana’s history, from Kurt Vonnegut to Lil Bub.

The IMA isn’t grasping for financial stability. It’s taking risks with the hopes that they’ll foster new art lovers without alienating its core fan base. This is rocky terrain to navigate.

You could say there is a parallel story happening at IndyStar. Like museums, newspapers are seeking to enrich and in some ways redefine the model of the past as well as the types of products they bring to the public. It’s partly why I coordinate IndyStar Storytellers, live storytelling events featuring people with compelling and true personal narratives. The events come from the idea that media companies such as IndyStar can offer something more than a paper to flip through at the kitchen table or website to click on. IndyStar can also be a community space, a town hall or an intimate space for fireside chats.

It’s also why IndyStar, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Indianapolis, launched the Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2015 to give college students and recent graduates a chance to report on the arts in a digital-first newsroom. Funding for the program came from the National Endowment for the Arts.

We’re proud to announce that the Arts Journalism Fellowship will return for fall 2016. If it’s anything like the 2015 program, the fellowship will carve out arts coverage for Marion County’s many excellent organizations. Last fall, our five Arts Fellows produced nearly 40 stories, many about groups and individuals that would not have been covered otherwise.

Sometimes, in order to look ahead, you have to look back. None of the most financially successful museums or newspapers (or symphonies or operas) is abandoning their core values. From “Hamilton” to craft beer, there exists a happy, exciting, innovative and sometimes subversive medium that can push an industry ahead. Whatever it is, we can all sense it. It’s right past the horizon.

Call IndyStar reporter Wei-Huan Chen at (317) 444-6249. Follow him on Twitter: @weihuanchen.

 

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