Arts » Visual Arts

Catching up with Paula Katz at ESL-Spectrum

Interview with iMOCA Director Paula Katz



iMOCA Executive Director Paula Katz at ESL Open House - DAN GROSSMAN
  • Dan Grossman
  • iMOCA Executive Director Paula Katz at ESL Open House

If you’re saddened by the fact that the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) has moved on from its digs in the Murphy Building in Fountain Square, don’t fret. There’s ample evidence that iMOCA is still the 100-pound gorilla when it comes to contemporary art in Indianapolis. And they’re not leaving town. On December 8, they flexed their muscles with an Open House at ESL-Spectrum displaying work of some of Indianapolis’s best artists.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, you could have picked up a cyanotype painting by Casey Roberts or stoneware sculpture by Lesley Baker or the work of 22 other Indy-based artists as Christmas gifts. And, if you were so inclined, you could have picked out some cutting edge LED lighting and controls for your corporate office at the same venue.  (The exhibit remains up through January 15.)

Work by Casey Roberts
  • Work by Casey Roberts

ESL, according to its website, “assists architects, designers, engineers, contractors, and end users to meet their needs and maximize energy efficiency while providing the best design possible within budgetary constraints.”      

This collaboration with ESL-Spectrum and the Michigan-based Edington Gallery is par for the course under the leadership of Paula Katz.

Tickle My Toes by Lesley Baker
  • Tickle My Toes by Lesley Baker

That is: unusual venues, out of the box themes.

iMOCA vs. Hoosier Salon was one such exhibit that Katz helped coordinate at the beginning of her tenure as executive director, in August 2015. This show just might have done something to break down artistic stereotypes, particularly because there wasn’t anything that old-fashioned about the work submitted by Hoosier Salon members to this show. This exhibition also helped introduce Katz’s new membership program iMOCA INSIDERS, which gives special access to its membership to various exhibits and events.


iMOCA also went to Goodwill recently.  That is Danielle Riede had an exhibit at Goodwill
Industries of Central Indiana Corporate Headquarters, entitled Stories Unknown, jointly sponsored with iMOCA. This was  was another out-of-the-box exhibition in every sense of the term.  In this show, Riede decked out a former cafeteria with Goodwill-sourced textiles made to look like Tibetan prayer flags.

Stories Unknown, the contemporary art installation at Goodwill headquarters created by local artist Danielle Riede.
  • Stories Unknown, the contemporary art installation at Goodwill headquarters created by local artist Danielle Riede.

As far as forthcoming ventures, there will be a show in January, 2017 at Cat Head Press involving local artists. And then, in February, iMOCA will open the Museum of the Real and Odd in Tube Factory artspace run by Big Car Collaborative.

Katz, who previously served as director and curator of the Herron Galleries at the Herron School of Art and design, has also kept her curatorial spoon in the soup. Taking a break from the fundraising demands of her position, she curated My Father’s Murder at Zephyr Gallery in Louisville, KY. with Jedediah Johnson (known for The Makeout Project that received national press).

And iMOCA still has a gallery space at CityWay, by the way. You’ll find there the current as tomorrow’s headlines show Unloaded, riffing on America’s obsession with guns.

I talked with Katz during the ESL open house about the ESL event, her sense of where things are for iMOCA in this point of transition, and where they go from here.

NUVO: How did the ESL event come about?

KATZ:  My husband [Travis Belden] is actually a partner in the company.  Last year, they wanted to have an open house to invite people to their new expanded offices and I said, ‘If you’re going to do that you should have artwork up, to make it a big exhibition.”  So last year he commissioned me and Anne Surak helped out to put work up. They had several of their manufacturers come in, celebrating a milestone of the company’s history. It was really successful so they wanted to do it again this year.  
NUVO:  Any specific theme? I noticed a lot of landscapes.

KATZ:  Really I just sat down with Telene Edington [of the Edington Gallery based in Three Oaks, MI.] and Mike Barclay, our director of exhibitions at iMOCA, and really just looked up artists. Only one artist participated last year and that’s Lesley Baker. Otherwise it’s all new artists and we just kind of brainstormed.  We also considered the fact that it was the holidays. We wanted really strong work but also work that makes lovely gifts. I’m a really big proponent of not just showing something because it’s commodifiable. Let’s show some really great artwork.That was the first criteria, before it being for sale.

NUVO: So you’ve been at the helm of iMOCA for a year and a half now. How’s it going?

KATZ: I think that we’re in a really great place and for me, just to go through this one year. Like last year where I had a chance to go through the grant cycle and the programing cycle and of course that’s changing now with us looking for a new location. And then I left on maternity leave. [Her son Henry is now 7 months old.] I think we’re in a really great place and to hire Mike Barclay has been really awesome.

NUVO: So that takes some of the pressure off and helps you focus on what you do, which is looking for grants.

KATZ: It’s put me in a different role than I’ve ever been in because I was really running exhibitions at Herron more… So now I’m definitely wearing a different cap in terms of fundraising. I’d be bit involved with the grants, but nothing like I am now.

NUVO:  Have you been able to put Fountain Square behind you?

KATZ:  It’s the most exciting thing to happen to iMOCA since moving to Fountain Square... We’ve been there 7 years... I feel that we came to Fountain Square at this amazing time, from somebody who was a bystander to that. I didn’t work for them, then. We’re leaving at the right time, both in terms of Fountain Square and its development and iMOCA and our development. I couldn’t be more happy for our former neighbors the Hi-Fi, and their expansion, for them to be able to continue what has been an amazingly successful operation.  And for us I think it’s the right time to look at our next chapter and what that means and how we can serve our community better.

NUVO: That location had its downside in terms of the loud music pounding on the walls.

KATZ: Oh yeah, but their success is not our downfall. It wasn’t going to be sustainable for either of us for much longer and the right decision was made..

NUVO:  Is there an ongoing search for a new space?

KATZ: Of course there is! We’re being vague because we don’t want to under or over-promise about what we’re doing. The plan is not to have no space.I can share that. So yeah we’re really excited about what our facility search is coming up with. And we hope that when we’re ready, we’ll have an announcement to share with the community.

NUVO:  How about the CityWay space? Are you staying there indefinitely or is there an endpoint to that?

KATZ: We’re definitely curating the January through June show. So that space is going to have two shows per year. We’re partnering with Buckingham Companies and I don’t know the long term for us curating but we’re really looking forward to working with them in at least the short term.

The work will hang at ESL-Spectrum through January 15


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