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IMA news: Freiman out, $1 mill Lilly grant



Lisa Freiman hangs out at 100 Acres in 2010.
  • File photo
  • Lisa Freiman hangs out at 100 Acres in 2010.
A couple press releases pertaining to the Indianapolis Museum of Art hit our Inbox in the last couple days. The latest:

1) Lisa Freiman, presently the senior curator and chair of the IMA's contemporary art department, is leaving Indy to become the inaugural director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Institute for Contemporary Art.

Under Freiman, the IMA opened 100 Acres, its art and nature park; hosted the U.S. Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale (with Freiman as commissioner); and helped to organize a series of remarkable contemporary art exhibitions, including the current show at the IMA by multi-media artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

In an interview with NUVO earlier this year, new IMA CEO Charles Venable noted that, at present, the IMA would no longer be devoting resources to projects like the Venice Biennale, arguing that such projects sap resources that would be better used to meet the museum's core mission to serve the central Indiana community.

Freiman will assume her job at VCU on July 1.

Here's a description of the Institute for Contemporary Art, from a press release distributed by the university: "Designed by Steven Holl Architects and anticipated to open in 2015, the ICA will be part exhibition and performance space, part lab and incubator and feather a series of flexible
programming spaces for the presentation of visual art, theater, music, dance and film. Situated at one of the busiest intersection in Richmond, the ICA will act as a catalyst for contemporary art programs of all kinds in the city and region. The ICA will be a non-collecting institution designed to facilitate the way artists are working today by accommodating the increasing lack of barriers among different media and practices, mirroring the cross-disciplinary approach at the VCU School of the Arts."

2) The IMA announced yesterday that it has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Foundation to support a new initiative, "The Visitor Centered Approach: Reimagining the IMA," which will enable the museum to, over the next five years, "employ a variety of communication, engagement, and evaluation strategies to increase and
strengthen local and regional participation in museum programming."

During the aforementioned NUVO interview, Venable emphasized that the IMA needs to improve its techniques for gathering information on visitors, citing, in part, the inefficacy of current technologies used to calculate the number of visitors to a given exhibition. Venable is quoted in the press release as saying that the study "will greatly enhance the IMA's audience and community impact by helping us become a more visitor-centered institution - a museum that truly understands what motivates its many audiences and one that provides profound experiences with art by inviting our visitors to remember, to discover, and to imagine."

The grant will be used "to deliver exceptional visitor experiences in association" with the museum's upcoming Matisse exhibition, funding an iPad-based interactive catalogue and live performances "inspired by the 1947 artist book, Jazz."

The museum announced this March that it had eliminated 11 percent of its personnel, including eight open positions, 19 full-time positions and two part-time positions, in order to reduce its $22 million annual budget. Venable has noted his interest in lessening the museum's reliance on its endowment by, in part, increasing revenue derived from shows like the upcoming Matisse exhibition.


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