Lisa Freiman

Lisa Freiman. Photograph by Adam Ames.

“When I first came here, people said, ‘Why are you going to Indianapolis?’ I said, ‘I’m going to Indianapolis because it’s a huge opportunity.’ They answered, ‘What huge opportunity? There’s no contemporary art scene in Indianapolis.’ I said, ‘That’s the opportunity.’ Why go to a place where everything is done when you can go to a place and make something happen? The challenge of creating something that mattered here- both in terms of the community and in terms of the national and international arts community- was crucial and invigorating.” (David Lindquist, “A conversation with Lisa Freiman: 2010 a big year for IMA’s curator of contemporary art.” Metromix Indianapolis, Nov. 17, 2010)

The Visiting Artists Program’s (VAP) second speaker of our Spring season, Lisa Freiman, is actually an arts administrator, and is probably best known as the pioneering Senior Curator and Chair of Contemporary Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).

She’s also received a lot of attention for her role in helping to spearhead and curate the sculpture park 100 Acres. Free and open to the public all day every day, 100 Acres is located in what was formerly an unused quarry, in a flood plane, behind the IMA. Freiman’s vision transformed it into one of the largest museum art parks in the country. Her unique approach involved commissioning eight contemporary artists to create temporary, site responsive works, pioneering a model that involves retiring works as weather conditions and the stress of visitors speed their decline. Several collaborative artists workshops and groups, such as Atelier Van Lieshout, Type A and Los Carpinteros are featured, along with artists that Art21 has also documented, including Alfredo Jaar and Andrea Zittel.

“Indianapolis never had an iconographic representation of itself, except for its war memorial, which is a pretty depressing way to represent yourself. There hasn’t been anything pointing to the present or the future. The Los Carpinteros has become an instant hit for the city.” (Andrew Russeth, “Avant-Garde gardening: A Q&A with IMA Curator Lisa Freiman.” ARTINFO, July 2010.)

Los Carpinteros, "Free Basket," 2010, Indianapolis Museum of Art © Los Carpinteros

And it’s certainly worth mentioning that Freiman was unanimously selected by the State Department to oversee the US pavilion for this years Venice Biennale! All this despite her proposal involving a project by the politically charged, multi-media artists Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla that involves the creation of six on-site installations about America’s usage of art to alter and enhance it’s geopolitical standing (think conspiracy theories surrounding the CIA’s promotion of Abstract Expressionism during the Cold War and you’d just be getting started).

Their inclusion in the Biennale will mark the first time a pair of artists has ever represented the US, and in conjunction with the exhibition, Freiman and Allora & Calzadilla have also developed an art education program, at the behest of the State Department, that will:

“…especially address under-served youth. We thought about it for a long time and decided that, instead of doing something more superficial, we really wanted to focus it and give life-changing experiences to a handful of kids. So we’re initiating a dialogue between teenagers from Indianapolis, Puerto Rico, and Venice. We’re also going to be putting together a documentary about their exchanges, in relation to what they come to understand about art history and the Biennale, for the IMA’s ‘Art Babble’ website, which, as you know, is very popular.” (Lucie Alig, “The Collaborator: Curator Lisa Freiman on Allora & Calzadilla’s provocative U.S. Pavilion for the Venice Biennale.” ARTINFO, Nov. 2010)

I’m especially excited to hear from Freiman because of my own background in arts administration, but there will be lots to dig in to, and VAP looks forward to hearing from her regarding her engaging approach to curation and arts education as well. If you’re in Chicago, please do join us for what promises to be an absorbing lecture.