Museum seeks piano

by David Buchanan, Curator of Decorative Objects and Furniture

People often offer the museum old upright pianos and we just as often reject them. “No one wants one of those big old uprights” is, unfortunately, generally heard by owners trying to find a home for theirs. I find it very ironic there is one old upright we would like very much like to find. Since this piano was mass-produced it is also likely there is someone out there who would love for theirs to be in the museum’s collection. The frustrating question is: how do we find each other?

The piano we need is an Emerson Upright Grand Piano. But not just any Emerson upright will do. We actually want to match all of the details of one currently in our collection. The piano, made in the late 1880s or early 1890s,  is displayed at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site on Sylvan Lake near Rome City. Gene had this piano at her home in Geneva and then took it with her when she moved to Sylvan Lake. It remains there today and we need a match for the music room at Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva. Seek and ye shall find … I certainly hope so!

The front of the Emerson Upright Grand Piano.

Side detail of the Emerson Upright piano at the Gene Stratton-Porter Cabin.

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70 Artists. 3 days. ‘Nuff said.

by Joanna Hahn, Manager of Arts and Culture Programs

70 Indiana artists.  Three days.  The Indiana State Museum.  What more is there to say?  We are gearing up for the ninth annual Indiana Art Fair and, despite the warmer weather of late, this is still the winter art event in Indiana. We are featuring artists from 24 counties on all three floors of the museum. Ceramics, fiber, painting, mixed media, jewelry … the list just goes on!

We are excited to kick things off on Friday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m with a preview event. The artists will be selling until 8:30 and, while you are here, make a night of it! Gigi’s Cupcakes and Cabot Creamery will have treats available or enjoy dinner in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room. A cash bar will provide drinks and, this year, d’Indy String Quartet will play music in the Great Hall. On top of that, the museum exhibitions will be open. Visit REPRESENT: Celebrating Indiana’s African-American Artists, featuring work from the likes of William Edouard Scott, as well as contemporary artists. Heartland Art features work from the fine art collection of the Indiana State Museum. This is also the last weekend to view The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition featuring striking photography from his epic journey in 1914. Admission to the Friday evening Indiana Art Fair preview event is free for museum members and only $5.50 for non-members!

The event continues Friday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  On Saturday, 240° Sweet will be on hand making fresh gourmet marshmallows for tasting and, on Sunday, Good’s Chocolate from Anderson, Indiana, will hand out caramels. Both will be at the Indiana Store from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Our media sponsor, WFYI, will also have an information table. Admission to the Indiana Art Fair on Saturday and Sunday is only $3 for museum members and $10 for non-members.

Come and support local art and craft as well as your Indiana State Museum!

Dialogue Blog: A User’s Guide to the Indiana Art Fair

by Katy Creagh, Art & Culture Program Developer, and Eric Todd, Program Specialist

ERIC: Alright Katy, here’s the deal. This year will be my third Art Fair as an employee at the museum. I can honestly say that it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year — there is so much going on, it’s visually stimulating, and it’s fun to talk with the artists about their work.

KATY: Well yes, but do you have a point here?

ERIC: I was getting there. You have an art degree …

KATY: And a masters in Art Education.

ERIC: Nice subtle drop-in. As I was saying, you have an art degree, so I was thinking you could help me out. Even though I love the environment and excitement of Art Fair, I have to admit, I don’t really think I understand art.

KATY: Now that’s a very complex statement. What do you not understand? How it’s made? Why it’s made? Basically, artists create to express thoughts, feelings, or even just to create. And the viewers are then able to relate to their work.

ERIC: That’s a good answer. You could be a valuable resource for me. Can I ask you some questions about art and try to learn from your … how do you describe it … infinite wisdom?

KATY: Well of course, I’d be happy to share my wisdom with you.

“Cat," Eric Todd, b. 1984, colored pencils on paper

ERIC: Okay, the first question is personal: How would you, as a former art teacher, rate my work?

KATY: You have the skills, but I think you fall back on old habits. My favorite is your cat with four legs on one side of its body … perspective my friend. But I do really like your line work, very expressive. On the other hand, the craftsmanship could use a little work. Why are you rushing to finish? Take your time!

ERIC: Hmmm, but I thought the beauty of art lies in the eyes of the beholder? You shouldn’t be so critical, maybe.

KATY: Maybe.

ERIC: You do pottery right? Why do they call it throwing? You don’t actually throw anything; if you did, you would ruin it.

“Bowl,” Katy Creagh, b. 1983, stoneware clay

KATY: It has to do with the Old English word for turning … kinda. Anyway, throwing on the wheel is just using the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel to create perfectly round and symmetrical pottery. Sometimes it’s functional and other times it’s not. You can check out Carol Bell, Larry Spears and oh! You should check out the Unzicker Brothers Pottery … they make HUGE pieces! And guess what? They’ll all be at this year’s Art Fair!

ERIC: Cool, I will check them out — and now I can even sound educated about their work. Another question: I like contemporary art, but I’m not sure I know how to talk about it. What are some good questions to ask an artist?

KATY: Contemporary art can have many different expressions and many different meanings, like I mentioned before. It’s more about how the viewer relates to the piece. Now some modern art you might like is created by incorporating found or recycled objects. I know how you feel about recycling. You should check out Carolyn Aylward and Anita Hopper. They both reuse objects. And while you are talking to Anita, check out Megan Winn’s booth. I know how much you love books … she makes books from scratch! Great present for moms, girlfriends or people who like journaling.

ERIC: Oh that reminds me! Another thing I like about Art Fair is that it conveniently occurs a couple days before my girlfriend’s birthday, so it’s perfect for finding a gift that seems thoughtful even though it’s last minute.

KATY: Of course it’s last minute. When did you get your friend’s Christmas present? The day of the party, right?

ERIC: No comment. But my question is, picking out the perfect piece of art for myself or as a gift is kind of intimidating. Any tips?

KATY: Well consider the person. Are they a decorator? Do they like photography? Or are they a person who enjoys fun and personal gifts (that would be me)? Now you might check out one of the 15 jewelry artists that are featured. There are also several great painters who would have wonderful work to decorate someone’s living room.

ERIC: You’re a pro. You know, my birthday is in April, you should show off your skills by buying me an awesome piece of art.

KATY: Ha! So last year’s birthday present wasn’t enough? Ok well I can look around a little. Maybe hit up some of the woodworkers booths. Or maybe the photographers … I’m sure I can find something that just screams “ERIC!”

ERIC: In all seriousness, you’ve been quite a help, thank you. I feel bad though, I’ve been asking so many questions to help make my own experience better, I haven’t even asked you: what is your favorite thing about Art Fair?

KATY: Well, this will officially make me an art nerd, but I like seeing all the artists’ work. I also love talking to people about their artwork and finding out new and fun ways they create. And for some reason I always seem to walk away with some new item for myself.

ERIC: That doesn’t make you an art nerd, it makes you more of an art … well, nerd I guess. But that’s not a bad thing. Now I’m really getting into the spirit and, after this conversation, I feel prepared to have my best Art Fair experience ever!

Come to the 2012 Indiana Art Fair on Feb. 17, 18 and 19 at the Indiana State Museum and feel free to ask Katy for advice, or help Eric in his quest to learn more.

Happy Birthday James Dean!

by Katherine Gould, Associate Curator of Cultural History

James Dean would have been 81 years old today. Whether or not you’ve seen his movies or read anything about him, you know who James Dean is. You know the name. You know the face. He was the bad boy rebel who became a symbol of a generation of young Americans trying to find their place in the world.

Born in 1931 and raised in Fairmount, James Byron Dean achieved stardom in Hollywood for his leading roles in the classic films East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. Three films. That’s all. His potential for greater success in Hollywood was cut short on Sept. 30, 1955, when, at the age of 24, he was killed in a tragic car wreck. However, his influence lives on.

Very few Hollywood actors have influenced popular culture to the degree that James Dean has. He is instantly recognizable as a cultural touchstone for American youth culture, rebellion, beauty and desire. Not bad for a man who stopped contributing to his own legacy at the age of 24. In the 56 years since his death, references to James Dean in media and popular culture have been ever present.

For pop culture junkies, James Dean is a kaleidoscope of opportunities for exploration. With music, for example. I myself am a music junkie. I have over 4,000 songs in my music library and one of the ways I like to “constructively” spend my time is to create odd playlists just for the fun of it. For instance, one list is called “It-Factor” because all of the songs begin with the word “It.” Another playlist is of songs with someone’s name in it. You see where I’m going.

So, if we wanted to create a playlist of songs mentioning James Dean or about James Dean, where could we begin? How about in 1963 with the Beach Boys tune, “A Young Man is Gone,” wherein they lament, “But his life is through/ For the story is true/ For he died just as he lived.” Bringing it up to the present, we can turn to Beyoncé and “Rather Die Young.” On this 2011 track she sings, “Boy you’ll be the death of me/ You’re my James Dean/ You make me feel like I’m seventeen.” These are just two examples, but through the years, artists from all genres of music have used James Dean as a muse in their lyrical narratives. His name and image have been invoked over and over as the iconic symbol of sexy and cool.  

To further your studies of James Dean musicology and build your own playlist, I recommend:

  1.  “A Young Man is Gone,” The Beach Boys, Little Deuce Coup, 1963
  2. “American Pie,” Don McLean, American Pie, 1971
  3. “Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed, Transformer, 1972
  4. “James Dean,” the Eagles, On the Border, 1974
  5. “Jack and Diane,” John Mellencamp, American Fool, 1982
  6. “Come Back Jimmy Dean,” Bette Midler, No Frills, 1983
  7. “Vogue,” Madonna, I’m Breathless, 1990
  8. “Picture Show,” John Prine, The Missing Years, 1991
  9. “Electrolite,” R.E.M., New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996
  10. “Allure,” Jay-Z, The Black Album, 2003
  11. “Speechless,” Lady GaGa, The Fame Monster, 2009
  12. “Rather Die Young,” Beyoncé, 4, 2011