I like art, but I wouldn’t call myself “artsy,” per se. I have friends that live and breathe it, and I love that about them. They continually help open my eyes to all sorts of art around us. But one thing I have learned is that art isn’t just painting in a museum, its everywhere and anything.
E.A. Bucchianeri said “Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation.” It can be anything from a gorgeous, famous fresco like “The Last Supper” or something as local as a giant statue of Peyton Manning. But again, art is all in the eyes of the beholder and this December I was lucky enough to see Indy’s latest work of art at the Newfields Winterlights exhibit.
This exhibit was amazing. And what I loved even more is that I was able to bring along my entire family, kids included. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. That is why I was saddened to see that the exhibit received some pretty strong (and, in my opinion, shortsighted) critique.
For those that haven’t read it, the article is titled “Your Entire City is an Instagram Playground Now”. (Sounds like fun to me, but I don’t think we feel the same. Read on. ) The author, Kriston Capps, basically shames Newfields for their attempt to draw a crowd and for their use of “pretty Christmas lights”. He refers to the exhibit as the “greatest travesty in the art world in 2017.” He goes on to say that the museum has traded in its art collection for instragram posts and comments that maybe Newfields should raise the building and replace it with a giant trampoline. Oh and to put the cherry on top he says, ” Somewhere along the way, Indianapolis forgot that museums are meant to be the house of the few, not the house of the many”.
While I can appreciate Kriston’s passion for critical and classic works of art, I think he is missing one large piece of the puzzle. What about us? What about the non-arty, art lovers? And most importantly what about the 70,000 plus that visited this exhibit this winter?
The reach of Winterlights was incredible. What once felt like a forgotten museum to some was now a destination. Take the exhibit out of the conversation and focus on the what it may have done for Newfields as a whole. I am certain I am not the only one that left the museum in December excited to join Newfields so we can check out what else they have to offer. Additionally, friends from across the country commented on the beauty of the exhibit in my social media posts. Even going as far as to say, they too would like to visit next year!
I am not the first to respond with an opposing view either. Letters to the Indianapolis Star and other outlets share in my disdain for Kriston’s piece. But I think what gets me the most is his snobbery around the museum as a whole. Why can’t the museum be for the “many”? You think every visitor at the Louvre is there to comb through each and every hall? Maybe. But I am pretty sure a large majority just went to get that Instagram pic of the Mona Lisa. I’ve been there and if that’s not the many, I don’t know what is. (Side note: Save yourself the wait and go see the Winged Victory instead.)
Even before it’s closing date earlier this month, Winterlights had eleven sold out evenings. Whats more, nearly 50 percent of the visitors were made up of people who hadn’t been to Newfields in the previous year. (Including my entire family.) I guess what I am getting at is does art have to be ALL about staring at works of art in a quite large hall? Could an art curator design a winter lights installation, but also secure the latest from Modigliani? Why can’t we have it both ways?
Newfields Director and CEO Charles Venable responded appropriately to the piece recently. Additionally, Newfields released a selection of upcoming exhibitions that will likely fit Kriston’s cookie cutter criteria. However, Venable was quick to add that their organization is more than just an art museum and that includes creating art experiences like Winterlights and 100 Acres.
Rumor has it Newfields is doubling up their efforts again next year. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to share in this magic again in 2018. Sue me if I “over-gramm” again.
This past December my family and I took a trip to Newfields and had a blast. And I am pretty sure the 70,000 strong in attendance would agree. Newfields is an art museum; OUR art museum and we don’t need you to define it for us. Because lets face it art is indeed in the eye of the beholder.