Guest Post by Bill Watts: The Newfields Travesty: Taking the IMA out of Indianapolis

This is guest post that was sent to me by an Urban Indy reader, Bill Watts. A reminder that we run guest posts, so if you have an article that you wish to share, please e-mail it to me at kevin dot kastner at gmail dot com.

“Newfields,” the new brand for the institution formerly known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, is more notable for what it does not say than for what it does.

It is not primarily concerned with art.

It is not in the city of Indianapolis.

And, most emphatically, it is no longer a museum.

Before I get to the consequence of these pointed omissions, let me begin with two concessions.

First, in some theoretical and hypothetical way, the name of the Indianapolis Museum of Art still exists. While the letterhead, website and sign on 38th Street all now proclaim the Newfields name, the IMA exists as part of the new brand.  As Charles Venable, director of the institution formerly known as the IMA explained, in his announcement, “The Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Garden, Lilly House, and The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres will all continue to exist as key attractions at Newfields, a Place for Nature and the Arts.”

In other words, this is a marketing stunt.  We can now think of the IMA as comparable to the Big-K sub-brand at Kroger’s.  If you root around on the bottom shelf, you may be able to find the Indianapolis Museum of Art, next to the Big-K spaghetti sauce.  But your destination is Newfields, or Kroger’s, not Big-K, or the IMA.

Secondly, “Indianapolis Museum of Art” is not the original name of this 135-year-old institution. The original organization came into being in 1883 as the “Art Association of Indianapolis.”  In 1895, the fledgling institution received a bequest from John Herron, a wealthy local real estate developer.  As a result of this bequest, the organization purchased a plot of land at 16th and Pennsylvania and opened the John Herron Institute of Art, housing both an art gallery and an art school, in 1906.

For more than 60 years, both the art museum and the school resided on the 16th Street campus under the Herron Institute name.  In 1967, it became necessary, for accrediting purposes, to separate the museum and the school.  In that year, the Herron School was transferred to Indiana University, and it persists, in name at least, on the IUPUI campus.

In 1966, the J.K and Ruth Lilly donated Oldfields, the family estate bordered by Maple (38th St.) and Michigan Road to the Art Association.  In preparation for the move to this new campus, the Art Association changed its name, in 1969, to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Thus, the IMA was born in 1969, and it moved to its new campus in 1970.

As the IMA makes clear in its own history, Every Way Possible: 125 Years of the Indianapolis Museum of Art¸ published in 2008, this new name represented a kind of promise to the City of Indianapolis.  Throughout the 1960s, as the museum looked for more space, there were concerns that moving to the edge of the city would sever the museum’s relationship to Indianapolis.  At a protest in 1962, “one person stated that the Herron Museum belonged to all citizens, not just to the wealthy or to families with automobiles. Others spoke of the need to keep the city’s core strong and the obligations of institutions like the Museum to stay in a central location.”  In renaming itself, the Museum was seeking to allay these concerns, and to say that, even as it moved from its central location, it remained committed to the City of Indianapolis and to its citizens.

Thus, in renaming itself “Newfields,” the former museum is reversing not the 135-year history of the institution, but the 50-year history of the IMA.  Crucially, however, this new name reneges on the museum’s commitment to the city.  In important ways, the museum is no longer in or of the city of Indianapolis.

To begin with, the “Newfields” name has no local resonance.  Yes, some people in the city know that the original name of the Lilly estate was “Oldfields.” And, yes, it is also apparently true that the Lillies made a joke of this when they referred to the children’s house on the estate as “Newfields.”  But the inevitable reaction of people who have lived in the city and known the museum over the years is, “What? Where did that come from?”

I can see how the name might appeal to a professional marketer from Brooklyn, or Bel Aire, or Bogota, making a pitch to the director of the IMA: “Newfields, it’s like Oldfields, but it’s new Get it? Get it?”

The rebranding reminds me of another infamous and ill-fated branding effort in the city.  When the city’s venerable hospitals, Methodist and University, merged a few years ago, they hired a marketing company to come up with a new name for the organization.  They called it “Clarian,” and they made a similar pitch: “Clarian, it’s like clarion, as in ‘clarion call,” but it has an ‘a’ instead of an ‘o.’ Get it?  Get it?”

The Clarian name had no meaning for people who had a long attachment to Methodist and University hospitals.  The name did not last, and the organization now calls itself “Indiana University Health.”  I predict a similar future for the ill-conceived Newfields.  It’s a nowhere name.

In a physical sense, Newfields has also removed itself from the city of Indianapolis.  Like many long-term members of the Art Museum, I first caught wind of the changes to come two years ago, when the museum suddenly closed its pedestrian entrance on 42nd Street, and began building a series of internal barriers where none had existed before.  These moves effectively closed the museum to the surrounding neighborhood, and ended access to the upper grounds for pedestrians and cyclists.  I refer to this stage of development as the “fortification of the IMA.”  Others began calling it an “art prison.”

At the same time that it closed access to pedestrians, the Museum also eliminated its charge for parking, and effectively made the grounds a landing pad for suburbanites from Zionsville, Carmel and Fishers seeking a bucolic experience.  When he explained these changes, Venable emphasized his desire to make the museum grounds comfortable for pedestrians, and to maintain a “level of tranquility and atmosphere” for patrons.  In taking measures for internal tranquility, however, Venerable forced pedestrians and cyclists coming to the museum to travel through the intersection of 38th St. and Michigan, one of the most dangerous in the city.  And there is still no sidewalk that leads from the old pedestrian to the automobile entrances pedestrians are now forced to use.  Newfields is the fulfillment of the worry expressed by the protester in 1962 that the museum would become accessible only “to the wealthy or to families with automobiles.”

This move to cut the museum off from local residents and from pedestrians and cyclists is all the more appalling because it flies in the face of recent developments in the city.  While there is still much to be done, Indianapolis has made impressive strides in becoming more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.  Since the construction of the Monon Trail in 1999, the city has developed a remarkable network of trails that run along that run along Fall Creek, White River, Pleasant Run, and Pogue’s Run.  During the Ballard years, we went from zero to 80 miles of bike lanes, with more now under development.  And the city is rightfully proud of its Cultural Trail, which connects downtown neighborhoods and cultural destinations with a Danish-style pedestrian and cycling trail.

In my view, the IMA should have been actively working to connect itself with this developing system of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.  Ray Irwin, the architecture of our Greenways system, always spoke of his passion for “connectivity” as the guiding force in his efforts.  He wanted to create ways for people to move from one area to another in the city without having to get in a car. The IMA could and should have been working to connect itself with its neighbors and other institutions.  It should have joined partners in Midtown to bring the bike share program to the area, and to extend the Cultural Trail to its gates. It should have become more, and not less accessible to pedestrians.  In this regard, the anti-urbanist agenda of Venable and the IMA board has been damaging both to the institution and to the City as a whole.

The fortification of the IMA was part of its efforts to raise additional funds by instituting a charge of $18 for admission not only to the Museum, but also to the grounds, both of which had previously been free.  To justify what would inevitably be viewed as a very high price of admission to the Museum, patrons were offered access not just to the art within the buildings walls, but also to some of the most cherished outdoor spaces in the City. In addition, this strategy was designed to encourage more people to join the museum.  Rather than pay $18 for a single entrance, patrons could pay $50 to $80 per year (subsequently raised to $55 to $100).  The fortification was, then, a plan to monetize the grounds, and nudge more people into membership.

In an effort to draw more visitors and members to the IMA, the museum began de-emphasizing its art collections and developing outdoor attractions.  Venable pointed to studies that showed that potential patrons from the central Indiana were relatively uninterested in art, but would be interested in “curated outdoor experiences.”  In keeping with this line of thinking, the museum built a beer garden in one part of the greenhouse, brought back a popular putt-putt golf course designed by artists, planted thousands of bulbs for a spring flower show, and put on a large-scale display of Christmas lights.  In these various ways, then, the museum was to become less a museum and more of an amusement park.

In responding to these changes, both critics and defenders of Newfields have used the word “elite.”  Opponents suggest that the $18 admission charge makes the institution less accessible to citizens of the city, and therefore makes it more elite.  Those who criticize the museum for turning away from art and toward beer gardens and putt-putt golf have been called “elitists” by defenders of Newfields, who defend a more populist and accessible approach to the former museum.

To my mind, the word “elite” doesn’t really work very well in either direction.  I don’t think it unreasonable to impose an admission charge to the museum, although I shall have more to say below about how this charge was imposed and justified.  On the other hand, there has always been a populist strain at the IMA; it is the home of both Van Gogh’s “Enclosed Field with Peasant” and Robert Indiana’s “LOVE.”  Personally, I have no objection to the beer garden, the winter lights exhibit or the putt-putt golf.  But I still want a serious art museum.

And here I think there is real reason to worry.  The energy and resources of the institution seem to be flowing toward these “curated outdoor experiences,” and away from art.  One way to see this is in the special exhibitions of the museum.  The IMA had a very good record of bringing in exhibits that connected its patrons with developments in the rest of the world.  In recent years, I have enjoyed and learned from exhibits on Matisse, Georgia O’Keefe, the Craftsman art movement, and art from Fontainebleau.  I especially appreciated the 2013 exhibit of the works of the Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei.  I had read a lot about this artist, and I was grateful for and moved by the opportunity to see his works up close and in Indianapolis.

When the changes in the Museum got underway, I asked Charles Venable, in a private exchange, whether we would have exhibitions like the one focusing on Ai Wei Wei in the future.  He responded that we would, but that the Museum would have to take greater care to make sure that these exhibitions paid for themselves.  But the record of the past two years has been unimpressive, and the exhibitions for the foreseeable future look to be low-key affairs, drawing mostly on the IMA’s own collections.  We seem to have gotten putt-putt golf instead of, and not in addition to, Ai Wei Wei.  And that seems to me a real loss.

For me, the changes that have accompanied the Newfields branding campaign have been discouraging in and of themselves.  But the pain has been compounded by the ways in which Charles Venable, the director, and Thomas Hiatt, the chair of the board, have explained and justified them.  In particular, I object to their suggestion that these changes were necessary, in light of the financial needs of the institution, and that they have already proven successful.

In coming to grips with what has happened to our cherished institution, one must understand that the IMA was in some financial difficulty.  These difficulties came from a variety of factors, including a decline in the value of the museum’s endowment (now over $350 million) during and after the Great Recession, and the accumulation of about $100 million in debt from recent expansions of the museum.  These two factors meant that, even after a round of staff reductions, the Museum was drawing more than the 5 percent from its endowment that is customary and prudent to support its operations.  It is my understanding that the board charged Dr. Venable with bringing this draw back to 5 percent over a number of years.

Without entering too deeply into the finances of the IMA, and without claiming financial expertise I do not possess, it seems to me that this situation called for adjustments but not for panic.  One could have imagined any number of other ways of responding, without locking down the grounds, renaming the 135-year-old institution, and shifting the focus from art to “curated outdoor experiences.”  One obvious course of action would have been to raise admission to the Museum to a more palatable $10 to 12, and to allow citizens of the city to continue to enjoy the grounds, as they had for more than 50 years.  Going from free to a charge for each visit to the museum would surely have created a substantial new revenue stream, with little disruption or added expense.

In justifying this course of action, Venable and Hiatt have pointed to a record number of members of the museum-formerly-known-as-IMA.  Newfields now has more than 17,000 members, but this is not a terribly impressive number. One can point to comparable or lesser museums with higher membership rates.  In the 1970s, when the museum did not charge an entrance fee, it claimed more than 12,000 members.  The mere imposition of an entrance fee, where none existed before, is bound to drive membership up.  And it seems to me that this would have happened whether the IMA charged $12 for admission, and allowed the public free admission to the grounds, or charged $18 and closed the grounds.

Perhaps more than anything, though, I am disturbed by the lack of accountability of Venable and the Board to members and to the general public.  I have a relationship with the IMA that goes back to the early 70s, when I bought a membership from earnings from my newspaper route.  I understand that, as an individual member, I cannot expect to have a voice in the direction of the Museum.  Nevertheless, I have been astonished by how little interest the leadership and board of the IMA have in what members think about these changes.  There is quite a bit of discontent with the direction of the museum among long-time members and even some donors, but Venable and Hiatt seem to have insulated themselves from this criticism.

I understand the fiduciary responsibility of the board, and the imperative they must honor to ensure the long-term solvency of the museum.  I think they have other obligations as well.  The IMA has grown through the generosity of generations of donors, and through the tax-protection enjoyed by both the institution and its endowment.  While it is a private institution, it has commitments to the public and to the ages.  I am not sure the museum is fully honoring those commitments.  Newfields looks more and more like the vanity project of Hiatt and Venable.

In many ways, it is fitting that Newfields has been unveiled under the Trump administration.  My attitude toward Newfields parallels my attitudes to this country under Trump: I object strenuously to the policies, overall direction and communication practices of this administration, but I do not wish for the enterprise to fail.  After the fortification of the IMA, I refused to renew my membership, and I boycotted the museum.  After a year, though, I came back.  After the Newfields transformation, I have let my membership lapse again, and have not dared set foot on the campus.

I expect that I will be back again.  I can only hope, though, that this ill-considered effort to Make the IMA Great Again will pass, and that new and wiser leadership will one day work with the community, rather than against it, to create a better and stronger Art Museum.

Comments 30

  • I have some background in marketing, including leading brand develoment efforts and brand campaigns. I do not know if the museum commissioned quantative and/or qualitative research as a part of the process, or what questions were put to respondants or how the questions were phrased if in fact such research was undertaken. I am surprised that, at least for transitional purposes, the name “Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields” was not considered. Regardless, the institution is still one of the city’s crown jewels and worth the cost of membership. Most recently, the Washington Post featured Indianapolis as a vacation destination, and the writer (based in Chicago) heaped praise on it along with many other aspects of the city.

    • The IMA did commission a study from the Halverson Group based in Chicago that was paid for by a multi-million grant from the Lilly Endowment. This study is what lead to the rebranding. Also, as pointed out by the article, technically the name Indianapolis Museum of Art still exists. The whole institution is called Newfields, and the museum building itself is called the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

      I have no particularly strong feelings about the new name or branding. I have a special fondness for the museum as I enjoyed many wonderful family and school visits to the museum growing up, and my grandfather volunteered for many years at the museum. I remember the IMA was always a place we took out-of-town guests, as well as a special place we enjoyed to visit as a family.

      I will say the Newfields name did not seem so strange to me. I have made several visits over the years to the National Historic Landmark Oldfields, the Lilly House, on the grounds of the IMA, which along with it gardens has been restored as a period example of the American Country Estate (previously the museum’s Decorative Arts exhibit was housed in the Lilly House). So, I was aware of the estate’s history, including the fact that the Lillys built a smaller home on the estate in 1939 for their son Joe and his family, which they called Newfield (no “s”). The fact of its name was never presented as a “joke,” as Mr. Watts asserts. In fact, to this day, the building, which still stands and is now used as a home for the museum’s Scholar in Residence, is still referred to as Newfield by the museum and mentioned to visitors taking tours of the main Lilly House. That said, I do concede there is not a very strong association in the minds of local residents between the former children’s house and the IMA, but I think most locals know the Lilly grounds are called Oldfields and get “Newfields” is a play off this name.

      All that said, yes, the museum aspect is being deemphasized in the branding, and this is being done for good reason. Most residents of Indianapolis do not share my special fondness for the museum. Yes, they probably visited on a school tour (or maybe a few) growing up, and they are vaguely pleased and proud that the city has a (relatively) notable art museum, but they never have had any desire to visit, even when it was free. Indianapolis is a sports town–it always has been and it always will be. This is not to say that sports and the arts cannot coexist (the city even has the collection of the former National Art Museum of Sport, which soon will be displayed by the very popular Children’s Museum). However, there will never be the willingness to support the IMA, either through visits or financial contributions, let alone through taxpayer funding, as there is the willingness to support the city’s professional sports franchises. And, there lies the problem. The IMA has grown into an art institution of a size suited for a metro the size of Atlanta, but the Indianapolis metropolitan area has slightly less than half the population. Furthermore, attendance at many art museums across has been in a slow, but steady decline. So, you have an oversized art institution housed in a city that does not have a particularly strong recent history of supporting the arts, especially the arts displayed in a traditional indoor museum, facing a national trend of declining museum attendance. So, the rebranding was done to get people to visit the IMA who otherwise have no real interest in the museum with the purpose of having them generate revenue to support the “stodgy” museum that can no longer rely solely on the revenue generated by its endowment or museum memberships.

      • I think the Lillys’ original use of “Newfield” has to be understood as a joke. I haven’t been able to figure out where the “Oldfields” name came from, but it seems to predate their estate, and I suspect that a family named “Oldfield” had settled the area. In naming the house “Newfield,” the Lillys were taking a proper name and construing it as two separate morphemes–“old” and “filed,” just as, say, the word “hamburger” was construed as separate morphenes, “ham” and “burger” to create “vegiburger.” This perhaps not a back-slapping joke, but a more subtle exercise in wit.

        More generally, I wonder if a marketing campaign should determine the character and orientation of a great institution. Can you think of another museum or cultural institution with the history of the IMA that has changed its name in this way? I can’t.

        • People used to name their big properties. Oldfields was the original name of an estate built by Hugh McKennan Landon, an executive with the Indianapolis Water Company. The Lilly family lived there later. There is no family named Oldfields connected to the area.

        • There was no family named “Oldfields.” When Hugh Landon, the original owner and President of the Indianapolis Water Company at the time, purchased the property to build the estate, it had been used as a farm, hence the name “Oldfields.” The Lillys called the house they built for their son on the grounds “Newfield” as an homage to the original name of the estate and to reflect that the smaller home was intended for the new generation. I do not see any joke intended in the name, unless you are accusing the Lillys of having a bad sense of humor.

          But, all that is besides the point.

          The larger issue is that every organization, whether for-profit or non-profit, and including any cultural institution, needs to periodically assess and revisit its mission and purpose, and strategic planning is an important part of the process. The museum does no one, including the greater Indianapolis community, any good if it becomes a musty tomb containing seldom viewed artwork while going bankrupt in the process.

          At some point if the community wants a general art museum, then the community needs to support it through sufficient visits and regular donations, and perhaps even dedicated taxpayer funds. If there are other community priorities, so bet it, a community cannot support/fund everything, no matter how good, but then the IMA needs to change and adapt to these circumstances. The IMA board and management came to the realization that “business as usual” simply was not cutting it.

          Now, whether the current new direction is the best one, I do not know. It is all too new to make a judgment. But, doing nothing, or more of what was done in the past, clearly was not the answer.

  • I agree with Bill Watts a 100%. “Newfields makes no sense at all. The IMA has enough problems with misguided direction and remote location without charging an outrageous admission price of $18 a head. That’s $36 bucks for a couple to go see a permanent collection that rarely changes, and the very rare show like Ai Wei Wei.

    • $36 for two is “outrageous?” I am curious as to what else you likely already spend $36 on your wife and you for fun, enlightenment, and/or inspiration? If you smoke, a carton a cigarettes costs at least that much. Dinner out at the Olive Garden, ditto. Go to an Indians baseball game on a Sunday afternoon, with a hot dog and a drink, the same. My wife and I have a membership, and we spend a day there several times a year, so the “average” cost of attendance is even less. If you find the cost at a meager $18 per person too “outrageous,” I genuinely feel sorry for you.

      • The sudden jolt from $0 to $18 was probably at play here. If they had slowly raised the rates over time, then there might be less public outcry about the rates. Another thing that the IMA played poorly.

      • Let’s not compare it to Olive Garden (is the IMA striving to be the Olive Garden of museums?) but let compare it to a museum. Let’s pick the most famous ones in america: the Smithsonian Museums. Well, those are free.

        I know, paid for by the federal government. Let’s pick the most famous art museum in the world: the Louvre: Well, it’s only 7 Euro for a ticket.

        Does the museum have a collection that compares closer to the Louvre or Olive Garden?

        • If you are choosing museum entry prices to compare, you should consider comparing them fairly. Both the Smithsonian and Le Louvre receive VERY substantial government underwriting. I suggest that you look for museums that do not receive taxpayer funds as more just examples. The IMA receives less than 1% of its funding from public monies (which they receive in the form of grants). The comparison to Le Louvre and other museums was originated by NUVO years ago and caught on because it sounded like an affront to the citizens of Indianpolis. I am not saying that it would not have been a good idea to consider a lower price point, however, if memory serves 80+% of the museums mentioned in that original article received state or federal tax dollars. We do not substantially underwrite arts organizations in this state. We do underwrite sports. As such, comparing the IMA to these museums is not a fair or accurate comparison. Also, I should add that if a family of four purchases a membership and attends the IMA 4 times per year, the price is about equal to dinner at McDonalds 4 times per year. For many, but not all, it is actually not about the price. It is about priorities. And, that’s OK. But, the institution has to find a way to become a priority in order to survive.

          • The Louvre also receives 7 million+ visitors per year, and financially benefits from one of the world’s the strongest brand names.

          • Indeed, let’s compare. Philadelphia Museum of Art has a $60 million annual budget, of which just under 10% is provided by the City of Philadelphia (4.25% in cash, 5.67% in free utility service). The Indy budget is a shade over $20 million.

            Philly charges $20 adult admission, but also have five “pay what you wish” days per month. Admission is good for two consecutive days, and also includes auxiliary locations such as the Rodin Museum. A 2-adult membership is $125 and grants free admission plus $10 guest admission rate. (For comparison, Indy’s “duo” membership is $85.)

            Anyone can run up the Philly museum steps at no charge to see the Rocky statue, a pop-culture icon (and a matter of some dispute over elitism several decades ago when it was placed).

            By comparison, you can’t get to the rusty Indy LOVE sculpture without paying. (The more-famous color version of LOVE is in Philly at the opposite end of Ben Franklin Parkway, in a public park.)

            I don’t think Indy’s grounds and collection warrant that much of a price, in comparison to Philly. I’d agree that $10 would have been a better price, along with some more “free days” for better community access.

            Membership and admission fees each provide 8% of Philly’s budget, a total similar to Indy’s. But in Philly, fully half is covered by endowment income and contributions apart from membership, though their endowment draw is well under 5%. But their endowment is not an order of magnitude higher…it is in the $500 million range. The difference is the very large base of contributed support, so this does lend some credence to the “Indy doesn’t support art” argument.

            So why did they spend so much expanding?

      • Absolutely agree. This is a question of prioritizes, not elitism. $55 is truly a bargain for access to world-class art.

        Most people spend more than this on any number of categories, from fast food to video games.

  • You did not mention the waste if money spent by the endowment to renovate venable house he lives in. it had just been fixed up 2 years before .. but not good enough for him… now that’s a story…and sorry excuse for elite…

    • Well, other Chris, Max Anderson and his wife had decorated the home in a very gaudy and tacky style–So, I would not blame Mr. Venable and his family for wanting to redecorate to their taste. Also, I am not sure what additional renovations you are referring to. But, at the end of the day, the very small percentage of funds spent on any remodeling is not impacting the IMA’s budget in any significant way, and if it is something that is a general benefit that goes with Mr. Venable’s position, then I see no problem with it.

      In other words, do not worry about minor issues in the grand scheme of things. Whether the home is redecorated or not would not affect the admission charge, etc.

  • I was asked to fill out a survey of my impression of the WINTER LIGHTS EXHIBIT. I have repeatedly asked for the results of the survey. The communication with NEWFIELDS has been appalling.
    NONE! and when I received a ten word response it was from the
    receptionist. Who could tell me nothing. That the outdoors is now being charged for, the entire place seems to only care about their
    profit and crowd size. It has lost its soul. I find it all very sad.

  • When the IMA was free, I was happy to pay for a membership to support an institution that seemed committed to the people of this city. I also later learned that a significant amount of money was accepted with the promise that the museum would remain a no cost institution. Then pedestrian/bicycling access was cut off and a relatively steep admission price instituted.

    I am upset with this institution and stopped my membership in protest.

  • I agree 100% that this organization communicates poorly, that Mr. Venable is off-putting, and that Newfields does a terrible job of connecting to the city via bike and pedestrian access. It is also a little sad to see putt-putt next to Monet.

    That said, this city will not financially support an old-school art museum focused purely on Old Masters. Combine that fact with previous bad financial decisions and an ill-timed recession, and change was needed.

    I am a Newfields member because I can (still) get world-class art right here in Indianapolis. I can also have a wonderful experience at 100 Acres, Winterlights, Oldfields, and Summer Nights. I saw a lecture last month about Alexander Girard. I enjoy seeing toasters and iPhones in the design galleries.

    I would rather see an institution that is trying things (a few sorry ideas aside, ahem putt putt) than have no museum at all.

  • I need Mr Watts email or contact information if anyone has it would you please list in comments – I have something to share with him about and incident a couple weeks ago at the IMA

  • Newfields as a brand is the only thing Venerable has done that I think makes sense. It provides an appropriate unifying name and concept for the various facilities and experiences offered on the site.

    And as to the many other issues covered in the gust post? They have been debated ad nauseam since the elimination of free admission. Strange to see them revisited now.

  • “The mere imposition of an entrance fee, where none existed before, is bound to drive membership up.” That depends on public perception of what the fee supports. A fee that goes from $0 to $18 and that is accompanied by a closure of access to outdoor space that has been historically accessible is a discouragement to many people. As Every Way Possible notes, the museum has long struggled with its image as a private enclave for the wealthy. The struggle continues.

  • Bike and Pedestrian Access?

    There is a newer sidewalk that runs on the east side of Michigan Road from the Central Canal south to 38th street.

    There is a stop light for the IMA east entrance on Michigan Road. There simply needs to be a ramp and crosswalk installed at this intersection to make Newfields pedestrian and bicycle connected.

    Of course there is the Central Canal bridge but crossing it automatically puts you in violation of the $18 charge without visiting the main building and no bikes allowed.

    • Your suggestion is a good one. I would like to see that too. I would also say that the IMA does now allow bicycles to enter the grounds over the Canal bridge, and there is a bike rack at the top of the hill. You are right, though, that if you enter that way, you are supposed to pay the $18 admission fee (or show your membership card). But the IMA did make this small concession to allow cyclists to enter the grounds, after initially denying them access altogether.

    • Ask the city to install one at the intersection–the city always seems to have millions lying around when the Colts or Pacers come begging. It is the job of the city to install crosswalks on public streets, including ADA required access ramps.

      • The city takes the view that the Museum created this problem by closing its grounds, and so it is up to the museum to find a remedy. It’s easy to pick out something like the Colts or Pacers and assert that the city has ready funds available for infrastructure. This is simply not the case. There are many areas of the city that lack sidewalks; it is unrealistic for the IMA to wait for the city to address the problem it has created.

    • I have been a supporter and now current member at the IMA my whole life; I do not, however, own a car, which has made the access to visit quite a challenge. Forgive this long post, as trying to thoroughly document my experience visiting the new IMA on bike, foot, and bus is complicated. It’s a choose-your-own-adeventure with no good outcome:

      Ordinarily, I bike there, though a new gate arm at the top of the hill from the Canal Towpath now blocks that route in. This used to be my preferred and guaranteed route in. Needless to say, Michigan Road and 38th Street are streets I do not bike on, and the sidewalks are less than ideal.

      If I ride the 34 bus (Dr. MLK/Michigan Road) from Downtown, it drops off on the east side of Michigan Road where that new sidewalk is, though there is no-push button to change the light at the entrance, nor is than a ramp as noted; it is then a matter of hoping a car pulls up to trigger a light change, or taking my changes running across the street, or walking down to cross at 38th Street.

      If I do cross at 38th Street, there is then no sidewalk on the west side of the street (coincidentally also where the southbound 34 bus stop is located). There is also no sidewalk on the north side of 38th Street to that entrance.

      If I park a BlueIndy at the closest station at Butler and walk, there is a signalized light at 42nd, with a push-button to change it. Crossing here, however, leads right back to the lack of sidewalk on the west side of Michigan Road.

      If I ride the 39 bus, the westbound stop is in that grass on the north side of 38th Street, though the eastbound stop to go home does have a push-button signal and sidewalk at the 38th Street entrance to the museum.

      The single extant pedestrian route from the northeast would be to cross Michigan Road on the north side of 38th Street, then cross 38th Street on the west side of Michigan Road, then walk down to the 38th Street entrance, which does have a push-button signal, and cross 38th Street again. I have never done that, opting instead to take my chances running across Michigan Road, or walking in the grass from 42nd Street, to the Michigan Road entrance.

      Finally, when I got thoroughly stuck one night after the buses were done running, I walked all the way back downtown along Michigan Road. Despite the nearly complete sidewalks, not a pleasant pedestrian experience.

      A few changes would go a long ways here, like a push-button and ramp across Michigan Road. While additional sidewalks are an expense, and in the City right of way, two of the four IndyGo bus stops currently lack sidewalk access at all.

  • I’ll still call it the IMA just like I call it SEARS tower…

    • Tesla is buying Sears, I hear. Insane CEOs flock together.

      The new company will be called TEARS. When your poorly built Model 3 breaks down, they will give you a Riding Lawn Mower as a loaner car!

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