A Chat with Nancy Lee

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I was excited to learn that Nancy Lee just began her two-year term as the new president of the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association, better known as IDADA.

Recently I sat down with Nancy at her studio in the big, blue Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC) jutting off 10th Street. There she produces wonderful handcrafted metal jewelry. She literally wrote the book on it.

Nancy Lee
  • Nancy Lee

Nancy boasts more than 14 years of experience in crafting and selling her wearable creations, and she's enjoyed stints in construction management for Cassidy Turley and in project management and operations at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It's that diverse background that finds her so well-positioned to helm the organization most notable for the monthly First Friday gallery walks and the phenomenal TURF IDADA Art Pavilion during Super Bowl XLVI.

The member-based organization counts about 150 local artists, 40 galleries and a couple dozen supporters among its current roll. Just last year, it became a 501(c)(6) designation nonprofit.

As the new president, Nancy's first order of business involves what, to now, has been nearly impossible: leaving her gallery during First Friday to visit art open houses in other sections of the city.

"Although I'm plugged into the art scene, I don't really know what's happening on First Friday on a firsthand basis," she said. Her goal, beginning in February, is to get out during the first hour or so of the evening to go see the other galleries and gain a better sense of what's going on.

We talked about how First Friday's attendance has grown. I asked whether she was concerned about dilution with so many other events running concurrently, notably the food truck event at the Murat during the warm months, and how it uses the same name.

"We have to evolve with the times," she said. "I've had conversations about re-educating the population about what First Friday is and how it got developed and honoring the roots of what First Friday is."

She thinks a different idea is to simply allow for some opportunities that occur at times other than on First Friday.

For Nancy, another way to expand its audience and engagement is holding some of the IDADA's board meetings at night. To date, though they've been open to anyone, meetings have been held only at noon.

With regard to the longtime effort of helping develop visual artists into better career professionals, Nancy sees a crucial component in marrying quality craftsmanship and execution with price.

"Artists need to be able to express themselves and not necessarily appeal to a market," Nancy said. "But that expression needs to be the highest and best they can provide; it needs to be beautifully presented; and it needs to be lasting. And whether that is a small, perfectly executed painting for $200 or a large, massive piece that's $12,000, we should expect the highest and best of both of those at either end of the spectrum."

Nancy also wanted me to invite those of you who want to get more involved in the art community or who may have that next, big idea to rival TURF to get involved with IDADA. "If you keep showing up long enough like I did," she said, "they're going to invite you to do something.

And finally, although I probably put Nancy on the spot by asking her about emerging artists, she spoke candidly of one in particular -- Katrina Murray. Of the Herron grad who has a studio in the CCIC, Nancy said, "She is very studied in her thinking and really works diligently to create a cohesive body of work."

Nancy marveled about Katrina being featured in a NUVO review by Dan Grossman.

"That her work is so compelling it rated an article about a body of work that's not even done yet, I think she is somebody to watch," she said.

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