In case you haven't heard, Herron School of Art & Design gallery director Paula Katz will be leaving her position May 31st to pursue other interests. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of working with Paula on many occasions. She's been a wonderful director and done a superb job for Herron students, faculty and the city of Indianapolis. I'm saddened to see her go, but wish her all the best and look forward to when our paths cross again.
Herron wasted little time in hiring Mike Barclay as the assistant gallery director to take over the responsibilities of running the gallery. Barclay's no newcomer to the scene. I first met him when he was working as a paid intern for Michael Kaufmann at Eskenazi Health, assisting with the artwork move from old Wishard Memorial Hospital to the new Eskenazi Health facility. He's currently earning his Masters degree in museum studies through Indiana University, which includes an internship at the Indiana State Museum, working with me two days a week. Since 2012, he's also been a Herron gallery attendant, which should make the transition to assistant director a bit smoother.
Last week during a lunch break, I sat down with him to talk about the new position, asked him why he's chosen a career in visual arts and what he thinks the future holds for him.
A Richland, Ind., native with degrees from Herron and the University of Southern Indiana, Barclay shared that his first career was in graphic design. He spent 10 years in the advertising and book publishing business in Bloomington, Indiana. But it was undergraduate courses in art history that motivated him to leave the graphic design field and pursue a degree in museum studies. Barclay admits, "Leaving the graphic design world to take on a three-year museum studies program was a bit overwhelming, but things moved pretty fast." He says that the career change seemed like a natural progression, and it's one that will combine his past experiences with his passion for contemporary art -- something he's sure will serve him well in the future.
As for his future ambition, Barclay says, "At this point, I'd really like to work in a small to mid-size museum or commercial gallery that focuses on contemporary art. While I have an appreciation for historical work, I want to be involved with current trends in the art world: video, art installations, and performance art -- what is cutting edge."
He says that's why the job at Herron is such a perfect fit. He think it's a great environment for this type of work, and it will have him working with students, faculty and engaging the public.
His experience at the State Museum, which is not a small museum by any definition, also gave him a leg up for his new post. "It's been a great learning experience, working in an institution of this size, it gives you an appreciation for how a multi-department museum operates -- how everyone has to work together and respect each other's roles," he says. "I've had an opportunity to work in the conservation lab, creating condition reports and preparing objects for display. I was present for the installation of the current James Spencer Russell exhibition, which encompasses a wide variety of objects and artwork."
I considered what a promising future lies ahead for him and wondered aloud just how much of it will continue to be in Indianapolis. "During the Herron interview they asked me about my future plans, which I thought was interesting," Barclay says. "In any case, I would like to stay in Indy. I've been here for 10 years, and I'm established and live in Irvington on the eastside. I have good connections that I believe will serve me well. And I have a historical understanding of the city and the artists that work here. The city has changed so much over the past decade -- I can't wait to see what the next 10 years will bring."
Aside from the good working relationship I've had with Mike over the past two months during his Museum internship, I was thoroughly impressed with the outcome of our lunchtime conversation. In a few short weeks, he'll go from being an intern to a colleague, at an institution that has a rich history with the State Museum. As we both prepare for the upcoming 431 Gallery/Ed Sanders exhibitions that will partner the two institutions, I consider myself lucky to have someone of his caliber at the helm. It's also good to see another professional coming onto the local art scene that is passionate, knowledgeable and ready to contribute. With this hire, the future for Herron Gallery is looking bright.