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Final Fridays at the IMA

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There's a certain crowd associated with art museums. It's a mix of older, wealthier people and art students studying the greats. They tend to wander the galleries, quietly murmuring in appreciation (or in the case of the art students, sketching in silence). As one of the oldest and largest galleries in the country, the IMA has a broad reach and big cultural footprint in the city. Still the stereotypes persist.

Except of course on Final Fridays.

On the last Friday of every month, the second floor of the IMA transforms from a staid gallery of some of the world's best art into party (still with some of the world's best art). DJ Kyle Long has partnered with Preston Bautista, the IMA's deputy director of public programs and audience engagement to bring a different scene to the city's premier art museum.

"So the tag line is: live music, cash bar, great art," says Bautista, "what more could you want?"

Bautista is a recent transplant from Baltimore, where he worked as Director of Public Programming at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Final Fridays are his way to "switch up the perception of the museum," he says. "There are places where you can experience art with your friends. I want to expand experiences at the IMA so that it's not always passive spectatorship."

To that end Final Fridays are a big departure from the stereotypes. For one, there are cash bars on the second floor where patrons can grab a drink before joining one of a number of tours provided throughout the museum. Most Final Fridays have at least a loose theme centered around a visiting exhibition or a common element in the museum's collection. The tours tend to highlight that theme, as do the musical acts chosen by Long in his role as guest curator, and the interactive art-making offerings that accompany each Final Friday.

In May, for example, "everything is going to be Ai Wei Wei," says Bautista, referencing the up-coming exhibition by the famed Chinese artist and dissident. "The band that's playing is going to be inspired by Ai Wei Wei, and the activity will be too."

March's Final Friday drew a big crowd, over a thousand people had come in by 8pm when dance-rock band Party Lines had come on stage for the night's live music. The fading light painted the Sunset Bar on the fourth floor in shades of gold while early guests mingled. Dozens went on each of the guided tours throughout the galleries, laughing along with animated docents who provided context and trivia for select pieces in the large collection.

Ben Risinger of Do It Indy was in attendance, his first Final Friday, enjoying Sun King brews and taking in the art. "I love it man," Risinger said, "this is great - bringing in people for music and drinks with the art? It's fantastic." 

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