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IMA's Autumn Play Date

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When the clock strikes 5 this Saturday afternoon, an army of guitars will besiege the ringed Align structure in the Indianapolis Museum of Art's 100-acre Art & Nature Park, chiming thunderously in unison before reaching a resounding pinnacle of sound.

"All we're going to play is the E chord, but hopefully the power of the piece will come through by the sheer number of guitars and amplifiers in this chimney of sound that I hope will just bellow up through the rings in alignment with the sun," says Stuart Hyatt, who will be conducting the performance.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art's Autumn Equinox event will include artist Stuart Hyatt's participatory sound piece E is for Equinox. - STUART HYATT
  • Stuart Hyatt
  • The Indianapolis Museum of Art's Autumn Equinox event will include artist Stuart Hyatt's participatory sound piece E is for Equinox.

Hyatt's piece will be one of many sounds to be heard at this year's audio-themed Autumn Equinox festival at the IMA. The event will also feature a sonic playground led by Minneapolis sound art and electronic music duo Beatrix*JAR, an interactive sculpture created by Indy's Brian McCutcheon. It was designed to collect, amplify and broadcast the underwater sounds of the park's lake.

Since being named the curator of audience experiences and performance at the IMA in February, Scott Stulen has worked to facilitate more innovative public programs such as this, strategically orchestrating them throughout the museum's vast premises. He reflects, "I want people to really think about the IMA as a place that they're coming to more frequently, so that you see these things happening monthly, if not weekly, that are interesting and that you want to be part of." Stulen and Coordinator of Multi-Age Programs Tariq Robinson aimed to revamp this year's fall celebration.

"I think there was really a focus on having more interactive activities, so each of these [festival elements] has a very interactive component, and we have a certain element of spectacle with a lot of them too," Stulen says. "The idea is not unlike ones in the past, but really: How do we highlight what's always been there in the park? And also, how do we highlight the strengths of what the Art & Nature Park is?"

Hyatt is attempting to create something spectacular with his performance, which is suitably titled E is for Equinox. He says, "Music is given away for free. The stuff that we make is increasingly without value, and there are pros and cons to that. So I think that in the music business (and that kind of has its overlap into any sort of digital, multimedia work), if it can be shared and downloaded and copied ad nauseam, how do you create something of value that is unique and that people really respect and admire?" To him, the answer to this question lies in the production of unforgettable interactive experiences.

"This piece lasts three minutes, and then it goes away and that is the first and last time it ever happens, and I like that," he says. "Of course, it may live on through photographs or perhaps video documentation, which is cool, but you really need to go there to experience it. I think in our heavily digitized world, it still means something to go to a place and to experience something, and I hope that we give people three minutes of something that they maybe never will experience again."

The art duo Beatrix*JAR, composed of Bianca Pettis (Beatrix) and Jacob Aaron Roske (JAR), create sound collages that often incorporate audience participation and play. - BEATRIX*JAR
  • Beatrix*JAR
  • The art duo Beatrix*JAR, composed of Bianca Pettis (Beatrix) and Jacob Aaron Roske (JAR), create sound collages that often incorporate audience participation and play.

As Stulen continues his efforts to expand the museum's audience through inventive programming, he uses "play, fun and humor" as access points. He explains, "Often through those, you can get people to experience sometimes very avant-garde or very conceptual types of work, and they don't even realize it's happening." And those themes will undoubtedly be present at this year's Autumn Equinox festival.

"We have some pretty avant-garde music that we're going to do, but it's going to be really accessible and really playful and fun -- something that works for kids and for adults seamlessly," he says.

In the future, Stulen hopes the IMA can gain a reputation as a place where "people start to expect the unexpected," eventually prompting them to explore the wide range of activities offered there regularly.

For more information on this year's Autumn Equinox festival, visit the IMA's website.

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