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More Than Just Cats

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Scott Stulen is the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new Curator of Audience Experience and Performance. You may know him as the guy who created the Internet Cat Video Festival. We sat down with Scott to discuss the new position, what he learned in his work in Minneapolis at The Walker Art Center, and what he has planned for the IMA and the Circle City.

Sky Blue Window: You've just arrived in Indianapolis, how was your first day on the job?

Scott Stulen: You know, it was pretty calm -- a lot of paperwork and HR meetings. I think it's a standard thing with a new job that you really don't appreciate the calm of the start until it's gone. No one knows I'm really here right now, but I don't expect that to last very long.

SBW: You're the IMA's new Curator of Audience Experiences and Performance. What exactly does that mean?

SS: It's a new position, so we're trying to feel it out. I'm going to do work on projects and getting the community to engage with the library of work the IMA has. That could be curated experience or one-off festivals. I'm also going to maybe do some work off-site, not necessarily on the grounds.

SBW: You're best known as the Producer of the Internet Cat Video Festival, but you also directed the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers and the Mnartists.org initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about those positions?

SS: The McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers was just a great opportunity to head a nationally known arts fellowship that gave out thousands of dollars to mid-career photographers. Mnartists.org is a really cool project with over 10,000 artists and 3,000 arts organizations. It's actually re-launching after a five-year development period in the fall. I helped put it together and now I left before the big unveiling, which wasn't very smart. It'll be spreading to cover the whole Midwest, and coincidentally, IMA Lab helped develop the re-launch well before there was talk of me moving to this position.

SBW: Let's get this out of the way, you aren't bringing the Internet Cat Video Festival with you, are you?

SS: No, I'm not, but I'm interested in bringing what's going to be, you know, the next Internet Cat Video Festival kind of thing. And no it isn't dogs. Actually there are some people in the community bringing a Cat Video Festival here, and I'll probably show up as some kind of guest. It would be rude not to.

Stulen has made a career out of activating spaces to increase public engagement with the arts. At the IMA, Stulen will have grounds almost 10 times larger than the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to work with, and that's not even getting to the museum itself. - WALKER ART CENTER
  • Walker Art Center
  • Stulen has made a career out of activating spaces to increase public engagement with the arts. At the IMA, Stulen will have grounds almost 10 times larger than the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to work with, and that's not even getting to the museum itself.

SBW: If we aren't getting a Cat Video Festival, what are you working on? In Minnesota, you have a really strong background in engaging the local arts community, with the aforementioned MNartists.org, as well as things like the Artist Designed Mini-Golf and the CSA program with Springboard for the Arts. Any plans to bring similar projects to Indianapolis?

SS: Yeah, I mean the 100 Acres is amazing. I was sold on their sales pitch the minute I found out about it. The mini-golf was very popular at the Walker, and it's one of those things that actually brings money to the museum, which can be rare. So something like that would be great.

But another thing I'd love to do would be to bring out a huge picnic table. Something like a 50-foot banquet table. At the Walker we would have these drawing sessions where we would provide the art supplies and then artists and members of the community would just draw. Then, if we had visiting artists, they would just drop in. It was collaborative work, so you'd get multiple people working on a drawing, and all of the art had to stay with us. So it was about the process and the conversations more than anything.

SBW: Besides long "o" sounds, what are some of the differences between the Twin Cities and Indianapolis that might present you with some new opportunities or challenges?

SS: You know I grew up in Minnesota, I was very comfortable there, but sometimes you want something new. I think there are a lot of similarities between the Walker and the IMA, but I'm really looking forward to the fact that the IMA is a museum. I think having access to the whole history of art, and not just contemporary work, will be a lot of fun.

Indianapolis is in this really unique position of being a city on the way up. I think the tech industry and the medical industry are bringing in a lot of young people. It's a smaller city, so I think this is a place where I can come in and make a difference, where as a place like New York, you can't do much. You're just another guy.

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