Scott Stulen, the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s (soon-to-be-former) curator of audience experiences and performances is embarking on a new professional adventure in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I recently spoke with Scott to learn more about his role at the IMA and his legacy in Indianapolis.
Scott is a man of many passions: writer; artist; visionary; DJ; programmer; husband; father; and cat lover. During his two-year tenure at the IMA, Scott and his team created and executed over 200 programs, which included many projects that had never been done before. The volume of work that he was able to bring to life with limited resources is something that Scott is extremely proud of, and he hopes the IMA team will continue to dream big even after his departure.
“Everyone at the IMA has a mission to make their ideas happen,” said Scott. His bespoke position allowed him to build a team from the ground up, which he referred to as “layers of new.” As a result, the creative opportunities were endless when it came to defining what the audience experience should look like.
The playful, unexpected partnership between an institution (the IMA) and the community was where Scott thrived. One of Scott’s favorite projects was the mini-golf exhibit, which is at the IMA now until October. The course features the work of 30 local artists—each hole inspired by Indiana’s upcoming bicentennial—complete with a squirrel invasion, an interactive chime display that plays ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,’ and Kurt Vonnegut’s desk. According to Scott, most formal art exhibits take an average of two to three years to create. His team delivered the mini-golf course in only 10 months.
The ability to react to current events is a trend Scott believes many art museums will need to develop in the future. Within 48 hours of Prince’s passing, the IMA hosted a viewing of Purple Rain at the museum. The movie Straight Outta Compton played in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly after the night club tragedy in Orlando, the IMA organized a day for the Indianapolis community to write love letters to Orlando. “Museums need to be relevant for their community, and the IMA has done a tremendous job of providing opportunities for Hoosiers to connect and participate,” said Scott.
Although Scott is leaving Indianapolis soon, he found the city that embraced him immediately to be vibrant and welcoming during his time here. “The Indianapolis arts community is open to outsiders, and it is much easier to make an impact in a mid-size city like Indianapolis than other, larger cities.”
Still, Indianapolis has room to grow. Scott says the arts scene is never finished, and the community must never be satisfied with the status quo. Hoosiers should be exposed to high-caliber national art in order to inspire local artists. Scott recognized how collaborative Indy is compared to other cities, which is a huge asset to the local arts community. “We have so many amazing artists right here in Indy, yet many Hoosiers have no idea.” But there are a few local artist exhibits in progress at the IMA, so stay tuned.
I couldn’t end an interview with Scott without inquiring about his infamous Internet Cat Video Festival. After a few laughs, Scott explained that the phenomenon started in Minneapolis, where the idea was to take online content offline to create a social experience. More than 10,000 people showed up for the first festival, and it is now in its fourth year, with a presence in 250 cities and nine countries.
The unexpected is what brings people together. Here’s to progress, and best wishes to Scott in his new role.