iMOCA Expands to Second Location

In search of a larger audience, the museum goes gallery hopping.
Editor’s Note, March 1, 2015: After serving in the role since 2012, Shauta Marsh stepped down as iMOCA executive director on February 9. Paula Katz, former director and curator of Herron Galleries at Herron School of Art and Design, is serving as interim ED until a permanent replacement is installed. Katz had worked as an independent curator as well, which is what Marsh says she will do now with Big Car Collaborative and more entities. She was iMOCA’s sole full-time employee.
Shauta Marsh loves Fountain Square. The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art’s executive director has lived in the neighborhood since 2000 and worked there for 10 years, first running the Big Car Gallery and, since 2009, with iMOCA. But she knows there are people—some of the same folks the museum hopes to attract as visitors and donors—who wouldn’t go to Fountain Square even if you moved The Fashion Mall into the Murphy Building. So when the opportunity came to open a second space downtown, in 3,389 square feet off of The Alexander hotel’s south lobby, she saw the benefits immediately.
“I think this will help us appeal to a different group of people who want things more slick,” she says of the new location, which was scheduled to open this month but has been delayed until October 3. “I’ve had people flat-out tell me, ‘I’m not going to Fountain Square because my car might get broken into.’ I know we’ll be able to get people to come to The Alexander. They might even be tempted to check out the original museum, too.”
Lisa Freiman, the former curator of contemporary art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art who acquired The Alexander’s already impressive collection of works, helped make the new iMOCA branch a reality. She suggested it to Bradley Chambers, president of Buckingham Companies, which developed the hotel. A few months later, iMOCA had a deal. It’s another example of the young museum’s upswing after some tough years that included financial problems and personnel departures. An exhibit of Tabitha Soren photos in 2012 earned national attention in Vanity Fair, and Interview magazine covered Toyin Odutola’s The Constant Struggle last year. “To see our reputation grow nationally has been great,” Marsh says. “The challenge is to build the reputation locally.”
The new exhibits at iMOCA will run the same length of time as the Fountain Square shows (about three months), but there will be more of them—eight a year instead of six. First up: Infra, an eye-popping gathering of photography by Richard Mosse, whose bubblegum-pink and red hues (above) belie the often creepy images he captured in eastern Congo. According to Marsh, more is at stake here than the success or failure of a new gallery: “The Alexander, iMOCA, Fountain Square, our artists … those are the things that incline people to stay here and make a great city.”