Senior Curator Lisa Freiman to Leave IMA

The chief of the museum’s Department of Contemporary Art will depart for VCU after 11 years.

Boston is at her back, and soon Indy also will be in Lisa Freiman‘s rear-view mirror: The 11-year veteran of the Indianapolis Museum of Art will depart for Virginia Commonwealth University’s forthcoming Institute of Contemporary Art, set to open in 2015. Here’s more information about her departure. Freiman is a loss not just for the IMA, but for the entire arts community in Indy, for the city on the whole. IM named her No. 35 among the 46 Super Reasons to Love Indy in February 2012.

One connection to where Freiman is heading is Sonya Clark, a chair in VCU’s art department. Freiman commissioned Clark to create The Alexander’s Madame Walker sculpture. Freiman’s impending exit from Indy is the latest move at the IMA, where relatively new director and CEO Charles Venable, who started in October 2012, has made an array of changes, including cutting dozens of staff positions, an act that led to the creation of the short-lived Twitter account @ShameonIMA.

Here’s what Elisabeth Andrews wrote in February 2012 on outgoing senior curator Freiman: “She changed the art landscape in Indy—literally. When Freiman, head of the IMA’s Department of Contemporary Art, saw that wide-open floodplain behind the museum, she recognized an opportunity she’d never have found in densely developed New Jersey (where she’s from) or Boston (where she worked before landing here). The sprawling outdoor gallery allowed her to issue an ambitious collection of site-specific commissions that would make 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park one of the country’s largest and most-talked-about sculpture gardens.

“Soon after, Freiman turned her attention to what you might call the Super Bowl of the international art world: the 2011 Venice Biennale. Although the privilege of commissioning works for the U.S. Pavilion has historically gone to museums on the scale of MoMA or the Art Institute of Chicago, Freiman’s proposal to stage politically charged works from a pair of Puerto Rico–based artists wowed judges and the State Department, which had rarely approved artwork so explicitly critical. The lesser-known IMA won the assignment, elevating Freiman and the institution to unprecedented visibility.

“The downside? The art world is taking notice of the IMA’s rising star—which may well truncate her time at our fine little museum. Ah, but better to have loved and lost.”

And it came to pass.

Photo by Tony Valainis