This past Friday at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, we welcomed Maxwell L. Anderson, who is Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), for a guest lecture. He was a very good speaker. Some of you may have heard of him, as he has done quite a bit in the art world, working at Emory, Yale, and the Whitney amongst other places. He actually has his own website, which seems kind of odd to me, but, well, there it is.

He had a memorable talk, describing his own efforts in developing the IMA, ranging from a playful bridge to the development of the man-made pond/lake on the museum’s property. I found it slightly off that Anderson’s excuse for dotting the lake and nearby greenspace with art objects is that it wasn’t originally a water property, so it wasn’t intended to be anything slightly disconcerting — kind of like abandoning a commitment to preserving nature whenever it suits one’s self. I’m not sure.

Anderson spoke on the importance of engaging the community. A questioner took the opportunity to inquire if he meant this in any political sense. I leaned forward, detecting the certain markers of an opportunity for liberal demagoguery which, thankfully, never came. Anderson replied that although there may be some of that, he didn’t care what politics a person has: the museum’s mission was to work at a level beyond politics. The ending of Star Trek The Next Generation is what I think he is shooting for, and I can only paraphrase not having the script:

Q: For one small, fraction of a second, you were open to possibilities that you had never before considered.

Picard: The paradox — the chicken and the egg.

Q: Exactly. That is the journey that awaits you. Not mapping stars and charting nebulae. But exploring the unknown possibilities of existence.

He continually referred to the plans to create a cultural plaza, presumably right by the Harn, in at the University of Florida. I am not sure how far along plans are, or what the planners seek in their plans, but I wonder how much room they have to work with. There are tons of trees behind the museum, but in front of it only parking spaces and a parking garage. Still, I suppose, there’s plenty of potential behind it. But then there’s the question of how to get people over there. Right now, one of the immense successes at UF is Museum Nights, where on Thursday nights the museums stay open later and people come to enjoy special programs and get exposure to the museums.

Anderson had some good ideas regarding implementation of such a plaza. For example, he cautioned against commissioning permanent works for the plaza, instead suggesting that temporary, changing, or malleable works may be a suitable alternative.

Only time will tell what shape our plaza takes.

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