top of page
  • Writer's pictureBryn Foreman

Flying Blind: Navigating Life After Graduation

Since graduating with my Master's degree in Museum Studies from IUPUI in May of 2023, my journey has been chaotic and deeply rewarding. Stepping into the role of manager at the Garfield Park Arts Center in September marked the beginning of a fulfilling chapter filled with hiring instructors, scheduling classes, planning exhibitions, receptions, events, and further immersing myself in the vibrant world of arts and culture in Indianapolis.


 

Embracing Professional Responsibilities:

Joining the Garfield Park Arts Center in a directorial capacity at age 28, only four months out of grad school, was a dream come true. I cannot overstate how lucky I got with this position, and it would be both grandiose and frankly untrue to try and say that hard work alone got me here. Of course I worked hard - everyone does! - but it was also the leveraging of my professional/social network, and the pure luck of finding the job listing when I did. I've had a lot of help from a lot of people, and I have so much to be grateful for.


A room with brown tile and brown walls with a collection of community-sourced artwork on the walls
Mirror Indy's photo of GPAC's February exhibition, LOVE

Since then, it's been a whirlwind of activity, from coordinating workshops and classes to collaborating with artists and curating upcoming exhibitions. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities for creativity, and I couldn't be more grateful for the chance to meaningfully contribute to the cultural landscape of our community.

GPAC is and has been underutilized, in my opinion. A lot of Indianapolis residents think that the Indianapolis Art Center is the only available option for taking classes, and unfortunately a lot of those classes are cost prohibitive. GPAC is completely unique in the sense that it’s the only public art center in Indianapolis, and a massive part of our mission is to provide classes that are both enriching and affordable. We’re so lucky to share the park with the Garfield Park Conservatory (also unique) and the Burrello Family Center. We also share a building with the Production Arts branch of Indy Parks, and this close proximity has provided a lot of great opportunities to both learn and to collaborate.


 

Balancing the Personal and the Professional:

Admittedly, diving headfirst into my career has meant that my personal life has taken a backseat. When I do go out, I often find myself gravitating towards social events in the visual art scene, and somehow almost always find myself talking about work and collaboration. I can’t remember the last time I just got coffee with a friend to talk about books or TV. However, I’m working on it. Kind of.

I’m putting more effort into my platonic relationships than I ever have, and it does indeed take effort. All of those articles about Millennials (even though I’m a GenZ cusp!) struggling to have friends as adults are no joke. I’m learning that I’m a bit of a workaholic. It stems from a place of genuine interest and passion - I love art, and I love my community. When interviewing for this position, I remember saying that the work I’m doing at GPAC is work I would probably just be doing in my spare time anyways, and I stand by that.


Another example of this behavior is my total inability to rest. For instance, I’m going to Chicago soon. It was originally intended to be a trip to see friends and relax, but somehow I ended up with a PDF itinerary of all the galleries I plan to visit, including which ones’ teams I’ve booked meetings with. I just can’t seem to help myself, and to be totally honest, I'm not sure that it's a behavior that I'm interested in changing.


The professional encroaching on the personal is not always by invitation, either. Shortly after a social media announcement regarding my hiring, GPAC had to close for a day in response to death threats that were posted both on Facebook, and sent to my email inbox. Despite the fact that the announcement did not say anything at all about my gender identity, some were evidently offended by my short hair, piercings, and they/them pronouns.


I’m no stranger to controversy, or to online spats. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a messy b**** who lives for drama. This one was different, however, because I didn’t make the post, I hadn’t done anything inflammatory to provoke such a violent response, and because the safety of my coworkers was compromised in addition my own. I'm not sure that everyone understands how serious a threat has to be in order for a government facility to close.

It was unsettling when I had to meet with upper management and park rangers to discuss a safety plan. It went as far as having to change my routes into and out of the park for a while. I can admit now that it scared me, though at the time I made a concerted effort to at least appear calm. It caught me off guard because, quite frankly, my pronouns are not the most interesting, or even most abrasive thing about me. Trust me - there are much, much worse things that the public may have reason to be concerned about, and my rejection of traditional womanhood is not one of them.


Ultimately, I decided to lean into the publicity, and to leverage it for the Art Center. If I’m going to be a civil servant, then I have a responsibility to be accessible to the public that I serve, and accessible I will be. I recently invited Dwight Adams from Mirror Indy into the Art Center to take a look at what we do, and I’m hoping that an ongoing relationship with local media outlets will help us to bring awareness to the community about our programming and exhibitions. You can find that article here.


A fountain made of soda cans pours into a utility bucket in in the foreground of a dimly lit art gallery with electric candles and clown portraits in the background
Gallery view of 'The Moon Took The Form of The Devil,' by Brock Oakley Ailes at Storage Space Art Gallery

 

Diving into the Art Scene:


While my professional life has been bustling with activity, I've also made a conscious effort to stay connected to the wider art scene. Despite the demands of my role, I still find time to attend events at the Storage Space Art Gallery, where I draw inspiration from emerging talents and established artists alike. After participating in the annual group show, I was thrilled to see Brock Oakley Ailes' exhibition, The Moon Took The Form of The Devil. It was probably my favorite local show of 2023, in large part because it was so antagonistic towards the viewer. I'm a big fan of uncomfortable situations, and the high-pitched battery sound was what really completed the environment.

Some of my notes and calculations from install. I'm as surprised as anybody!

Most recently, I had the privilege of assisting with the install and sales for BUTTER at All Star Weekend, an experience that further fueled my passion for the arts. One of the

things that makes my job nice is the flexible hours - I was able to take the entirety of Wednesday to go mark out the exhibition plan before any paintings were even brought upstairs. It was also great to learn that I can still do math! Huge shout out to my high school geometry teachers, I really can't believe that I utilized those skills in a professional environment.

An overhead view of people standing and talking among paintings on white walls, beneath artificial clouds. In the background is a stage.
The fully installed, open to the public BUTTER All Star Weekend in the Indianapolis Arts Garden
A round painting of a black woman is the lone painting on a series of blank temporary walls. The walls are marked with tape, and images of the paintings that will eventually be on the walls.
The early stages of install in the Arts Garden

A particular point of pride for me is the meteoric career ascension of Alyse Tucker-Bounds. She and I met working on a group project together for a Laura Holzman class at IUPUI (along with Elias and Syd, two more people that I’m incredibly proud of!), and it was such an honor to be able to help her collective, One Drop, during install, and to watch my friend expertly work the room during the event itself. There are times when I need to pinch myself, and remember that this isn’t just a lovely dream - I’m alive and thriving and watching my beautiful, intelligent, kind friends thrive too. What an immense privilege this life is.


 


Looking Ahead:


As I reflect on my journey since graduating, I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunities that have come my way. Each experience, whether professional or personal, has contributed to my growth and development as a curator and arts advocate. Looking ahead, I'm excited to continue pushing boundaries, nurturing creativity, and making a meaningful impact in the world of museum studies and beyond.


Exhibitions are, arguably, the most glacially paced set of programming to adjust and tweak. By 2025, I’m hoping to shift GPAC into having two month long exhibitions, allowing us more room for receptions, artist talks, and classes. Without saying too much about things that aren’t set in stone, I can say that I’m most excited about the potential collaborations that lie ahead. There’s an immense amount of talent in Indianapolis and the wider midwest, and I’d like to tap into that. Community shows, while fun, can become limiting in their own way, and I’m hoping that interspersing some thoughtful curation can bring a new energy to GPAC.



Of course, there is the eternal question of classes. I’m always looking to bring new instructors into the fold, and if you have a class you’d like to teach at GPAC then PLEASE reach out! Let’s talk scheduling, materials, and pay.


As far as other programming goes, at the moment I’m most interested in getting a few artist talks on the books, and maybe even a regular crit meeting. More than anything, I just want people in the building and using it. Maybe now that we have wi-fi, some of you will be willing to come visit me and do some remote work from our library. If you’re nice, maybe I’ll even make enough coffee to share.


Alyse and me taking a mirror selfie before MELT started

 

Conclusion:


In the ever-evolving landscape of arts and culture, my journey as a museum studies graduate has been both challenging and rewarding. From my role as manager at the Garfield Park Arts Center to my involvement in the wider art scene, I remain committed to fostering creativity, championing diverse voices, and shaping a more inclusive cultural future. With each new day comes the opportunity to learn, grow, and make a difference—and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me next.

126 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Yorumlar


bottom of page