A peek at Pittsburgh

A work conference took me to Pittsburgh for the first time last week. I made the most of the free time I had to explore the city and the highlights ended up focusing on food and art (shocking!).

The food

  • Altius – walked across the bridge and took the Duquesne Incline up for an awesome view of the city paired with a delicious meal
  • Meat & Potatoes – one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had with short rib, pork shoulder, and pancetta. It was moan-out-loud-with-every-bite good!
  • Bar Marco – they have arancini on the menu. Do I need to say more??
  • The Foundry Table & Tap – long tap list and pierogies
  • Southern Tier Brewing – the beer I had was okay but I didn’t realize until after I paid my tab that they are also a distillery. Would have liked to try their bourbon/whiskey.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The art

  • Warhol Museum – appreciated the chance to see more of his work beyond the pop art, so much so that I bought two prints!
  • Randyland – one of the most unique places I’ve ever been, an artist’s junkyard of sorts that cannot be missed if you’re in town
  • Mattress Factory – contemporary museum with three buildings worth of interesting exhibits

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also ran along the Three Rivers Trail to make Pennsylvania the 21st state I’ve ran in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



2015 Indy Film Fest Preview

I’ve never understood people who complain about there not being anything to do in Indy or those who compare us to other cities and grumble about things they have that we don’t.

Truth talk: If you’re bored in Indy, you’re doing it wrong.

One of my absolute favorite things in this city is the Indy Film Fest, coming up on July 16 – 25 at the Indiana Museum of Art and IMAX. The organization puts on events throughout the year but these 10 days are some of the best. There are the 100+ films, ranging from comedic shorts to dramatic full-length features. There are the parties (and the after parties). There are the conversations with the filmmakers that give you insight into the creative process. And there are the many shared experiences you’ll be part of as the lights dim in a room full of strangers, all watching the same film but each taking away something different from it.

The list of films selected for this year was released earlier this week. I took a very short, super quick, bookmarked for later scan and here are a few I’m excited about:

  • “Sleeping with Other People” – this film kicks off the festival on opening night. It’s produced by Will Farrell and stars Allison Brie and Jason Sudekis, all of whom I love.
  • “Blood, Sweat and Beer” – as an avid beer drinker (yes, I’m on Untappd) and supporter of local businesses, I’m a big fan of the craft beer scene. This documentary takes an in-depth look at the ups and downs of opening a brewery.
  • “For Grace” – I also have a bit of a fascination with all the things that have to fall into place to make a restaurant simply function, let alone stand out among the competition. This documentary (I promise the festival isn’t all docs) dives into that world and the sacrifices one chef makes to try to become the best.
  • “Love Me Anyway” – the crew behind this film is a regular at the Indy Film Fest. I’ve really enjoyed their previous work and have no doubt this one will keep the streak going.
  • “Somewhere in the Middle” – I’m intrigued by the premise of this one and how it will come together in execution: “…born out of a year-long improvisational process wherein the actors and director mutually crafted a time-fragmented, ensemble drama.”
  • “Wildlike” – this film closes out the festival and looks like an interesting story with scenic Alaska serving as a supporting character.

The exact schedule hasn’t been released yet so be sure to connect with them on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates. Links will be available to buy tickets in advance (the opening and closing nights will sell out!) or you can purchase at the door. I strongly suggest investing in the all access pass. It’s worth it and I love that it gives you the freedom to take a chance on movies you might have passed on based solely on the summary or trailer if you had a limited number of tickets.

Last year, I provided some pro tips for festival attendees. Those all still ring true but one to add: There’s been some confusion about whether or not you can still bike to the IMA after some recent policy changes. They clarify in this blog post, which I suggest you read before biking over. I live downtown and try to bike to the festival when I can, partly because it’s a beautiful route, but also to help offset the popcorn, beer and hours of sitting.

So there you have it. My entry into the “stop saying Indy is boring and get out and experience all it has to offer” debate. I hope to see you out at the festival next month!

Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose! While I have been an official blogger for the festival in the past and received an all access pass for it, this post is just me sharing some love for an event I love and hope you will love, too

An Indy Film Fest #protip or two

One of my favorite events is back this month: Indy Film Fest on July 17 – 26! It’s the 11th year for the festival but will be my third attending. In 2012 and 2013, I had the chance to screen a few films and write reviews that were posted on the festival’s website. You can read all about my 2012 experience here.

They aren’t doing reviews this year but I love this event, so here I am blogging anyway. I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned over the last couple years to help first timers have a great experience and fall in love with the fest.

  • Have a game plan. The festival is 10 days of non-stop movie madness. There are films playing all day, every day in multiple theatres at the Indiana Museum of Art. You could just show up and take your chance on whatever happens to be playing – a festival roulette of sorts. But, your safer route is to check the schedule in advance, watch trailers/read synopses and plan out your week. I like to get the printed version on opening night and highlight my choices (nerd alert!), but you can buy your tickets in advance on their site and build an online schedule too.
  • Take a chance on something different. If judging a book by its cover is wrong, judging a film by its trailer or synopsis can be too. Get outside your comfort zone and see a film that might look a little strange or is something you would normally skip. Last year they showed a documentary about these crazy good, super intense Tetris players. On paper, it sounded like the strangest, quirkiest movie and I debated not going. It ended up being one of my favorite films that year. And on the other end of the spectrum, there’ll be some that look great based on the trailer but might fall a little flat for you. You’ll never know unless you show up, so keep an open mind.
  • Stay for the Q&A. By far one of the coolest things about the festival is getting to meet the directors, writers and actors of some of the films. Last year director/writer/producer/craft beer drinker Joe Swanberg spoke after the screening of Drinking Buddies. It was awesome to hear him talk about the process of making the film, what it was like working with the cast, etc. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking to sit through a screening (sometimes their very first) and watch the audience’s reaction. Even if you didn’t love the film, stick around, learn about the creative process and show your support of people who are putting it all out there for you to judge.
  • Don’t skip the shorts. The festival screens full feature films but also shows several shorts, which are typically 40 minutes or less. The shorts programs can be hit or miss but great short films pack the punch. One of my favorites two years ago, Cadaver, was just shy of 8 minutes but it was incredibly moving and worth sitting through the other shorts to see.
  • Bring a jacket. There are few better ways to escape the summer heat than sitting in a cool theatre. But about 10 minutes into each film, I’m inevitably freezing in my shorts and tank top. Layers are clutch.
  • Thank a volunteer. The Indy Film Fest board is comprised of volunteers who all have full-time jobs. They work year-round to bring amazing, unique, cultural events to the city. During the festival, a crew of additional volunteers puts in countless hours helping make each screening flow smoothly. A quick thank you as they take your ticket goes a long way.
  • Get connected. Follow Indy Film Fest on Twitter and like them on Facebook to get the latest updates on the schedule of events, after parties, giveaways and more. And of course I’ll be posting my 140-character reviews that week too.

The goal of the Indy Film Fest is to create a shared experience around film and I guarantee you will walk away from the week feeling inspired and energized. The festival is your chance to get in some culture, support independent artists and further position Indy as a Midwest mecca of movies. Who needs Tribeca or Sundance when you’ve got the Indy Film Fest?

Pass the popcorn and let’s start the show!

What did I miss Indy Film Fest veterans? Sound off and share your tips! 

Examining the controversy of nude art

Last night I attended “Unclothed: Exposing the Art Nude,” an exhibition and panel discussion held at the Stutz Building as part of the Spirit and Place Festival. Given the nature of the topic, I didn’t expect a big turnout. Despite having a vibrant art scene, Indianapolis isn’t exactly the most progressive city. I was really excited, however, to see a standing room only crowd and to be part of a fantastic, thought-provoking discussion on what can be a truly divisive topic.

The first question posed to the panel was about Indianapolis’ community standards. We know we aren’t Paris, New York or LA, but where do we stand on the issue of nude art? Shannon Linker, director of artist services at the Arts Council of Indianapolis, brought up a good point: we haven’t really had any major controversies to help us figure this out.

The only recent example in Indy is Fred Wilson’s proposed E Pluribus Unum sculpture. The controversy isn’t related to nude art, but rather the depiction of a freed slave. Someone also referenced the 1987 photograph Piss Christ, which depicts a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. Many people were outraged over the image without even seeing it. To me, that’s the heart of the problem with people who condemn “controversial” art: You can’t criticize art without participating in it.

The panel kept circling back to a central question: where does the controversy come from? It doesn’t come from the art itself, but rather from the outside, from the person interpreting it. Certainly when artists create a piece, they have a specific message or theme in mind. But when that piece is displayed, it’s like a blank canvas. Everyone who views it can experience something completely different and take away a different meaning. It’s one of the reasons I love art.

If a piece of art makes you uncomfortable, it’s likely because it draws out some discomfort that already existed in you. You may not even realize it’s happening, but art is often like a mirror – we project our thoughts, emotions, fears onto the piece and it reflects them back. Nude art especially can make us uncomfortable because, as noted by panelist Tim Ayers, teaching pastor at Grace Community Church in Carmel, it exposes our vulnerability.

A gallery exhibition of nude art work was on display at the event. The most poignant piece was a black and white photo called Symmetry by Gary Mitchell. In the photo, a woman in her mid-20s is sitting spread eagle, completely nude, with everything on display. The best part? Her expression. She is completely unashamed. If you felt embarrassed or disgusted by the photo, I would argue that it says less about the photo itself and more about you and how you may be ashamed or disgusted by your own body and/or sexuality. Personally, I was jealous. I admired her extreme confidence.

It’s an interesting concept: is art inherently controversial or do we project controversy onto it? Does nude art make us uncomfortable because we are in some way uncomfortable with our own sexuality? The panel also raised questions about desire. It’s natural to be turned on by nudity, even if the piece isn’t sexual in nature. But does the desire come from the art itself or the interpreter? Is it even possible to remove desire from nudity? If nude artwork is not explicitly sexual, does that make it less controversial?

There’s no simple, easy answer to the questions raised during the panel but they’re certainly interesting to ponder in the broader discussion of the place of nude art in Indianapolis. And that’s exactly what good art, controversial or not, should do. It should create discussion and leave room for interpretation.

So what’s your interpretation on the controversy surrounding nude art? Share your thoughts below!

Calling all art lovers!

I like to think of Indianapolis as a city full of best-kept secrets. We may not be the first place that comes to mind when people plan their getaways, but that’s probably because they don’t realize everything Indianapolis has to offer. I’ve already blogged about the number of local restaurants with amazing food but one of our other best-kept secrets, and one of my personal obsessions, is the local art scene.

Ask the average person to name a city that’s good for art lovers and they’ll probably list off the usual suspects: New York, D.C., Chicago. We may not have the Met, but as a self-professed art addict and amateur collector, I can proudly say there are plenty of opportunities in Indy to get your art on.

Yongqun Guo

Artist: Yongqun Guo Valparaiso; Broad Ripple Art Fair

It at all starts with the fantastic Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), which continues to impress me with the high caliber exhibits it brings in. For example, the Andy Warhol exhibit was an amazing experience and a chance for me to learn more about all aspects of Warhol’s life and career, not just his iconic pieces. And the great thing about the IMA is that it features art of all kinds. You can take a trip back to the 1930s at the Lilly House, take in beautiful views in the gardens, and get lost for hours in the truly unique 100 Acres.

Coffee Table

Artist: Corey Shutters, Indianapolis; First Friday

Beyond the museum, Indianapolis has several monthly and yearly events that bring you up close and personal with art and the artists themselves. This past weekend I went to one of my favorite events: the Talbot Street Art Fair. This free event features a mix of local and out-of-state artists specializing in a wide variety of mediums. And the quality of the art is really, really good. So much so that I forced myself to leave my wallet at home this year. Literally every wall in my apartment has art on it so I have to take a break from buying…or move into a bigger place. Did I mention I’m an addict?

The Broad Ripple Art Fair is another must-see for art lovers, and usually takes place in mid-May. Similar to Talbot, it has a great mix of artists and mediums. There is a fee to get in, but the fair serves as the largest fundraiser for the Indianapolis Art Center which further cultivates the art scene by providing classes, exhibitions and more.

If yearly events aren’t enough to satisfy your art addiction, check out IDADA’s First Friday. On the first Friday of every month, studios and galleries in the downtown vicinity open their doors to the public for free. It’s the perfect chance discover and support local artists. On my last First Friday venture, I bought a purse made out of the old RCA dome roof, combining two of my biggest loves: art and the Colts.

Watch what happens pictureI'm just dreamin picture

*Artist: David Michael Hensley, Indianapolis

I haven’t even scratched the surface but you get the point. One of Indy’s best-kept secrets is our art scene. If you haven’t experienced it, go out and get your art on! For my fellow art addicts, leave a comment and let me know what you love about Indy’s art scene!