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27
May

Big Technology in Little Lab

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 25, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version. 

Nestled in a corner of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) behind the library, a small, dedicated team sits at desks toiling steadily to transform the visitor experience in the galleries that surround their office and beyond. The employees at IMA Lab are not art historians. They’re not curators or archivists, trained in the delicate task of artistic preservation. They are programmers, designers and developers.

“We have an interesting perspective, because nobody on our team came from a museum background per se,” IMA Lab director, Kyle Jaebker says. “We’re not typical museum employees in that we came up through humanities programs or things like that. We have a technology angle on things that’s a bit different than some other parts of the museum would be looking at it.”

For the last five years, IMA Lab has served as the museum’s in-house technology team. Beyond the ongoing maintenance of IMA’s website and a steady stream of internal projects, the team builds open-sourced software and applications to serve the museum community all over the world. “We’re lucky that we have the staff that we do here at IMA,” Jaebker says. “Most museums have maybe one person or two in the technology realm. Some don’t have any. So, we can come in and help them see how technology can help them with their collections.”

Courtesy of IMA Lab

Courtesy of IMA Lab

One recent, external project is the Closer App that the IMA Lab built and designed for the Art Institute of Chicago. The IMA Lab designed a custom interface, which showcases the works of art within the museum’s modern wing and the stories curators and staff created around them. Most of the projects that the IMA Lab works on are designed to be used internally or within specific exhibitions, Closer is one of the team’s first designs available to the public through the app store.

Jaebker admits the line across which technology moves from an enhancement to a distraction, proves a delicate one. “We try to think about visitors and what they would want to see when they come to museum and how we can use technology to enhance their experience, not take it over,” he says. “If we’re providing more information that then causes them to spend a few more minutes looking at a painting, then that’s a big win for us.”

Through grants and external client work, the IMA Lab is able to offset some of the costs that come with their work. The team recently secured a Sparks! Ignition grant, through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to build location-based software using Apple’s new iBeacon technology. “It’s basically using Bluetooth technology to put little sensors in the galleries, and then you can use your phone to triangulate people and provide context through an app” Jaebker says. “So, we’ll be taking some of the tour platforms that we’ve built and making them contextually aware based on your location.”

Outside organizations grew aware of IMA’s technology arm a few years ago, after the organization launched its ArtBabble and Dashboard websites. Both of those projects were launched prior to the formation of the IMA Lab. Now, the team relies largely upon word-of-mouth and networking at several conferences within the museum community each year to spread its word.

Courtesy of IMA Lab

Courtesy of IMA Lab

“It’s been a really interesting position to be in,” Jaebker says. “It’s nice to offer the open-source opportunities that we are able to build and to share that with the community. That’s one of the most rewarding things of this job. It’s nice that we’re able to make some revenue to the museum and offset our costs in that way, but to actually be able to give back to the community has always been our strongest benefit that we provide here.”

Though his team may not qualify as artists in the traditional sense, Jaebker says the IMA Lab has grown into an integral part of the museum’s larger infrastructure. At the end of the day, he believes in the group’s ability to extend the museum’s reach beyond its campus on W. 38th Street. “There are millions of people who are never going to set foot in this building, so how can we engage those audiences with our online offerings and provide an experience that isn’t going to be the same as being here, but it’s still an experience they can share with our museum through technology,” he says.

Written by Rob Peoni

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27
May

Joyful Noise invades WARMfest

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 26, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version. 

Next weekend, WARMfest invades Broad Ripple Park for four days of arts, music and a celebration of the White River that runs alongside it. For year two, WARMfest organizer Dan Ripley decided to place an emphasis on Indy. “I decided to regroup and make it more local this year,” Ripley says. “Let’s make it great locally, and then people are going to want to come from around the region.”

In this spirit, WARMfest tapped local label Joyful Noise Recordings to curate its main stage on Saturday. The label’s owner, Karl Hofstetter, lives directly across the street from the festival and JNR had previously curated stages at Broad Ripple Music Fest, which was incorporated by WARMfest last year. (Broad Ripple Music Fest continues this year by curating the local line-up at WARMfest and is currently planning more stand-alone programming in 2015.)

“I think it’s important for the city,” Hofstetter says. “There are so many great festivals around, and it seems to be a good model to actually get people excited about music and get bands paid. I like that. The bands are driving through this city anyway to get to the next festival, so it makes total sense for Indianapolis to have a festival on that caliber and hopefully WARMfest is it.”

The stage will feature the bulk of JNR’s roster, including heavy-hitters Half Japanese, of Montreal and Sebadoh. Half Japanese band members recently reunited to release Overjoyed, its their first album in more than a decade. Coincidentally, the release date is scheduled for the week following WARMfest, so the festival will serve as a sort of gigantic album release party. “All five of those guys are coming from different cities on three continents to fly into Indianapolis just to play that show,” Hofstetter says. “It costs $4,000 in flights just to get those guys in the same room, and we want to make the most of it.”

Hofstetter’s house will double as a green room/recording space for the acts on his roster. The idea was sparked when several of the bands expressed an interest in rehearsing prior to the show. Hofstetter immediately saw the potential and convinced them to record stripped-down sets, which JNR will release as singles, exclusive to WARMfest. Mike Dixon, who runs his own label People in a Position to Know, will handle the lathe-cutting process. He’s based out of Arizona, but travels to several festivals each summer to cut limited-run vinyl for fans to watch in person.

“We’re going to have a tent next to the main stage where the records are being cut,” Hofstetter says. “They’re all going to be signed, and hand-numbered. There will only be 75 copies of this recording that will ever exist.”

The seven bands releasing limited-edition singles at WARMfest are:

  • of Montreal
  • Lou Barlow (Sebadoh)
  • Half Japanese
  • Busman’s Holiday
  • KO
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Yoni Wolf (Why?)

On Friday WARMfest will host a screening of a new film about JNR’s own of Montreal. The documentary, entitled The Past is a Grotesque Animal, focuses on the band’s enigmatic frontman Kevin Barnes. The screening is part of WARMfest’s community day, which also features a performance from local punk icons Zero Boys and Indy super group The Last IV. At a single-day price point of just $10, Friday should prove an attractive option for families. Although, kids under the age of 10 have free access all weekend long.

When asked what it meant to him personally to see the label that he built featured as the centerpiece of a burgeoning music festival in his own front yard, Hofstetter says, “Hopefully, it’s a sign that people like what we do here?” he questioned rhetorically. “Honestly, like 90 percent of our records are sold in cities other than Indianapolis. Probably, more like 99 percent. That’s not because we don’t want to sell records to people here … Hopefully that shifts a little bit. Even if it doesn’t, it’s OK. We’re happy, but this is our home. It would be nice if people liked what we did here.”

Joyful Noise’s stage will kick off at noon on Saturday with a set from Bloomington’s Sleeping Bag. The trio recently released its third full-length LP Deep Sleep. Listen to the album’s lead-off single “Riff Randle” below.

Written by Rob Peoni

27
May

WARMfest Dispatch: Day 1

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 30, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version. 

The first night of WARMfest kicked off with more of a collective whisper than an amplified bang, with North Central High School’s orchestra playing beautifully to several dozen listeners near the festival’s entrance. Last night served as a sort of soft opening, where eager festivalgoers gained the lay of the land prior to the masses engulfing Broad Ripple Park for Joyful Noise Recordings‘ marquee acts this afternoon. While organizers and volunteers crossed their last T’s and dotted their last I’s in the background, a handful of local acts ushered in a weekend of live music and a celebration of White River on two of the festival’s three main stages.

bashiri-asad-warmfestI was at WARMfest for a little over an hour, when Heather Michelle Chapman warmed the Heron stage with a handful of covers. “I think you might be our only fan tonight,” Chapman said to my buddy Dan Murray who was dancing admirably while the rest of the listeners enjoyed the shade of the park’s trees and comfort of its picnic tables nearby. Drinking-age readers might know Murray as the chubby bartender from The Monkey’s Tale in Broad Ripple, just a few blocks from the festival itself. “Do you sing?” Chapman followed. The next thing I knew, Murray was on stage joining in an impromptu duet of John Mellencamp’s Hurt So Good. While the rest of the WARMfest audience winced through this locally grown cover, I relished in the vicarious embarrassment of my longtime friend. (Actually, he did an admirable job given the circumstances.)

After a solid set from local soul singer Bashiri Asad, which featured a surprising cover of Radiohead’s High and Dry, we ventured toward WARMfest’s River stage where volunteers had set up a screening of the documentary The Past is a Grotesque Animal. The film revolves around the band of Montreal, which will headline WARMfest’s main stage this evening, and its enigmatic front man Kevin Barnes. The movie was nothing short of fantastic and it underscored my excitement for the band’s performance today. Nevertheless, I left before it finished to catch a few songs from local punk icons Zero Boys.

Upon arriving at the Hawk stage, I jostled my way to the front of the crowd to capture a few pictures. After all, I’m “working” this weekend on behalf of Sky Blue Window. I knelt at the front of the stage wielding my iPhone, as is the habit of every concertgoer these days, when I suddenly felt the presence of Zero Boys front man Paul Mahern looming overhead. Mahern swiped my phone and a moment of panic rushed through my bones. He’s a legendary punk rocker, and it would’ve been a justifiable move had he smashed my phone to smithereens and sent the various pieces hurling toward the audience. Fortunately for me, he took the opportunity to take a few candid shots of his band before returning the phone safe and sound. I wiped a healthy amount of sweat from my brow and returned to my friends safely outside of Mahern’s reach for the rest of the band’s badass set.

zero-boys-warmfest

For a preview of today’s WARMfest action, check out my recent post on Joyful Noise Recordings’ curation of the main stage. I’ll be at Broad Ripple Park covering the festival all weekend, but if I had to pick one day to attend it would DEFINITELY be today. Let’s rock!

Written by Rob Peoni