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The Winning Pitch: Preview of ArtPrize Pitch Night 2015

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on May 12, 2015. Some formatting, content and style changes may differ from the original version. 

One of the Midwest’s largest arts events is partnering with Indianapolis Museum of Art to create a substantial opportunity for Hoosier artists.

ArtPrize is an annual event held over 19 days in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Throughout the event, installations fill the city from museums and galleries to restaurants, banks and city parks. During the exhibition, the public votes to select the grand prize winner. Artists also compete for a juried grand prize worth $200,000 and four $12,500 juried category prizes. The panel of judges consists of world-renowned art experts.

artprize-2015-logoOn June 10, the IMA will host Pitch Night, an ambitious new event that will fund an ambitious project by an Indiana artist for a prominent ArtPrize venue. Five artists will be selected to give a five-minute presentation using five slides each. A selection panel of experts along with the audience will be able to ask questions following the presentations. The winner will receive $5,000 to create an exhibit within a 3,500-square-foot office space in downtown Grand Rapids.

The first Pitch Night was developed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis with Scott Stulen, who now serves at the IMA as curator of audience experience and performance. Stulen offered the IMA and Indy as a potential expansion site for the event. ArtPrize officials agreed, and now the Circle City is included, along with Minneapolis and Durham, North Carolina.

“IMA’s mission is to support the creative, innovative and exciting works of art and the local and regional artists,” Stulen says. “Pitch Night does both in a very inventive way.”

Last year Indianapolis mixed-media artist Anila Agha ushered in a historic victory at ArtPrize, winning the $200,000 public vote and $100,000 of the juried prize. For more on Agha’s work in the competition, take a look at this Sky Blue Window piece: Memory & Meaning Cubed.

Courtesy of Anila Agha

Courtesy of Anila Agha

“Anila’s win last year was huge, not only for Indiana, but for ArtPrize,” Stulen says. “Anila achieved something that few thought possible — winning both the critics’ and the public vote,” he says. “It means that the public is being exposed to more contemporary art, learning more and that artists are understanding the unique venue of ArtPrize. More specifically, Anila’s win has highlighted the art scene in Indianapolis outside Indiana and will hopefully help to attract more attention for other talented artists in the state.”

Agha will serve on the panel at Pitch Night. Other panelists include: Stulen,  Sarah Urist Green, host of The Art Assignment, Mindy Taylor Ross, owner of Art Strategies, and Roseanne Winings, assistant curator of audience engagement and performance at the IMA.

Artists interested in applying must do so by the May 26 deadline. Pitch Night Indianapolis is limited to those currently living within Indiana. Artists must submit a proposal, an artist CV and up to five images all by email to Additional details on the application process are available via ArtPrize. Pitch Night will take place in the Toby Theater on June 10. The event is free.

Written by Rob Peoni


Screening for Relief: ‘Highway to Dhampus’ at ArtCraft Theatre

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on June 8, 2015. Some content and formatting changes differ from the original version. 

Earlier this spring, a massive earthquake struck Nepal, killing more than 8,000 people and injuring tens of thousands more. Around the same time, Pastor David Schreiber was in a meeting, prepping materials for vacation bible school at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Indianapolis. Coincidentally, the theme for the class was Everest.

“So, there are scenes of these happy kids climbing the mountain and meeting these smiley, cartoonish characters that are wonderful and teach virtues and things that are related to the bible school,” Schreiber says of the vacation bible school materials. “But here’s Everest, this happy shiny place in vacation bible school, and yet it’s a place of utter devastation in the news.”

As Schreiber and his team at Resurrection brainstormed on ways to bring the theme of Everest to their students, he recalled a film he had seen at last year’s Heartland Film Festival.

In 2014, Highway to Dhampus earned Heartland’s “Best Premiere Award” in the narrative feature category. The film centers on a British celebrity’s trip to a Nepalese orphanage with the intent of repairing her public image. Along the way, Nepal emerges as a major character in its own right.

Courtesy of Julie Ahlander

Courtesy of Julie Ahlander

“The delight about Heartland is so many of these filmmakers come and not just for Q&A, but they hang out in the lobby afterwards and have conversations,” Schreiber says. “I kept bumping into Rick McFarland, who’s the director, on a couple of occasions. We had some conversations about film, but also about Nepal and also about themes that are in the movie — generosity, cultures connecting, and all of that.”

After the festival, McFarland and Schreiber remained connected through Facebook.

He noticed McFarland had organized a benefit screening in his hometown of Salt Lake City in response to the earthquake. Schreiber reached out to McFarland about hosting a similar screening in Indianapolis in connection with the service portion of his vacation bible school. McFarland agreed and also vowed to attend the event along with the film’s star Raj Ballav Koirala.

“We gathered a few nice connections and friendships as we were there at the Heartland festival,” McFarland says. “It seemed like that would be hopefully an additional draw, rather than just the screening–to have part of the filmmaking team there.”


Courtesy of Julie Ahlander


Organizing a fundraiser for disaster relief can prove a complicated task. For evidence, look no further than ProPublica and NPR’s recent coverage on Red Cross’s mismanagement of funds following the earthquake in Haiti. The best intentions often get lost in a sea of red tape and middlemen.

highway-to-dhampus-sohoWith this in mind, Schreiber and McFarland wanted to do everything in their power to ensure that the funds raised for Nepal will not go to waste. A member of Schreiber’s congregation donated frequent flyer miles to cover the cost of Ballav Koirala’s flight. Another member of the church covered the cost of booking Franklin’s historic Artcraft Theatre for the screening.

“There’s literally almost no expense here,” Schreiber says. “So, everything that comes in will go to the aid effort in Nepal.” Proceeds from the benefit screening will go directly to Mind the Gap Worldwide and Lutheran World Relief. Both organizations are currently involved in relief efforts in Nepal.

McFarland admits he had no intention of creating a film that would serve as a fundraising vehicle for Nepal when he set out to make this film nearly five years ago. He just wanted to create a good film. Nevertheless, he is excited about the film’s potential for a greater good.

“It could help, and maybe in some small way it could be of legitimate help — not just an emotive piece, not just something that tugs at that the heartstrings, but something that connects people with the people of Nepal and with the sense of helping them,” McFarland explains. “That’s a new and unexpected thing that the film has taken on, and I’m enjoying that aspect of it.”

Tickets for Wednesdays screening of Highway to Dhampus are available for free. Donations are strongly encouraged. To learn more about the event, visit Resurrection’s website or connect with the event on Facebook.

Written by Rob Peoni


Album Preview: The Mynabirds ‘Generals’

My ears tend to perk up whenever I learn that Richard Swift has his grubby paws on a project. We are big fans of his work with Jessie Baylin on her album Little Spark (review), released earlier this year. Swift has kept busy in 2012, working on keyboards and backup vocals for The Shins. On June 5, another Swift-produced project will see daylight in the form of The Mynabirds‘ sophomore LP Generals.

Swift served as producer on The Mynabirds underrated 2010 debut What We Lose in the Fire, We Gained in the Flood. The gang appears to be back in full force. Watch a trailer, view the track listing and stream the title track below. Pre-order your copy of Generals via Saddle Creek.

Connect with The Mynabirds via Facebook | Twitter

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Album Stream: Jessie Baylin Pleasure Center EP

Track Listing:

1. Karma Debt

2. Wolf Mother

3. Generals

4. Radiator Sister

5. Disaster

6. Mightier than the Sword

7. Body of Work

8. Disarm

9. Buffalo Flower

10. Greatest Revenge

Written by Rob Peoni