Patrick Flaherty - Art Center President and Executive Director
Art is a remarkable tool for self-expression with immense benefits to personal wellness, but it is often marginalized as “inessential” or seen as something unattainable. Too many people think they are “not good enough,” but that is simply not true; artistic expression is a skill that can be developed like any other. No matter your age or experience, the Art Center provides a welcoming and nourishing environment to access incredible studios and instructors and to explore the creative process at your own pace and without judgement.
I grew up in Indianapolis just three miles north of the Indianapolis Art Center. Even though I was an artsy kid and my parents actively sought outlets for my creativity, I did not discover the Art Center until returning to the Indianapolis area after graduate school, when a friend suggested I apply for a part-time, $10.00 per hour position installing exhibitions. Excited to get away from waiting tables, I applied for the job and was offered an interview.
When I arrived for the interview, I thought I had the job in hand; my experience included a Masters in Printmaking at Ball State University, as well as preparatorial and curatorial work at the David Owsley Museum of Art). Three hours later I left bewildered and challenged by the questions and review I had gone through. Something was very unusual about this place. I wanted the job more than ever but no longer assumed it was mine for the taking.
Fortunately, I was hired on and found myself working from day one to prepare for an exhibition. It was new and a bit mystifying to work with living artists. I discovered we did not have a collection or a standard height for labels – what is this place? And, who are these people coming in to take classes? All gummed up from five years of higher education, I felt as if these folks were somehow getting one by the system to access this incredible facility.
Several months later, as it became known that I practiced printmaking, I was offered the opportunity to teach a printmaking class. I appreciated the offer but respectfully declined as, in my own words, I did not have a teaching degree. They said it didn’t matter, and again I wondered, “What is this place!?”
So needing additional income and intrigued at the opportunity, I offered a class in Intro to Printmaking. Stepping into the studio was like stepping into a university studio. Although it hadn’t been touched for several years, it was well-suited to do what I had been told in college would not be readily available anywhere (so get your press time in while you can!) … and here I was, “ready” to teach my first class at the Art Center to whomever would walk through the door.
And that is when I began to understand just how special the Art Center is. One of my first students had been taking art classes at the Indianapolis Art League and Indianapolis Art Center longer than I had been alive! Over the next ten years I worked with students of all ages and skill levels and saw everyone grow. Many students would return time and again and a small community formed within our classroom sharing not just art-making conversations but our personal stories and experiences. The longer I taught, the more I came to appreciate that the only way to have a somewhat similar experience would be for these students to enroll in a university art program – something that most would not have the desire or resources to do.
In addition to a ten-year run as an instructor, I’ve held many positions at the Art Center. From Exhibitions Associate and Studio Coordinator to Exhibitions Associate to Director of Exhibitions and the OneAmerica Broad Ripple Art Fair to currently serving as the President & Executive Director, I have had the privilege to experience many of the uniquely wonderful aspects of this organization and am honored to be a part of this amazing mission.
I support the Indianapolis Art Center because it supports anyone, of any age, of any skill-level in their exploration of the creative process. Just be careful – you can never graduate from the Art Center!