I got into the museum field by way of jazz. It’s seems unlikely, but it’s true. And lately, I’ve been thinking about paths and how they lead. Sometimes it’s an experience of a lifetime. Sometimes it’s a tough learning experience. In the case of jazz, it lead to a wonderful journey through the quirky museum world.
After years of hip-hop and reggae, I started to listen to jazz my final year at IUPUI. During this time period, I was fascinated by the Harlem Renaissance and the writings of Langston Hughes and obsessed with surrealism and the automatic writing of Andre Breton. Free flowing, stream of consciousness jazz was an obvious next step.
So instead of writing a paper for my senior thesis in anthropology, I decided to create an exhibition at the IUPUI library on Historic Ransom Place and The Avenue.
Historic Ransom Place = African-American neighborhood near IUPUI.
The Avenue = Indiana Avenue, which runs along IUPUI and Ransom Place, and features a rich jazz history.
Somehow, they came together in a fairly cohesive way.
It combined proximity, history, culture, jazz and lots of research into a visual interpretation. It was way more work than a paper, but I wanted to end my education on a high note (no pun intended). When I graduated that May, I was contacted to create an exhibition on the History of Jazz on Indiana Avenue for the first Indy Jazz Fest. So I went for it, too.
Not many people know that at one point, Indianapolis hosted the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Count Basie (what a name) and many more – not to mention the likes of Wes Montgomery and J.J. Johnson, Indiana natives. Like Kurt Vonnegut, it’s one of the things that makes me proud of Indianapolis. I felt lucky to discover this during both projects and create something meaningful.
Both of these experiences challenged me intellectually and engaged my creativity. The deadlines were both daunting and exhilarating. The process of pulling together a million pieces into one project was, quite simply, a lot of fun. I knew that I wanted this type of job.
After time spent living in Greece, England, Tucson and Columbus, OH, I returned back to Indianapolis. After a lengthy job search and some soul destroying interviews, I finally got a museum job. I would spend the next seven and a half years developing my career at the Indiana State Museum and Indianapolis Museum of Art – working on countless exhibitions. Looking back it seems a bit unreal.
Sometimes people ask me what I want to do next. It’s the hardest question to answer. I don’t know. I’ve never really known.
I just follow the path – “An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.” – Langston Hughes