Weaving together TV footage from the 1950s and ’60s with clips featuring cultural and historical moments, a traveling art exhibit that “seeks to start a conversation around the television again” was temporarily installed Wednesday outside the Jimmy Stewart Museum in downtown Indiana.
With the title of Tune In, the exhibit is a “multidimensional diorama designed to encourage the audience to question how we understand and experience our history, reality, social equity and personal relationships with each other and media technology,” according to the Art Factory.
A group of collaborative artists, Art Factory fabricated the outdoor installation designed by Rick Lazes, according to a news release.
The exhibit is made of six vintage TV screens that play the video in a 12-minute loop, 24 hours a day.
“These video clips come together and break away in sequence to created a digital collage that is meant to catalyze thought,” the artists said.
Janie McKirgan, president and executive director of The Jimmy Stewart Museum, said Wednesday that the exhibit is traveling to museums, art galleries and performance venues to highlight the struggle such entities have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They wanted to shine a spotlight,” she said.
McKirgan said organizers reached out to her about displaying the exhibit, which came at no cost to the museum.
Tune In has visited the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C., and Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven, Mass., and will move on to the Akron Art Museum in Ohio and other museums in Texas, New Mexico and California after spending four weeks here.
Next weekend, as part of the installation, Lazes and his co-director, Aaron Atkinson, will visit Indiana for the documentary “Artists in Quarantine: American Creativity During the 2020 Pandemic” that follows the exhibit from city to city, and where local, creative individuals are interviewed about “how they are using their creativity to bring hope and inspiration to others.”
The footage played in Tune In blends scenes from television shows such as “Sanford and Son” and “All in the Family,” musical performances including from Woodstock, speeches by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., coverage of the moon landing and much more.
“Tune In seeks to start a conversation around the television again,” according to the artists.
McKirgan said the exhibit “shows how some things have changed and some things have not,” and is meant to “spark conversation and memories.”
Beyond that, she said, it brings up the question of “How can we make it a better world moving forward?”
“Can we create a better picture this time?” the artists ask.
“Have we tuned out the intimacies of personal interaction as a result of our preoccupation with an alternative digital reality?” Lazes says in the news release. “Perhaps it is time to tune out the distraction of the static emanating from the internet and social media. Have we become isolated from out neighbors and is it time to turn back to our core values and to reconnect with our families, friends and neighbors to create a society that is more inclusive?”
McKirgan said people are interested in the exhibit and were stopping to watch.
She noted the outdoor exhibit is complemented by a temporary indoor exhibit, Stewart on the Small Screen.
McKirgan said that exhibit highlights Stewart’s television roles, including appearances on talk, game and variety shows, as well as “The Jimmy Stewart Show” and “Hawkins.”
“It’s a nice tie-in to the outdoor exhibit,” McKirgan said.
The museum is open and operating with a 75 percent limit on capacity, she said. Masks are required, and with six galleries, she said social distancing is easily accommodated.
The museum underwent a remodel prior to the pandemic, and McKirgan said visitors will find it has an updated look.
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“It’s a totally new experience to come and see it,” she said. “Be a tourist in your hometown.”
McKirgan said the museum has been able to weather the pandemic through loans and generous donations from individuals, businesses and the Stewart family.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity and love of Jimmy Stewart,” she said.
The pandemic derailed plans last year to mark the 25th anniversary of the museum’s opening.
In a normal year, she said 6,000 to 7,000 people visit, bringing customers to Indiana’s businesses at the same time.
“Our museum helps our downtown survive,” she said. “It helps us all.”
McKirgan said Stewart still resonates with people partly because of the popularity of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and because of his service in World War II.
Looking forward, McKirgan said the museum is making special plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the release of “It’s a Wonderful Life” during Indiana’s holiday festivities during the Christmas season.