An extended internship meant hard work for senior Emma Converse, but it’s paying off in more ways than one. With help from UIndy art instructor Mark Ruschman, a longtime gallery owner and leader on Indianapolis’s visual arts scene, Converse began working in November at the Harrison Center for the Arts, a not-for-profit studio and gallery complex at 16th and Delaware streets. After the studio art major proved her worth, the staff came to her with an exciting but daunting offer: to serve as coordinator for the Independent Music & Art Festival, the largest event on the center’s yearly schedule. This year’s 11th annual IMAF, which took place June 9, featured multiple art exhibitions, more than 100 craft vendors, 12 musical acts on two stages, a gaggle of food trucks, and approximately 7,000 visitors.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” says Converse, daughter of Fred and Kim Converse of Fort Wayne. “I wasn’t going to say no to it.”
With guidance from the staff and advisory board, she spent countless hours obtaining city permits, booking bands, and generally juggling all the logistics of a major public event. The stint as IMAF coordinator should make a nice résumé item for Converse, a painter who plans to pursue a master’s degree in museum studies and eventually work in curation for a museum or gallery.
“I learned skills in a lot of areas that I’ll definitely be able to use, especially in working with people and the public,” she says. “And even with all the work I was doing the day of, I was still enjoying it. Having fun and seeing the bands and everything, I was thinking, ‘Wow, I kind of put this all together.’”
The icing on the cake was an invitation to display her own paintings in one of the galleries during the festival and throughout the month of June. Her cityscapes featuring Indianapolis landmarks were a hit with visitors, who bought five of the seven works on display. Since then, Converse has received two private commissions for new paintings, and the local advertising and PR agency TrendyMinds has commissioned seven pieces for its offices, including renditions of Monument Circle, the Central Canal, and other local sights.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s been really fun,” she says. “It’s kind of surreal.”