Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Updated: A Fashionable Affair at the IMA

The Midwest has acquired a reputation for prudishness, that, let’s face it, is deserving at times. For example, Carmel, Indiana recently debated a “wholesomeness” resolution, sponsored by a woman who wanted to create a G-rated city for her children. Now I’m not going to suggest that all such things are wrong. Communities need moral and other standards in order to function. However, I think the common perception would be that the Midwest errs on the side of caution here, so to speak.

I’ve always thought this reputation was a bit overblown. Every community has its busybodies. But for the most part I’ve seen the Midwest as a pretty live and let live sort of place. As long as you stay out of other people’s business, they’ll stay out of yours. What’s more, Indiana has always harbored a soft spot for offbeat characters who didn’t fit in with the norm. This is, after all, the state that resisted daylight savings time to the bitter end.

Here’s an illustration of what I mean, one that would probably come as quite a surprise to outsiders. And let’s be honest here, to yours truly a bit as well. The Indianapolis Star posted a small notice about an opening celebration [dead link] for a new fashion-related exhibit called “Breaking the Mode” at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Here’s a quote that caught my attention:

“Dowagers and drag queens squeezed into the Pulliam Great Hall for cocktails and canapés while loud techno music filled the air.”

Drag queens? Yes, indeed. In fact, the Star even posted a picture to prove it, which I’ll include here with a rare fair use claim. From left to right we’ve got Dawn Tabler, drag queen Matthew Garger, and Jacqueline Anderson, wife of the IMA director.

How about some props to “Ms.” Garger – that’s not a bad look.

On seeing this someone commented, “Indy is not Chicago, so I’m pleasantly surprised.” Well I’ll tell you that I’ve been to more than my share of swanky receptions in Chicago, and I’ve never seen them hire drag queens to work the floors. (Some of the nightclubs do, however, or at least used to). In this regard, Naptown seems to be outpacing the Windy City.

Admittedly, the article provides little context on the event, so I don’t know the specific circumstances here, but when a major civic institution like the IMA hosts an event like this and it is apparently no big deal to invite the drag queens, I think it shows a city with a more progressive attitude than a lot of people give it credit for.

Update: The IMA has a blog posting about this event. Apparently it featured a full fledged drag show. Also, photos of the very stylish events of the evening are available on their flickr page.

Topics: Arts and Culture, Urban Culture
Cities: Indianapolis

4 Responses to “Updated: A Fashionable Affair at the IMA”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Please note that the “G-rated city” proposed ordinance was struck down by the city council. I would venture to say that most Carmelites view the petitioners as a bunch of wackos.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, most people living inside the outer loop really could care less about the “alternative” lifestyles of others in Indy. I’m not shocked by that at all. It is once you get out side the loop that you get into trouble.

    Actually this city is pretty gay friendly for the most part. Many in the gay community jokingly refer to Mass Ave. as a little “Boystown” like in Chicago.

    Some interesting studies have recently shown that the majority of cross-dressers in particular are and to some extent drag queens predominately hetrosexual. But, that would fly way over the head of most people out side the loop.

    As how some of this can be brought in to some prespective with regards to this blog. This city really owes a great deal of thanks to the gay communtiy for thier pioneering efforts and the re- emergence of Mass Ave. and the near north side. The gay communities pioneering of those areas early on was a way of creating gay communities that carved out a place they can live, work and play as themselves.

    Sadly there seem to be some that would now like to take what they built up and move them out.

    My quess is a number of them will start to look toward Fountain Sqaure, so I only see good things in store for that area. The gay community has a very unique ability to create and change bad places/areas into really good. something. I suppose that has developed over the years as a survial mode… they had to.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I know this is off topic for this post, but don’t you think we are beginning to see the start of critical mass and a new thinking about mass transit here in Indy…driven by fuel costs. I think we would do future generations a big favor by pushing hard for light Rail beginning…yesterday.
    Hammering out the financial particulars is the next major step in bringing an express bus service to Greenwood.

    Read on:
    IndyGo officials and the city of Greenwood are working on a financial agreement similar to deals in Carmel and Fishers in Hamilton County.

    The Greenwood service would be the last of three planned routes funded through a federal transportation grant.

    A route that began in October in Fishers is at 75 percent capacity; a Carmel route that began Monday attracted more than 100 riders on its first day.

    “People are looking for this type of service,” Michael Terry, IndyGo’s vice president of business development, told a crowd of 50 on Wednesday during a public outreach meeting at the Greenwood City Building. “And the representation here tonight is showing that.”

    The estimated annual operating cost for the service, which is guaranteed for three years, is $262,060. It would require a local match of nearly $82,000, which can be gleaned from Greenwood as well as throughout Johnson County.

    Greenwood City Councilman Ron Deer said Wednesday talks are underway with County Council members and officials in cities and towns across the county to raise funds for the service.

    The good news is that any fares collected can go toward the local match.

    In Fishers, for example, fares collected in the first quarter have covered the cost of the local match. The city “did not pay a dime,” Terry said.

    An agreement also is being sought for a park and ride location at the Marsh parking lot at U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road. The route would travel along I-65 and I-70 and would have six stops in Downtown Indianapolis.

    Fare for each trip would be $2.

    Greenwood resident Bob Helweg, who works at the AT&T building in Indianapolis, has been riding the existing IndyGo route along U.S. 31 for seven years. The non-stop route excites Helweg, as well as another luxury.

    “Certainly the stops, and just the comfort,” Helweg, 52, said, noting the service would use motor coaches.

    IndyGo officials hope the three-year demonstration period will show whether there’s a demand for the service and lead to more transit options.

    Key to IndyGo choosing Greenwood was Access Johnson County, a local bus service that links to IndyGo routes.

    Officials touted the service as an economic development tool that could allow reverse commuters from Indianapolis hop on the express service for job opportunities in Johnson County.

    “This is something the people can make be very successful,” Deer said. “It all depends on ridership.

  4. The Urbanophile says:

    anon 5:20, I saw that it was voted down, but nevertheless, this is something that was actually debated in the city council and brought forward for a vote. Also, the same people pushing this are the ones who successfully convinced Victoria’s Secret to change their window displays.

    anon 6:55, Nice post. Yes, some drag queens aren’t gay, but with drag queens being a traditional fixture at gay pride parades, this is a distinction that isn’t likely in the minds of the public at large. (Supposedly also the majority of men with a cross-dressing fetish are straight, though admittedly I can’t cite the research on that).

    Gays are likely getting displaced out certain neighborhoods for economic reasons. This has happened in Chicago as well, as skyrocketing real estate prices send gays packing north from Lakeview to Andersonville and beyond.

    As you note, the recipient communities are likely to reap some benefits.

    anon 2:30, While I’m a skeptic on rail transit, I think these express bus lines are excellent. I too think they could form the start of a small core of transit which could be expanded over time. Unfortunately, these services are funded by a special federal grant that will run out in a couple years, shutting down the service. Keeping these alive permanently is the first order of the day.

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