The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers the best in Indianapolis art, Indianapolis culture, and just plain good entertainment to the Indianapolis community. This Indianapolis museum is proud to be one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. A variety of collections in many different mediums, as well as guest lectures, films, exhibitions are all present at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Outside the museum, guests can take in the natural beauty of the Gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Lilly House, and the forthcoming Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.
This Indianapolis art museum was originally founded in 1883, by May Wright Sewall, who proposed the idea of organizing a society to promote and study art in the Indianapolis community. From this proposal, the Art Association of Indianapolis was incorporated with the primary goal of eventually establishing a permanent art museum and Indianapolis art school. The plan to establish a permanent art museum was jump-started when John Herron donated nearly $250,000 for the construction of an Indianapolis art school and museum bearing his name.
The original museum and art school buildings would be established in 1902 in the Tinker house, at the corner of Pennsylvania and 16th. An additional building was constructed on the site and would be the first site of the Herron School of Art. The construction of this additional building, to be used for the sole purpose of the art school, would leave the original building exclusively for the development of the art museum and training its staff.
Under the direction of Wilbur D. Peat, who would remain the professional director of the museum for the next 36 years, the museum would establish itself as a prime Indianapolis attraction by 1942, with its collection of 350 paintings by 260 artists. Peat retired in 1965, and the museum saw a new director in Maxwell L. Anderson.
Along with new leadership, the Indianapolis Museum of Art gained a valuable edition from the children of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly Jr. The couple donated their parent’s estate, Oldfields, to the museum. This estate donation would be converted over the next three years into a new home for the art museum, with the usage of the Lilly Home as the Lilly Pavilion of Decorative Arts and the construction of new exhibition buildings on the remainder of the Oldfields estate.
With the relocation of the museum to its new location at the Lilly estate, the museum would change its name from the John Herron Art Museum to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Herron School of Art would disconnect its direct affiliation with the art museum and would form a new affiliation with Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI), which continues to this day. The Indianapolis art community has benefited greatly by these changes.
Many separate expansion projects were undertaken over the years, opening the Clowes Pavilion in 1971 and the Showalter Pavilion in 1973. Robert Yassin was charged with the continued growth and success of the already flourishing museum in 1974. In 1985, the museum used a $3.5 million gift to construct yet another new, four-story pavilion.
The various collections held by the museum include a variety of Chinese art in a many different mediums, including porcelain, ceramics, bronze, and jade. The museum also holds an impressive selection of Edo-period Japanese paintings.
The Eiteljorg Collection of African Art is an impressive holding for the museum, featuring some of the finest examples of African art. Harrison Eiteljorg donated over 1200 African works in 1989, and the African exhibit now represents all major areas of African art.
In addition to the many exhibits in the museum, visitors can also enjoy the Alliance Museum Shop, the Alliance Rental and Sales Gallery, and the outdoor Concert Terrace, which features outdoor summer films, live Indianapolis music, and a variety of special programs. The Indianapolis Museum of Art maintains an on-site greenhouse and sells plants, flowers, and herbs when in season.
The grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art also provide the backdrop for the annual Penrod Art Fair. The Lilly House is seated on an a beautiful 26 acre estate on the grounds of the IMA, and the 22 room Lilly Mansion has undergone historic renovation to offer visitors a glimpse at life in the 1930’s period of the home. The Art and Nature Park will include meadows, wetlands, a 35-acre lake, and untamed woodlands upon its completion in 2010. The purpose of the park is to express to the public the cohesive relationship between the natural art and beauty of nature and the man-made works of inside the museum. This will be accomplished through continued exhibitions, art projects and discussions.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is one of the most popular and inspiring things to do in Indianapolis and will provide a variety of artistic and cultural enlightenment for all who visit its grounds.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46208