With a passion to serve as a catalyst for lifelong learning that connects the stories of real people, places, and things,possesses the most comprehensive collection of Indiana art of any institution and one of the largest state-owned art collections in the country. The museum actively collects, preserves, and displays works by artists who were born in Indiana, attended one of the state’s institutions of higher learning, or were influenced by Indiana in their development as artists.
The collection includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, photography, and mixed media works acquired through donation and purchase. Particular strengths include thecollection of 350 paintings, numerous drawings, and archival material; the Frank V. Dudley painting collection; the Indiana Governor’s Portrait Collection; artwork associated with the Annual ; and studio artists and plein air painters from across the state. The museum’s growing collection of contemporary works reflects the state’s diverse population and evolving practices in making art. In recent years, contemporary works by people of color and women artists have been an area of focused collecting.
In addition to collecting, the museum mounts regular one-person and group exhibitions in its temporary galleries and at several of the museum’s 11 historic site locations around the state. In celebration of Indiana’s bicentennial, the museum presented “200 Years of Indiana Art: A Cultural Legacy,” featuring significant works by historical and contemporary artists from all 92 counties. Additional exhibits include “Whispers to Shouts: Indiana Women Who Create Art,” “Represent: Celebrating Indiana’s African American Artists,” “James Spencer Russell: Style, Elegance, Wit,” “431 Gallery: Art and Impact,” and “: It’s About Time.” The museum also makes portions of the collection available for loan to the Indiana State House, the Governor’s residence, and fellow accredited institutions that meet care and facilities requirements.
Public art pieces adorn the museum campus and. The 92 County Walk, a display of one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces on the museum’s façade and grounds, presents artistic interpretations for each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Open and free to the public year-round, the self-guided tour remains one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
Another extremely popular art experience is the T. C. Steele Historic Site in Brown County, Indiana. In 1945, Selma Steele, the widow of T. C. Steele, donated the paintings and drawings of the T. C. Steele collection, as well as 211 acres, the family home, and the artist’s original studio to the state to secure her husband’s legacy. With Steele’s artwork displayed, Selma’s restored gardens, walking trails, and hands-on activities, the site is one of the finest examples of a restored artist’s residence and studio in the country.
The Indiana State Museum has a long tradition of working with statewide organizations, art schools, and individual artists. The museum has hosted the Annual Hoosier Salon 25 times over the Salon’s 96-year history and presented “Historic Indiana en Plein Air,” a collaborative exhibit between the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association.
The museum also financially supports the visual arts community, hiring Indiana artists to create original works of art in support of a variety of museum projects, exhibits, and experiences.