Late in 1966, William J. Mead and John A. Roberts, along with Carl Weinhardt, a director of the Art Association Of Indianapolis and later of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (renamed Newfields in 2017),  founded the Penrod Society to help fund the building of a new museum, which had become necessary after the Herron School Of Art lost its accreditation in 1964. The society derives its name and style from Penrod Schofield, the main character in several stories by Indianapolis novelist Booth Tarkington.

A brochure featuring a P and S in the center of an oval.
Penrod Arts Fair brochure, 1969 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Board chairman of the Art Association, Herman Krannert explored attaching the museum to Indiana University (IU). Josiah Kirby Lilly Jr., a member of the family that founded Eli Lilly And Company, however, died in May 1966, and his children, in October of that same year, gave their parents’ estate Oldfields to the Art Association Of Indianapolis to be used as the site of the new museum. The Herron School of Art separated from the Association and the museum and became part of IU.

Shortly, thereafter, Mead, Roberts, and Weinhardt, along with 19 other men founded the society. On September 9, 1967, the Penrod Society held its first art fair at the main house at Oldfields (known in 2020 as Lilly House), which had just opened to the public in July as the Lilly Pavilion of Decorative Arts. Proceeds from the society’s first fair, “An Afternoon at Oldfields,” helped construct the Indianapolis Museum of Art on the estate property. The Art Association was renamed the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1969, several months before the new building opened in October 1970.

Since 1967, the Penrod Art Fair has become an Indianapolis tradition. It continues to be held on the Saturday after Labor Day on the grounds of Newfields. The fair has become the Penrod Society’s signature event to enhance public awareness of and showcase the arts. It features hundreds of artists, local cuisine, family activities, and performance stages showcasing live entertainment. The event is the Penrod Society’s largest fundraiser and is one of the largest Art Fairs held annually in the city.

The Penrod Society is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to support arts, cultural, and educational activities and institutions in Central Indiana. For over 50 years, The Penrod Society has distributed to the Central Indiana community over $5 million in proceeds from the Penrod Art Fair and, most recently, Evening with Penrod at the Newfields. The Penrod Society also helped create the Economic Club Of Indiana and the Prelude Awards. The society cohosted “Magic in the Making” together with the Stutz Artists Association in 2018 and 2019 (see Stutz Business And Arts Center). The Penrod Society in 2020 donated proceeds of $214,000 to 67 Central Indiana arts and cultural organizations.

Revised February 2021

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