1822
Performing Arts

First Baptist Church organizes choir

The First Baptist chorus is the first documented vocal group in the city.

Read More »

Dec 31, 1823
Performing Arts

First theatrical production

A traveling theatrical group presents the first theatrical production on New Year’s Eve, “The Doctor’s Courtship” and “Jealous Lover.” The performances take place in the dining room of Thomas Carter’s tavern, the Rosebush Tavern.


1824
Performing Arts

Society for Cultivation of Church Music founded

The Society for Cultivation of Church Music becomes the first voluntary organization to promote the arts in Indianapolis.

Read More »

Feb 11, 1825
Culture

Indiana State Library opens

The state library opens with the secretary of state acting as librarian. The General Assembly establishes it to provide library service to the legislature, state government officials, and other governmental personnel.

Read More »

Jul 4, 1828
Performing Arts

Indianapolis Handelian Society performs first concert

The society forms as the city’s first secular music group. It includes singers and instrumental musicians.

Read More »

Dec 11, 1830
Culture

Indiana Historical Society established

Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana civic leaders organize the society to ensure that the history of the state is preserved and shared.

Read More »

1831
Performing Arts
James Blake, n.d.

First piano arrives in Indianapolis

James Blake presents the piano to his new wife Eliza. She gives small concerts in her home.

Read More »
Pictured: James Blake, n.d.
Credit: ddeedavis via Find A Grave View Source
Oct 30, 1835
Culture

First annual fair of the Marion County Agricultural Society

After forming in June, the Marion County Agriculture Society plans the first Marion County fair, which is held on October 30–31 at the Courthouse Square.

Read More »

1837
Performing Arts

William Lindsay & Company theatrical performance

The troupe of actors travels from Cincinnati to perform in the first plays to appear in Indianapolis since 1823.


1839
Performing Arts
Henry Ward Beecher, ca. 1866

Second Presbyterian establishes music school

Under pastor Henry Ward Beecher, the church organizes a music school and sponsors a small orchestra to accompany the congregation’s choir.

Read More »
Pictured: Henry Ward Beecher, ca. 1866
Credit: Library of Congress View Source
1840
Performing Arts
S. E. Tyler in uniform of the Indianapolis Band, n.d.

Indianapolis Band forms

The band becomes the first secular musical group that performs regularly. It folds in 1845.

Read More »
Pictured: S. E. Tyler in uniform of the Indianapolis Band, n.d.
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1840
Performing Arts
Robert Dale Owen, ca. 1840s

First amateur theatrical group

Called the Indianapolis Thespian Corps, the community theater company first performs Pocahontas by social reformer, author, and Indiana statesman Robert Dale Owen.

Pictured: Robert Dale Owen, ca. 1840s
Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives View Source
1844
Visual Arts
Drawing of Jacob Cox, ca. 1890

Jacob Cox becomes first art teacher

The painter maintains a studio in the city for over 50 years and is the major figure in the early development of the visual arts in the city.

Read More »
Pictured: Drawing of Jacob Cox, ca. 1890
Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
1844
Culture

Marion County Library forms

The Marion County Library forms as a subscription library under the provisions of the 1816 Indiana constitution. It is housed in the basement of the county courthouse.

Read More »

1847
Performing Arts
Madison and Indianapolis Railroad announcement, 1843

Indianapolis enters the national entertainment circuit

With the completion of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, musicians and actors begin coming to the city regularly from other parts of the country to perform.

Pictured: Madison and Indianapolis Railroad announcement, 1843
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 28, 1851
Culture

Indianapolis Turngemeinde opens

Located on West Washington Street, the Indianapolis Turngemeinde promotes physical fitness, freethought, liberal politics, and German language and culture.

Read More »

Oct 20, 1852
Culture
The first state fair is held on the grounds of Military Park.

First Indiana State Fair opens at Military Park

Created as a venue for exchanging ideas to improve agricultural productivity, the state’s first fair runs October 20-22. Around 30,000 people pay admission to see exhibits featuring agricultural products.

Read More »
Pictured: The first state fair is held on the grounds of Military Park.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 31, 1853
Culture
Bolton delivered this presentation to the Indiana Historical Society in the 1850s.

First lecture on Indianapolis history

Nathaniel Bolton, the state librarian, delivers what may have been the first lecture on Indianapolis history. It is not published until 1897.

Read More »
Pictured: Bolton delivered this presentation to the Indiana Historical Society in the 1850s.
Credit: Internet Archive View Source
1854
Visual Arts
Interior View of the H. Lieber Art Emporium, ca. 1890

Herman Lieber founds the H. Lieber Company

Although Lieber starts the business for stationery and bookbinding, he later includes an art gallery, which becomes important for mounting art exhibitions.

Read More »
Pictured: Interior View of the H. Lieber Art Emporium, ca. 1890
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1854
Performing Arts

Maennerchor Singing Society organizes

Seven young German American men who enjoy singing organize the Maennerchor. The group develops into an amateur music society of distinction, influencing the musical culture of Indianapolis.

Read More »

1856
Performing Arts
George Frederick Root, 1910

First music convention

Professor George Root organizes the four-day event devoted to instruction and performance.

Pictured: George Frederick Root, 1910
Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1857
Literature

Ignatius Brown publishes the first history of Indianapolis

Local attorney Ignatius Brown publishes a history of the city, which appears in the 1857 city directory. It was the first historical sketch of Indianapolis.

Read More »

1858
Visual Arts
Barton Stone Hays painted this oil landscape, which is owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

Artist Barton S. Hays moves to Indianapolis

Hays, a painter and early photographer, becomes the teacher of nationally known artist William Merritt Chase and painter John W. Love, who founds the city’s first art school.

Read More »
Pictured: Barton Stone Hays painted this oil landscape, which is owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
Credit: Barton S. Hays, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1858
Culture
A drawing of the Metropolitan theater building.

First theater opens

The Metropolitan opens as Indianapolis’ first purpose-built theater complete with gallery, vaulted ceilings, and frescoes. It is later renamed the Park.

Pictured: A drawing of the Metropolitan theater building.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1859
Literature
Eunice Beecher, n.d.

Eunice Beecher publishes From Dawn to Daylight

Eunice Beecher, the wife of influential Presbyterian pastor Henry Ward Beecher, sets her autobiographical novel principally in Indianapolis. Her depiction of the city is so unflattering that local schools and libraries ban it.

Read More »
Pictured: Eunice Beecher, n.d.
Credit: Public domain via The World\'s Congress of Representative Women View Source
1859
Performing Arts

First full opera performance

The Handel and Haydn Society organizes the opera production.


1862
Performing Arts

Philarmonic Society forms

Directed by Max Leckner, a pianist and a leader of the Maennerchor German Singing Society, the Philharmonic begins offering weekly concerts.


1866
Performing Arts
Page from Progressive Music Lessons, 1875

Music enters public school curriculum

George Loomis begins teaching public school students music and creates his own teaching manual, Progressive Music Lessons, because no published instructional materials exist.

Pictured: Page from Progressive Music Lessons, 1875
Credit: Progressive Music Lessons: a course of instruction prepared for the use of public schools View Source
1866
Literature
T. C. Steele portrait of Catherine Merrill, 1890

Catharine Merrill publishes The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union

Governor Oliver P. Morton recruits Merrill to write the history of Indiana’s soldiers in the conflict, considered the most comprehensive history of the state’s military partcipation in the Civil War.

Read More »
Pictured: T. C. Steele portrait of Catherine Merrill, 1890
Credit: Butler University View Source
Sep 3, 1867
Performing Arts

Maennerchor hosts the National Saengerfest

The North American Saengerbund’s 15th National Saengerfest begins in Indianapolis. It lasts for four days and includes three concerts, a parade, a grand ball, and a picnic.

Read More »

1869
Visual Arts
Portrait of Conrad Baker, ca. 1869

Conrad Baker creates the Governors’ Portrait Collection

Governor Baker commissions portraits of Indiana governors. The collection grows to include portraits of nearly all Indiana governors.

Pictured: Portrait of Conrad Baker, ca. 1869
Credit: Indiana Historical Bureau View Source
1871
Performing Arts

Central School of Music established

Carl Weegman, the first director of the Maennerchor German singing society, organizes the school and operates it until his death in 1900.


Jul 4, 1872
Performing Arts

Liederkranz organizes

The merger of the male singing sections of two German secret fraternal organizations, the Druiden Lodge and the Rothmaenner (“Red Men”) creates the Indianapolis Liederkranz.

Read More »

Apr 9, 1873
Culture

Indianapolis Library opens

Located in one room of the high school building at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania and Michigan streets, the library begins with 12,790 volumes ready for 500 registered borrowers.

Read More »

Feb 18, 1875
Culture
Indianapolis Woman's Club 60th Anniversary Commemorative Card, 1935

Indianapolis Woman’s Club founded

Suffragist May Wright Sewall, along with other socially prominent women, organizes the club to offer women the opportunity to enjoy social interaction and intellectual actvities outside the home.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Woman's Club 60th Anniversary Commemorative Card, 1935
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 13, 1875
Culture
Grand Opera House, 1907

Grand Opera House opens

The Grand replaces the Park Theater as the preeminent venue for serious theater and variety acts. It closes in 1964.

Pictured: Grand Opera House, 1907
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 10, 1877
Literature

Indianapolis Literary Club organizes

Six men establish the Indianapolis Literary Club . They model the club after the Chicago and Cincinnati men’s literary clubs and the Indianapolis Woman’s Club.

Read More »

Oct 15, 1877
Culture

Indiana School of Art opens

Indiana artists John W. Love and James F. Gookins found the professional art school, which folds in 1879 because of a lack of funding.

Read More »

Nov 20, 1877
Performing Arts

Indianapolis Matinee Musicale founded

Nine young women gather in a parlor to spend a musical afternoon together. They establish the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale, an organization for the study and performance of music.

Read More »

1879
Visual Arts
William Forsyth is pictured (seated on the ground, second from right) as a young man with other artist friends, possibly the Bohe Club, sometime around 1885.

Bohe Club forms

After the first Indiana School of Art closes, some of its former students, including painter William Forsyth, create the Bohe Club, short for Bohemian, to pursue sketching and etching.

Read More »
Pictured: William Forsyth is pictured (seated on the ground, second from right) as a young man with other artist friends, possibly the Bohe Club, sometime around 1885.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1880
Literature
Sarah Tittle Barrett Bolton, 1880

Sarah Bolton publishes The Life and Poems of Sarah T. Bolton

Wife of state librarian and publisher of the Indianapolis Gazette Nathaniel Bolton, she describes the early landscape and life of Indiana in her work.

Read More »
Pictured: Sarah Tittle Barrett Bolton, 1880
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 21, 1880
Visual Arts

Painters T. C. Steele and J. Ottis Adams leave to study art in Munich

Herman Lieber, owner of the H. Lieber Company, the Fletcher family of bankers, and others sponsor the artists for study at the Royal Academy of Painting in Munich. William Forsyth follows them there in December 1881.

Read More »

Sep 27, 1880
Culture
English Hotel and Opera House, 1923

English Opera House opens

Hamlet is the theater’s premiere production. The first section of the hotel, constructed around the theater, follows in 1884 and a second section in 1896. 

Read More »
Pictured: English Hotel and Opera House, 1923
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1883
Literature
Bowen-Merrill Co., n.d.

Bowen-Merrill and Company reprints James Whitcomb Riley’s first book of poems

Printing the second edition of the Hoosier poet’s The Old Swimmin’-Hole and ‘Leven More Poems launches the Indianapolis publishing firm’s recognition on the national scene.

Read More »
Pictured: Bowen-Merrill Co., n.d.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1883
Performing Arts

Christ Church Cathedral Choir established

First comprised of only men and boys, the choir through the years earns an international reputation for musical excellence.

Read More »

Nov 6, 1883
Visual Arts

Art Association of Indianapolis mounts its first exhibition

Shortly after the organization is incorporated in October, the association holds an exhibition of 453 works by 137 artists. It runs for three weeks at the English Opera House and establishes the Art Association on the city’s cultural scene.

Read More »

1884
Visual Arts
Roda E. Selleck, 1924

Indianapolis High School establishes an Art Department

Roda E. Selleck, an artist and educator, begins offering courses in drawing at the high school. The Art Department expands to include other media, as well as art history and appreciation.

Read More »
Pictured: Roda E. Selleck, 1924
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1884
Literature

Berry Sulgrove publishes History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana

Sulgrove, editor of the Indianapolis Journal, publishes the comprehensive political and biographical narrative.

Read More »

1885
Performing Arts

German tradesmen found the Indianapolis Saenger Chor

Dedicated to the goals of the labor reform movement in the late 19th century, the tradesmen establish the group to sing songs of solidarity and justice for the working classes.

Read More »

Jun 1, 1886
Culture
Tomlinson Hall, 1893

Dedication of Tomlinson Hall

The hall, which adjoins the City Market, opens as an important public meeting place with the Grand Army of the Republic Music Festival. The festival raises $5,000 for construction of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Circle.

Read More »
Pictured: Tomlinson Hall, 1893
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 30, 1886
Literature
The Western Association of Writers group photograph, Winona Lake, ca. 1896

Western Association of Writers organizes

A group of writers convenes at Plymouth Church to establish the organization and elects Crawfordsville novelist Maurice Thompson president. The association remains active until 1907.

Read More »
Pictured: The Western Association of Writers group photograph, Winona Lake, ca. 1896
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 25, 1888
Culture
This 1888 cabinet card is an illustration of the plan of the Monument with Christ Church and the English Hotel in the background.

Construction begins on the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Construction officially begins on the Civil War Memorial using the design submitted by German architect Bruno Schmitz and funds that the General Assembly appropriated for this purpose in 1887.

Read More »
Pictured: This 1888 cabinet card is an illustration of the plan of the Monument with Christ Church and the English Hotel in the background.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 30, 1888
Culture
Cyclorama, ca. 1890

Indianapolis joins Cyclorama trend

Located on the north side of Market Street just west of Illinois Street, the Cyclorama building exhibits life-size Civil War murals and later serves as a zoo.

Read More »
Pictured: Cyclorama, ca. 1890
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 7, 1888
Culture
Architectural drawing of the original Propylaeum located at 17 East North Street, ca. 1900

Indianapolis Propylaeum incorporates

The Propylaeum’s Articles of Association provides that stock is acquired, purchased, and held only by women. The building is to be used for cultural and educational pursuits, particularly for women.

Read More »
Pictured: Architectural drawing of the original Propylaeum located at 17 East North Street, ca. 1900
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1889
Performing Arts
The Dramatic Club Programme, December 19, 1891

Precursor to Dramatic Club forms

Young women join the amateur theater group, first known as the Matinee Club. It reorganizes as the Dramatic Club in 1890 with the addition of male members.

Read More »
Pictured: The Dramatic Club Programme, December 19, 1891
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1889
Performing Arts
Ninth Annual May Music Festival program, 1897

May Music Festival

The event follows the success of an 1886 music festival held for the dedication of Tomlinson Hall. It takes place annually until 1898.

Pictured: Ninth Annual May Music Festival program, 1897
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1889
Visual Arts
H. J. Lewis, self-portrait, 1889

Work of artist Henry Jackson Lewis appears in the Indianapolis Freeman

Lewis becomes the first African American in the U.S. to work as an editorial illustrator and cartoonist.

Read More »
Pictured: H. J. Lewis, self-portrait, 1889
Credit: H. J. Lewis via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Nov 14, 1889
Performing Arts

The Grand Opera House uses electric lighting

Following a trend begun in the U.S. in Boston in 1882, the theater becomes the first in the city to use electric lighting, Most theaters switch to electric lighting during the 1890s.


1890
Culture
Front page of the Portfolio Club constitution, 1890

Local artists establish the Portfolio Club

Mary Lakin Steele, the first wife of painter T. C. Steele, sparks the idea of forming a club to discuss the arts in Indianapolis. It promotes active participation in and support of the arts in all its forms.

Read More »
Pictured: Front page of the Portfolio Club constitution, 1890
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1890
Culture
In 1890, the Montani Brothers formed an orchestra that played at numerous formal and private functions. Guy and Dominic were also instrumental in forming the Indianapolis Protective Musicians Union Local 3

Indianapolis Protective Union organizes

Guy and Domenico Montani, local Italian musicians, help organize the city’s first musicians’ union and the third such union in the country.

Read More »
Pictured: In 1890, the Montani Brothers formed an orchestra that played at numerous formal and private functions. Guy and Dominic were also instrumental in forming the Indianapolis Protective Musicians Union Local 3
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 25, 1890
Literature
May Wright Sewall, 1902

First meeting of the Contemporary Club of Indianapolis

Organized in the home of suffragist May Wright Sewall, the Contemporary Club cultivates intellectual pursuits and explores pressing social issues and concerns.

Read More »
Pictured: May Wright Sewall, 1902
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1891
Visual Arts
Indiana School of Art in the Circle Hall Building on Monument Circle, ca. 1890

Second Indiana School of Art incorporates

The Art Association of Indianapolis incorporates the art school, which T. C. Steele opened in 1889. The school closes in 1897.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana School of Art in the Circle Hall Building on Monument Circle, ca. 1890
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 19, 1892
Culture
Indiana State Fair, n.d.

Indiana State Fair opens at new site

The Indiana State Fair opens at its present site at East 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway with 72 buildings, a mile racetrack, and a 6,000-seat grandstand.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana State Fair, n.d.
Credit: University Library, IUI View Source
1893
Visual Arts
Modern art edited by J. M. Bowles, 1895

Joseph Bowles publishes Modern Art

Bowles, an artist and employee of the H. Lieber Company, founds the avant-garde art journal, the first magazine in its field. Hollenbeck Press prints the publication in Indianapolis until 1895.

Pictured: Modern art edited by J. M. Bowles, 1895
Credit: Public domain via Boston Public Library View Source
1894
Visual Arts
William J. Forsyth and T. C. Steele outside the John Herron building, ca. 1915

Hoosier Group forms

The Central Art Association brings together the works of J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, Richard B. Gruelle, Otto Stark, and T. C. Steele in a show in Chicago, titled “Five Hoosier Painters.”

Read More »
Pictured: William J. Forsyth and T. C. Steele outside the John Herron building, ca. 1915
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1895
Culture
Herron Art Institute Galleries, ca. early 1900s

John Herron bequeaths funds to establish a museum and art school

Herron bequeaths $250,000 to the Art Association of Indianapolis with the stipulation that the funds be used to build a museum and art school bearing his name.

Read More »
Pictured: Herron Art Institute Galleries, ca. early 1900s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 13, 1895
Performing Arts
Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music buildings, ca. 1935

Local musicians found the Metropolitan School of Music

Four private music teachers establish the school, which merges with the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts in 1928 and is renamed the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. The conservatory becomes part of Butler University in 1953.

Read More »
Pictured: Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music buildings, ca. 1935
Credit: The Indiana Album: Joan Hostetler Collection View Source
Jun 15, 1898
Culture
National Turnfest at Das Deutsche Haus (Athenaeum) Indianapolis, 1905

Das Deutsche Haus opens

Herbert Lieber gives the dedication speech, lauding the structure as the “embodiment of the Americanizing process.” Designed by Bernard Vonnegut, the building becomes the center of German American culture. 

Read More »
Pictured: National Turnfest at Das Deutsche Haus (Athenaeum) Indianapolis, 1905
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 11, 1899
Literature
Booth Tarkington as a young adult, ca. 1895

Booth Tarkington publishes The Gentleman from Indiana

The book propels Tarkington, an Indianapolis native, into the national limelight. In Indianapolis, the book is less well received, with residents feeling mocked.

Read More »
Pictured: Booth Tarkington as a young adult, ca. 1895
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1900
Culture
South Side Turnverein Hall, 1908

Southside Turnverein Hall opens

The hall, designed by Vonnegut & Bohn and completed in November 1900, contains a gym bordered by a proscenium stage and a bowling alley. The building serves the group of Turners that broke away from the Socialer Turnverein to form its own organization in 1893.

Read More »
Pictured: South Side Turnverein Hall, 1908
Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Mar 4, 1902
Culture
The Herron building was built in 1906 and torn down in 1928.

John Herron Art Institute opens

Using a bequest left by John Herron, the Art Association of Indianapolis establishes the Institute to operate an art school and museum. The art school opens with 10 pupils and 5 teachers on Talbott Street at T. C. Steele’s former home.

Read More »
Pictured: The Herron building was built in 1906 and torn down in 1928.
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
May 15, 1902
Culture
After nearly 14 years of construction, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was officially dedicated with a grand event and thousands of spectators.

Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument dedication

At the gala event, Civil War general and author Lew Wallace serves as master of ceremonies, and  Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley recites a poem that John Philip Sousa transformed into a march.

Read More »
Pictured: After nearly 14 years of construction, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was officially dedicated with a grand event and thousands of spectators.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 17, 1904
Culture
Abe Martin, a folksy Brown County cartoon character created by Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, first appeared in the Indianapolis News in December 1904.

Kin Hubbard’s character Abe Martin appears in the Indianapolis News

Hubbard creates the folksy character, who spouts country wisdom, during the 1904 presidential election. The character becomes the basis of Hubbard’s nationally syndicated newspaper column. Books featuring the character begin publication in 1906.

Read More »
Pictured: Abe Martin, a folksy Brown County cartoon character created by Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, first appeared in the Indianapolis News in December 1904.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1905
Literature

Meredith Nicholson publishes The House of a Thousand Candles

The Indianapolis author publishes the national bestseller and his most famous novel. The novel is set in Indiana. 

Read More »

1905
Performing Arts

A People’s Concert Association forms

The association organizes low-cost concerts that are accessible to a wider audience.


Mar 1, 1905
Literature

George Cottman publishes Indiana Magazine of History

Cottman, a historian, establishes the Indiana Magazine of History and serves as its editor, publisher, printer, and author until the Indiana Historical Society takes it over in 1907.

Read More »

1906
Culture
Entrance and marquee of the Bijou Theatre, 1930

First movie theater opens

The city’s first movie theater—the Bijou, a converted vaudeville house—opens on East Washington Street. Bijou shows half-hour films viewed during the lunch hour.

Read More »
Pictured: Entrance and marquee of the Bijou Theatre, 1930
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1906
Culture

Indiana State Archives created

Founded as part of the Indiana State Library and housed in the State House, the archives collect and preserve state government records of value.

Read More »

1908
Performing Arts
May Frances Aufderheide, n.d.

May Aufderheide publishes her first ragtime composition

The Indianapolis ragtime pianist-composer publishes “Dusty Rag” in May.  She publishes 19 pieces between 1908 and 1912, several of which are financial successes.

Pictured: May Frances Aufderheide, n.d.
Credit: Fair use via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1910
Literature
Jacob P. Dunn Jr., ca. 1900

Jacob Piatt Dunn publishes Greater Indianapolis

Dunn’s two-volume work serves as the definitive resource on early Indianapolis history.

Read More »
Pictured: Jacob P. Dunn Jr., ca. 1900
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1910
Performing Arts
Ona B. Talbot, n.d.

Ona B. Talbot establishes her Fine Arts Association

Ona Bryant Talbot begins her own organization aimed at bringing internationally known music artists to Indianapolis audiences.

Read More »
Pictured: Ona B. Talbot, n.d.
Credit: History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922, Volume 4 View Source
Feb 28, 1910
Culture
Dramatic Club - Murat Theater Stage, 1926

Murat Temple adds theater

The Shuberts, important U.S. professional theater owners and operators, lease the theater from 1910 to 1930 and bring in a variety of events and shows, including Broadway musicals. It serves as a home for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1930 to 1962 and is renamed Old National Theatre in 2014.

Read More »
Pictured: Dramatic Club - Murat Theater Stage, 1926
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1911
Performing Arts

First Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra forms

The orchestra, composed primarily of German musicians, produces seven seasons of concerts. It folds in November 1917 because of World War I, anti-German sentiment.

Read More »

1912
Literature

Publication of A Hoosier Chronicle

A Hoosier Chronicle,  a novel written by Indianapolis author Meredith Nicholson, explores politics and society in central Indiana, particularly Indianapolis, in the early 20th century.

Read More »
Pictured: "Sylvia and Professor Kelton" illustration by F. C. Yohn in A Hoosier Chronicle.
Credit: Project Gutenberg View Source
1914
Literature
Title page of Penrod, 1914

Booth Tarkington publishes Penrod stories

Tarkington bases his juvenile Penrod stories upon his own experiences growing up in Indianapolis. First serialized in magazines in 1913, the stories are collected and published in book form and followed by two other collections.

Read More »
Pictured: Title page of Penrod, 1914
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1914
Performing Arts
Civic Theatre building (originally named the Little Theatre Society), 1930

Little Theatre Society of Indiana forms

Founded as the first community theater in the city, it becomes known as Civic Theatre of Indianapolis in 1929 and then Booth Tarkington Civic Theater when it moves to Carmel in 2011.

Read More »
Pictured: Civic Theatre building (originally named the Little Theatre Society), 1930
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Nov 28, 1914
Visual Arts
Newsclipping featuring some of the artwork for the mural project, 1914

City Hospital mural project

St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild provides funding to beautify City Hospital’s new Burdsall Unit. Sixteen Indiana artists create large-scale murals to cover the units’ interior walls.

Pictured: Newsclipping featuring some of the artwork for the mural project, 1914
Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
1915
Performing Arts

Free summer concerts begin at Indianapolis parks

The Indianapolis Parks Department starts its annual free summer concert series at Garfield Park.


Jan 5, 1915
Culture

Indianapolis Foundation promotes humanities

The publicly supported philanthropic institution is created to promote the welfare of residents of Indianapolis including human services, education, libraries, arts and culture, and community development.

Read More »

Sep 7, 1915
Culture
Raggedy Ann doll patent, 1915

John Barton Gruelle receives patent for Raggedy Ann doll

Former cartoonist John Barton Gruelle patents his Raggedy Ann doll. Three years later, he publishes Raggedy Ann Stories, followed by a Raggedy Andy volume. 

Read More »
Pictured: Raggedy Ann doll patent, 1915
Credit: Public domain View Source
Oct 7, 1915
Literature
An iconic photo of James Whitcomb Riley surrounded by children, 1916

Riley Day observed nationwide

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane calls for the national observance of poet James Whitcomb Riley’s birthday. Locally, the full day of events celebrating Riley includes national dignitaries and literary figures,

Read More »
Pictured: An iconic photo of James Whitcomb Riley surrounded by children, 1916
Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Riley Collection, 1835-1960, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 30, 1916
Performing Arts
View of the Circle Theater Balcony, 1916

Circle Theatre opens

Led by A. L. Block and Robert Lieber, investors contribute over $500,000 to build a new theater. Circle Theatre opens as Indianapolis’ first building constructed specifically for feature-length motion pictures.

Pictured: View of the Circle Theater Balcony, 1916
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 2, 1916
Culture

Centennial Jubilee

The Centennial Jubilee for the state is held October 2-15 in Indianapolis. The city hosts expositions, parades, athletic contests, concerts, drama and dance programs, and commemorative addresses by politicians, including President Woodrow Wilson.

Read More »

1917
Visual Arts

Local artists establish Indiana Artists Club

Forty-six prominent artists, including T. C. Steele, Carl Graf, and Marie Goth, found the club. It sponsors statewide exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations, and workshops.


May 11, 1917
Visual Arts
Paul Hadley, designer of the Indiana state flag, looks on as a Herron Art Institute student applies gold leaf to the original flag presented to the state, ca. 1923

Indiana adopts Paul Hadley’s state flag design

After winning the top prize in the Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution-sponsored juried flag competition held for the state’s centennial in 1916, Hadley’s design becomes the official state flag.

Read More »
Pictured: Paul Hadley, designer of the Indiana state flag, looks on as a Herron Art Institute student applies gold leaf to the original flag presented to the state, ca. 1923
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 8, 1917
Culture
Central Library building, 1918

Central Library opens

The new building, constructed on St. Clair Street between Meridian and Pennsylvania streets, becomes the anchor of the library system.

Read More »
Pictured: Central Library building, 1918
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1918
Literature
Newton Booth Tarkington, n.d.

Booth Tarkington wins first Pulitzer Prize

The Indianapolis author wins the prize for the Magnificent Ambersons, set in the thinly disguised Indianapolis Woodruff Place neighborhood. He wins a second Pulitzer in 1922 with his novel Alice Adams, also based on life in the city.

Read More »
Pictured: Newton Booth Tarkington, n.d.
Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Collection Collection View Source
May 26, 1918
Culture
The Slovenian National Home, ca. 1940

Slovenian National Home opens

The club serves as the center of Slovene community activities.

Read More »
Pictured: The Slovenian National Home, ca. 1940
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1919
Performing Arts
Members of the National Association of Negro Musicians, later known as the Indianapolis Music Promoters Club, 1925

Local African Americans establish the Indianapolis Music Promoters Club

A branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians, the club works to identify and to develop the musical talent of young African Americans.

Read More »
Pictured: Members of the National Association of Negro Musicians, later known as the Indianapolis Music Promoters Club, 1925
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 5, 1920
Culture
L.S. Ayres celebrates the Indianapolis centennial with an elaborate window display showing Washington Street as it was in 1825.

City celebrates centennial

The centennial celebration takes place June 5-10. Festivities begin with a mass meeting at Tomlinson Hall. Other events include musical performances, a street parade, a pageant, and a riverboat display.

Read More »
Pictured: L.S. Ayres celebrates the Indianapolis centennial with an elaborate window display showing Washington Street as it was in 1825.
Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1921
Performing Arts
Noble Lee Sissle shown with singer Lena Horne, ca. 1918

Premiere of Shuffle Along, a musical

Indianapolis native Noble Sissle writes and produces the musical with three other musicians. It marks the revival of African  American folk humor, jazz dance, and Ragtime. 

Read More »
Pictured: Noble Lee Sissle shown with singer Lena Horne, ca. 1918
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 13, 1922
Culture
James Whitcomb Riley Home, ca. 1936

James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home dedicated

The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home on Lockerbie Street opens as a fundraiser for the construction of Riley Hospital for Children.

Read More »
Pictured: James Whitcomb Riley Home, ca. 1936
Credit: The Indiana Album: Joan Hostetler Collection View Source
1925
Culture
Mary Stewart Carey, ca. 1930s

Mary Stewart Carey founds The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Carey and several other civic leaders found the museum in the Propylaeum’s carriage house. Children and their families donate to its collections.

Read More »
Pictured: Mary Stewart Carey, ca. 1930s
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1925
Culture
Indiana State Library and Historical Bureau, ca. 2010s

Indiana Historical Commission establishes the Indiana Historical Bureau

The Indiana Historical Bureau promotes the study of Indiana history by providing resources to aid citizens in learning about the state and its people.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana State Library and Historical Bureau, ca. 2010s
Credit: Indiana State Library View Source
1925
Literature
Janet Flanner, ca. 1920s

Janet Flanner begins writing for the New Yorker Magazine

A member of the interwar period “Lost Generation” Paris group of authors, the Indianapolis native begins her 50-year career writing for the New Yorker with the appearance of her first semi-monthly “Letter from Paris.”

Read More »
Pictured: Janet Flanner, ca. 1920s
Credit: The Indiana Album: Tuckaway House Collection View Source
Feb 7, 1927
Performing Arts
Ruth Page, May 29, 1923

Indianapolis native performs at the Metropolitan Opera

Ruth Page, a ballet dancer, makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. She most likely is the first Indianapolis native to appear on the Metropolitan Opera stage. As a choreographer, she pioneers the use of American themes in the Russian-dominated field.

Read More »
Pictured: Ruth Page, May 29, 1923
Credit: Library of Congress View Source
Jul 4, 1927
Culture
Indiana World War Memorial, cornerstone laying, with General John Pershing, 1927

Indiana World War Memorial cornerstone laid

General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I, attends the event and lays the memorial’s cornerstone.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana World War Memorial, cornerstone laying, with General John Pershing, 1927
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 2, 1927
Culture
Indiana Theatre, 1927

Indiana Theatre opens

The state-of-the-art movie palace is the largest in the state. It also includes the Roof Ballroom, where some of the most famous musicians of the big band era perform, including Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana Theatre, 1927
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 31, 1927
Culture
Irvington Halloween Festival parade, 1947

First Irvington Halloween Festival

Irvington holds its first Halloween festival, celebrating the holiday with a costume parade and contest, decorated streets and storefronts, and a street dance.

Read More »
Pictured: Irvington Halloween Festival parade, 1947
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 26, 1927
Culture
Walker Building on Indiana Avenue, 1928

Walker Theatre initial opening

Completed eight years after the death of Madam C. J. Walker, the finished segments of the theatre building open during Christmas week. The entire building opens in August 1928 during the annual Madam Walker Convention.

Read More »
Pictured: Walker Building on Indiana Avenue, 1928
Credit: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1928
Performing Arts
Leroy Carr, n.d.

Jazz musicians Francis Blackwell and Leroy Carr record as a duo

The duo’s first recording, “How Long, How Long Blues,” sells hundreds of thousands of copies and establishes the pair as innovators in the newly emerging urban blues style.

Read More »
Pictured: Leroy Carr, n.d.
Credit: Fair use via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1928
Visual Arts
Hoosier Group artist and Herron School of Art instructor, William J. Forsyth, ca. 1927

First Irvington Group exhibitions

A colony of Irvington artists begins holding exhibitions featuring their works along with lectures, gallery talks, and art demonstrations. It takes place annually until 1937.

Read More »
Pictured: Hoosier Group artist and Herron School of Art instructor, William J. Forsyth, ca. 1927
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 21, 1928
Culture
Apollo Theatre, 1941

Apollo Theatre wires for sound

Following the release of the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, in 1927, the Apollo Theatre installs the first permanent movie sound equipment in the city and shows its first regular sound feature. By 1930, most major movie theaters are wired for sound.

Read More »
Pictured: Apollo Theatre, 1941
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1929
Visual Arts
“Pro Patria” presents the heroic figure of a soldier carrying the flag to victory.

Bronze statue added to steps of Indiana World War Memorial

Pro Patria, the 25-foot-tall, seven-ton statue, is created by New York artist Henry Herring. The work is reputed to be the largest sculptured bronze casting made in America at the time.

Read More »
Pictured: “Pro Patria” presents the heroic figure of a soldier carrying the flag to victory.
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1930
Performing Arts

Nancy McCann Martens establishes Marten’s Concerts

Martens creates the company to help local music artists and to bring a steady stream of classical music and dance performers to Indianapolis.

Read More »

Nov 2, 1930
Performing Arts
Ferdinand Schaefer rehearses with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 1934

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performs first concert

Ferdinand Schaefer begins the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and serves as the orchestra’s conductor until the 1937–1938 season. The first concert takes place at Shortridge High School.

Read More »
Pictured: Ferdinand Schaefer rehearses with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, 1934
Credit: IndyStar View Source
1931
Culture
Wisdom Brothers Band at the Cotton Club, ca. 1950s

Ferguson Brothers builds jazz club empire

Denver and Sea Ferguson, African American leaders in the jazz and entertainment scene, open the Trianon Ballroom at 244 West Vermont Street, followed by the Cotton Club, also on Vermont Street, in 1933. In 1937, they open the Royal Palm Gardens and Sunset Terrace Ballroom on Indiana Avenue.

Read More »
Pictured: Wisdom Brothers Band at the Cotton Club, ca. 1950s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1933
Visual Arts
Donald M. Mattison, Dean of the Herron School of Art, 1933-1970

Faculty shake up at Herron

Painter and educator, Donald Mattison becomes the head of Herron and replaces many of the faculty members to boost the school’s national reputation.

Read More »
Pictured: Donald M. Mattison, Dean of the Herron School of Art, 1933-1970
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1934
Culture

First Italian Street Festival

Members of Holy Rosary Catholic parish create the event to celebrate Italian heritage, raise funds, and increase church membership.

Read More »

1934
Culture
Conner House, 1945

Eli Lilly purchases Conner House

The pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist purchases the William Conner house in Hamilton County to preserve the site where state capital commissioners first met in 1820 and to recreate pioneer Indiana for the visiting public.

Read More »
Pictured: Conner House, 1945
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1934
Visual Arts
Evelynne Mess Daily, ca. 1970s

Printmaker Evelynne Bernloehr Mess Daily founds the Indiana Society of Printmakers

The Society of Printmakers is the first outlet for the work of artists of the genre in the state.

Read More »
Pictured: Evelynne Mess Daily, ca. 1970s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1934
Culture
William F. Kaeser, a founder of the Indianapolis Art Students' League, the forerunner of the Indianapolis Arts Center, 1936

Indianapolis Art League forms

Ten women form the Indianapolis Art Students’ League with commercial artist and fine arts painter William F. Kaeser as their first teacher. The organization incorporates in 1938 and changes its name to Indianapolis Arts Center in 1996.

Read More »
Pictured: William F. Kaeser, a founder of the Indianapolis Art Students' League, the forerunner of the Indianapolis Arts Center, 1936
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 7, 1934
Culture
Indiana State Library Building, 1934

Dedication of the Indiana State Library and Historical Building

Designed by Indianapolis-based architecture firm Pierre & Wright, the building is the first permanent home of the Indiana State Library, Indiana Historical Bureau, and Indiana Historical Society.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana State Library Building, 1934
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1937
Culture

Lilly Endowment, Inc. founded

Pharmaceutical executives J. K. Lilly Sr., Eli Lilly, and J. K. Lilly Jr. establish the foundation that provides support to many arts and culture organizations. Its gifts to such institutions as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Children’s Museum help build their reputations on a national scale.

Read More »

1937
Visual Arts
Mail, Delivery and Transportation, 1936

Mural installation at the Indianapolis post office

Grant Wright Christian paints Early and Present Day Indianapolis Life and Mail—Transportation and Delivery as part of a Works Progress Administration project.

Read More »
Pictured: Mail, Delivery and Transportation, 1936
Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1937
Performing Arts
Sunset Terrace on Indiana Avenue, ca. 1953

Sunset Terrace opens

Entertainment entrepreneur Denver Ferguson opens Indiana Avenue’s Sunset Terrace that attracts some of the nation’s most prominent Black performers.

Pictured: Sunset Terrace on Indiana Avenue, ca. 1953
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1938
Performing Arts
Duke Hampton Family Orchestra, ca. 1940s

The Hampton family of jazz musicians moves to Indianapolis

After a successful engagement at the Sunset Ballroom on Indiana Avenue, the family moves to Indianapolis and establishes a jazz family dynasty that includes the Hampton Family Band and the Hampton Sisters (Virtue, Aletra, Carmelita, and Dawn).

Read More »
Pictured: Duke Hampton Family Orchestra, ca. 1940s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 2, 1938
Performing Arts
Fabien Sevitsky, ca. 1937

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir debuts

Musical conductor Fabien Sevitsky initiates creation of the choir to accompany the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Murat Temple.

Read More »
Pictured: Fabien Sevitsky, ca. 1937
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 18, 1938
Culture
Vogue Theater, 1946

Vogue theater opens in Broad Ripple

The upscale theater opens with much fanfare, attracting 28 Hollywood stars. In 1977, the space is remodeled into a nightclub and music venue.

Read More »
Pictured: Vogue Theater, 1946
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1940
Performing Arts
Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis with conductor Wolfgang Vacano, 1960

Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis founded

Former Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra percussionist Herman H. Rinne establishes the ensemble as a community orchestra.

Read More »
Pictured: Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis with conductor Wolfgang Vacano, 1960
Credit: Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis via Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library View Source
Jun 6, 1940
Culture
Pendleton Pike drive-in grand opening ad, 1940

City’s first drive-in theater, the Pendleton Pike, opens

Located in the Lawrence Township district, the drive-in can accommodate 500 cars. The theater opens with two showtimes of That’s Right, You’re Wrong

Read More »
Pictured: Pendleton Pike drive-in grand opening ad, 1940
Credit: Cinema Treasures View Source
Jan 18, 1942
Visual Arts

Hoosier Salon moves to Indianapolis

The annual art exhibition moves from Chicago to Indianapolis and is held at William H. Block Company.

Read More »

1943
Performing Arts
The Musical Art Quartet is comprised of S. Jacobsen, Bernard Ocko, Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff, and L. Kaufman.

Ensemble Music Society organizes to encourage public presentations of chamber music

Amateur violinist Leonard Strauss and a core of local music enthusiasts presents the society’s first concert on April 12, 1944, with the Musical Art Quartet. The concert attracts nearly 500 attendees. 

Read More »
Pictured: The Musical Art Quartet is comprised of S. Jacobsen, Bernard Ocko, Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff, and L. Kaufman.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source
Jul 22, 1944
Performing Arts

Starlight Musicals debut performance

A production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, staged at Garfield Park, marks the beginning of Starlight Musicals.

Read More »

1945
Performing Arts
J. J. Johnson (left) and Coleman Hawkins, 1950

Jazz trumpeter J. J. Johnson tours with Count Basie

National legend Basie recognizes Johnson’s talent, and the trumpeter, who honed his skills at Indiana Avenue clubs, spends a year touring and recording with the jazz musician’s band.

Read More »
Pictured: J. J. Johnson (left) and Coleman Hawkins, 1950
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1947
Visual Arts

Eli Lilly makes first gifts of Chinese art to the Indianapolis Museum of Art

The pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist makes additional gifts of Chinese art to the museum through 1961. The Lilly collection, one of the most significant of its kind, forms the core of the museum’s Asian collections.

Read More »

Mar 20, 1948
Performing Arts
James Franklin Baskett, 1946

James Franklin Baskett receives Academy Award

Baskett, an Indianapolis native, is awarded an honorary Oscar for his controversial portrayal of Uncle Remus in Song of the South.

Read More »
Pictured: James Franklin Baskett, 1946
Credit: Fair use via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Nov 27, 1948
Visual Arts
L.S. Ayres Clock with Cherub, ca. 2000

L. S. Ayres iconic cherub statue debuts

David Kresz Rubins, a sculptor and faculty member at the Herron School of Art, creates the 3-foot-tall bronze sculpture. Ayres employees place it on the building’s clock the day before Thanksgiving, sparking a new tradition.

Read More »
Pictured: L.S. Ayres Clock with Cherub, ca. 2000
Credit: Banayote Photo Inc., Indiana Historical Society View Source
1952
Culture

The Clowes Fund established

Philanthropists George and Edith Clowes create the fund to support education and the literary, performing, and visual arts.

Read More »

Nov 12, 1952
Performing Arts

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops series premiers

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s new programming featuring light semiclassic and popular music debuts at the Indiana Theatre Roof Ballroom

Read More »

1953
Performing Arts

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra ranks top in nation

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is listed in the top 10 of the nation’s orchestras.

Read More »

1954
Performing Arts
Avondale Theatre, 1960s

Theatre group establishes Avondale Playhouse

The summer stock theater contracts nationally recognized stage and screen personalities to headline casts composed largely of local talent.

Read More »
Pictured: Avondale Theatre, 1960s
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1954
Literature
Joseph Hayes, ca. 1980

Joseph Hayes publishes The Desperate Hours

The Indianapolis native’s thriller novel is well received and adapted into both a play and a film a year later.

Read More »
Pictured: Joseph Hayes, ca. 1980
Credit: Indiana University View Source
Nov 5, 1954
Culture
Butler University Holcomb Observatory, 1982

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium dedicated

Indiana architect Robert Frost Daggett serves as architect for the building on the Butler University campus, which houses the largest telescope in Indiana.

Read More »
Pictured: Butler University Holcomb Observatory, 1982
Credit: The Indiana Album: Paul W. Wetzel Collection View Source
1955
Performing Arts
Hedback Theater, Footlite Musicals, 1986

Volunteer group establishes Footlite Musicals

The all-volunteer nonprofit organization produces musicals and other programs to provide education and training to nonprofessionals in the theater.

Read More »
Pictured: Hedback Theater, Footlite Musicals, 1986
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
Jul 8, 1955
Performing Arts

Starlight Musicals finds permanent home

The open-air Hilton U. Brown Theatre located on the south side of the Butler Bowl becomes the permanent home of Starlight Musicals. The theater remains in operation until 1993.

Read More »

1956
Culture
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, 1985

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum opens

Tony Hulman, the track’s owner, creates the museum along with Karl Kizer, who becomes its first director, to house the Speedway Hall of Fame and a collection of vintage racing cars.

Read More »
Pictured: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, 1985
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1956
Visual Arts
Portrait of Emmett I. Brown, Jr., ca. 1950s

Emmett Brown establishes photography studio

Brown works for the Indianapolis Recorder, documenting African American life in the city.

Read More »
Pictured: Portrait of Emmett I. Brown, Jr., ca. 1950s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1956
Visual Arts
Paintings that were exhibited at the first Talbot Street Art Fair in 1956.

First Talbot Street Art Fair

A group of students from the Herron School of Art initiate the first Talbot Street Art Fair, located in the Herron-Morton Place neighborhood.

Read More »
Pictured: Paintings that were exhibited at the first Talbot Street Art Fair in 1956.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1957
Visual Arts

1444 Gallery opens on the Old Northside

A nonprofit group of artists and art patrons organize the gallery to encourage the development of contemporary art and design in the city.

Read More »

1957
Literature
Portrait of Emma Lou Thornbrough, ca. 1950s

Historian publishes The Negro in Indiana before 1900

Emma Lou Thornbrough’s book sets the standard for histories of the Black experience in northern states.

Read More »
Pictured: Portrait of Emma Lou Thornbrough, ca. 1950s
Credit: Butler University View Source
May 31, 1957
Culture
The Allison Division of G.M. parade float makes its way down the street during the Indianapolis '500' Festival Parade in 1957.

First 500 Festival

Four civic-minded individuals create the first 500 Festival in just 60 days, which includes a parade, ball, and square dance. This community-led endeavor celebrates sports, health, and education.

Read More »
Pictured: The Allison Division of G.M. parade float makes its way down the street during the Indianapolis '500' Festival Parade in 1957.
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1958
Visual Arts
Eastgate Mile of Art scene, ca. 1960s

Eastgate Mile of Art

The Eastside Art Center organizes the art show, which is likely the first in the nation to take place in a shopping mall.

Pictured: Eastgate Mile of Art scene, ca. 1960s
Credit: IndyStar View Source
1959
Performing Arts
Wes Montgomery, 1964

Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery releases first album

Montgomery makes a name for himself while playing in clubs on Indiana Avenue. He records his first album with brothers Monk and Buddy on the Riverside record label. 

Read More »
Pictured: Wes Montgomery, 1964
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1960
Performing Arts
Freddie Hubbard, 1976

Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard records debut album

Blue Note record company signs Hubbard for his debut album, Open Sesame. During the next year, he releases three more recordings—“Goin’ Up,” “Hub Cap,” and “Ready for Freddie.”

Read More »
Pictured: Freddie Hubbard, 1976
Credit: Tom Marcello Webster, New York, USA via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1960
Literature

Liberty Fund founded

Created by Pierre Frist Goodrich, the fund emphasizes liberal education and the “Great Books” tradition. It publishes scholarly and accessible editions of classic works.

Read More »

1960
Culture
Indiana Landmarks Center in Indianapolis, 2016

Volunteer group establishes Indiana Landmarks

Founded as Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, Indiana Landmarks grows from an all-volunteer group, which includes Eli Lilly, Calvin Hamilton, and H. Roll McLaughlin, to become the largest, nonprofit statewide preservation organization in the U.S.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana Landmarks Center in Indianapolis, 2016
Credit: MSWoolman via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1960
Culture

Filipino immigrants found Barangay Club of Indiana, Inc.

A group of Filipino students and professionals interested in promoting the arts and culture of their country of origin form the club.

Read More »

1961
Culture
Arts for Learning participants, ca. 1960s

Young Audiences Arts for Learning establishes affiliate group in Indianapolis

Arts for Learning, a community-based arts education program, educates school-age children about the arts. It is the largest and oldest provider of professional arts programs for children in Indiana.

Read More »
Pictured: Arts for Learning participants, ca. 1960s
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
Dec 3, 1961
Culture

Marion County Historical Society founded

Community leaders and local historians establish the society to collect and preserve local history materials, mark historic sites, and promote the preservation of historic structures in Indianapolis.

Read More »

Oct 18, 1963
Culture
Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University at the time that it opened, 1963

Clowes Memorial Hall opens

Compared to New York City’s Lincoln Center, Clowes Hall provides a world-class venue for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra until 1984 and hosts a variety of musical performances, including traveling Broadway shows.

Read More »
Pictured: Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University at the time that it opened, 1963
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1964
Culture
Benton House, ca. 2005

Volunteers establish Irvington Historical Society

The Irvington Historical Society is created to document and collect the history of the east side neighborhood.

Read More »
Pictured: Benton House, ca. 2005
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
Jan 2, 1964
Culture

Eli Lilly gifts Earlham College Conner Prairie

Lilly makes Earlham College the owner of the living history museum. Earlham operates the farm and opens it up to school groups, clubs, and historical organizations.

Read More »

Apr 18, 1964
Culture
Penguins at the Indianapolis Zoo, ca. 1964

Indianapolis Zoological Society establishes city’s first zoo

The effort to establish a zoo, initiated 20 years earlier by newspaper columnist Lowell Nussbaum, finally succeeds. The zoo is located in Washington Park on East 30th Street.

Read More »
Pictured: Penguins at the Indianapolis Zoo, ca. 1964
Credit: The Indiana Album: Evan Finch Collection View Source
Sep 3, 1964
Performing Arts
The Beatles performing on stage at the State Fair Coliseum, 1964

Beatles perform in Indianapolis

The Beatles play two shows at the Indiana State Fair, one at 6 p.m. in the Coliseum and the second at 9:30 in the Grandstand.

Pictured: The Beatles performing on stage at the State Fair Coliseum, 1964
Credit: Indiana State Archives via IndyStar View Source
Jun 10, 1965
Culture
Christ Church Cathedral Strawberry Festival, 1967

Christ Church Cathedral hosts first annual Strawberry Festival

The Cathedral Women of Christ Church Cathedral organizes the Strawberry Festival to raise funds for charity. The women sell 100 homemade strawberry shortcakes during the festival, selling out in two hours. 

Read More »
Pictured: Christ Church Cathedral Strawberry Festival, 1967
Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
1966
Literature

Janet Flanner wins National Book Award

The Indianapolis native and author earns the National Book Award for Arts and Letters for Paris Jounals, 1944-1965.

Read More »

1966
Culture
The Hook's Historical Drug Store and Pharmacy Museum, located on the grounds of the Indiana State Fair, 1989

Hooks Historical Drug Store Museum opens

Located in the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the museum opens as part of Hook’s Drug Stores’ commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Indiana’s admission to the Union.

Read More »
Pictured: The Hook's Historical Drug Store and Pharmacy Museum, located on the grounds of the Indiana State Fair, 1989
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1966
Performing Arts
Ensemble for Early Music in early modern costume, ca. 1970s

Indianapolis Early Music established

First known as the Festival Music Society, the group promotes early classical music through educational opportunities and performances. The organization holds its first Early Music Festival in 1967.

Read More »
Pictured: Ensemble for Early Music in early modern costume, ca. 1970s
Credit: Indianapolis Early Music via Indiana Public Library View Source
1967
Culture

Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission forms

The commission is a government agency that functions in cooperation with the City of Indianapolis to preserve both the character and fabric of historically significant areas and structures in Marion County.

Read More »

1967
Culture

First Christmas at the Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo becomes the first zoo in the U.S to initiate a holiday event featuring light shows and family activities.

Read More »

Jan 31, 1967
Culture
Indiana State Museum at the former City Hall, ca. 1970s

Indiana State Museum opens

Previously housed in various locations, including a basement, the museum finally has its own building—the renovated former Indianapolis City Hall at Alabama and Ohio streets.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana State Museum at the former City Hall, ca. 1970s
Credit: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 1, 1967
Culture
Exterior of Oldfields, Museum of Decorative Arts, ca. 1970

Herron School of Art and Museum split

The Herron School of Art becomes part of Indiana University, and the Art Association of Indianapolis makes plans to move the museum to Oldfields, the former estate of J. K. Lilly Jr. The Art Association becomes the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1969.

Read More »
Pictured: Exterior of Oldfields, Museum of Decorative Arts, ca. 1970
Credit: The Indiana Album: Joan Hostetler Collection View Source
Sep 9, 1967
Visual Arts
Herron tent at Penrod Art Fair, ca. 1990s

First Penrod Arts Fair

The Penrod Society, established earlier this same year, holds its first art fair. The fair goes on to become one of the largest single-day arts fairs in the country.

Read More »
Pictured: Herron tent at Penrod Art Fair, ca. 1990s
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1968
Performing Arts
David Baker, 1970

David Baker establishes Jazz Studies program at Indiana University

An Indianapolis native, trombonist, and composer, Baker establishes one of the first jazz studies programs at an American university. It becomes a highly respected and internationally recognized academic jazz program.

Read More »
Pictured: David Baker, 1970
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1968
Performing Arts

Fine Arts Society established

Eli Lilly and Company research scientist Norbert Neuss, along with other Lilly colleagues, forms a corporation to broadcast classical music to the radio listeners of Indianapolis. It becomes known as Classical Music Indy in 2013.

Read More »

1968
Literature
Etheridge Knight, ca. 1960s

Etheridge Knight publishes Poems From Prison

In his first book, Knight focuses on his experiences in the Indiana State Prison after his arrest for robbery. It establishes him as a poet of the national Black Arts Movement, in which artists embrace and celebrate their African American heritage.

Read More »
Pictured: Etheridge Knight, ca. 1960s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1968
Culture
India Association of Indianapolis Holi celebration, 2013

India Association of Indianapolis organizes

Established by the first Indian families that come to the city, the India Association of Indianapolis promotes the cultural activities of India, fosters cultural exchange, and carries out educational and charitable activities.

Read More »
Pictured: India Association of Indianapolis Holi celebration, 2013
Credit: Matt Kryger, IndyStar View Source
1969
Culture

Indiana Arts Commission begins operations

The Indiana General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts funds the statewide arts agency that provides leadership for the public stewardship of artistic resources for all the state’s citizens.

Read More »

1969
Culture
The Pathology Building of the Central State Hospital, home to the Indiana Medical History Museum, 2010

Indiana Medical History Museum incorporates

Housed in the Old Pathology Building at Central State Hospital, the museum preserves the building and collects artifacts related to the history of medicine.

Read More »
Pictured: The Pathology Building of the Central State Hospital, home to the Indiana Medical History Museum, 2010
Credit: Huw Williams (Huwmanbeing), Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Feb 28, 1969
Literature
Kurt Vonnegut, 1972

Kurt Vonnegut publishes Slaughterhouse-Five

Vonnegut, an Indianapolis native, suddenly becomes famous with the release of his anti-war book, based on his experience in surviving the firebombing of Dresden during World War II. The book becomes a bestseller and instant classic.

Read More »
Pictured: Kurt Vonnegut, 1972
Credit: WNET-TV/ PBS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1970
Literature
Mari Evans with her Indiana Authors Award, 2015

Mari Evans publishes I Am a Black Woman

In the poetry collection, Evans asserts the role of Black women in creating African American culture and instilling resiliency in the community.

Read More »
Pictured: Mari Evans with her Indiana Authors Award, 2015
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1970
Literature
Dan Wakefield signing a copy of Going All the Way, 1997

Dan Wakefield publishes Going All the Way

The novel explores the narrow-minded and confining attitudes of Indianapolis during the 1950s. Despite being poorly received in Indianapolis, it quickly climbs the bestseller list.

Read More »
Pictured: Dan Wakefield signing a copy of Going All the Way, 1997
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
Oct 25, 1970
Culture
Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1970

Indianapolis Museum of Art opens at new location

The institution, formerly known as the Herron Art Museum, opens at Oldfields, the former estate of J. K. Lilly Jr., with the new Krannert Pavilion.

Pictured: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1970
Credit: The Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1971
Performing Arts
Deer Creek Music Center, Aerial View, ca. 1990s

Sunshine Promotions founded

Dave Lucas and Joe Halderman establish Sunshine Promotions to promote local rock concerts in Indiana. The company later builds Deer Creek Music Center, now Ruoff Music Center, a 20,000-capacity amphitheater in Hamilton County.

Read More »
Pictured: Deer Creek Music Center, Aerial View, ca. 1990s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1971
Culture

El Centro Hispano/The Hispanic Center opens

The Hispano-American Association, responding to the needs of the city’s Hispanic population, opens El Centro Hispano/The Hispanic Center with funding and support from the government and several churches.

Read More »

Jan 6, 1971

Year-long sesquicentennial celebration begins

Celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding begin in January and continue throughout 1971. Mayor Richard G. Lugar launches the festivities at an evening performance of “We Celebrate Our City,” based on Edward Leary’s narrative history. 

Read More »
Pictured: View Source
May 23, 1971
Visual Arts
Artist working on a painting in front of her booth at OneAmerica Broad Ripple Art Fair, May 20, 2018

First Broad Ripple Art Fair

The Indianapolis Art Center and the Broad Ripple Village Association cosponsor the event to highlight the work of local artists. Approximately 100 artists participate in the first fair.

Read More »
Pictured: Artist at the Broad Ripple Art Fair, 2018
Credit: Jenna Watson, IndyStar View Source
Jun 19, 1971
Culture
Crowd scene at the 1971 Indiana Black Expo.

Indiana Black Expo begins

The annual exposition holds its inaugural event, a one-day gathering, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It aims to highlight the talents and achievements of African Americans and identify and address their challenges.

Read More »
Pictured: Crowd scene at the 1971 Indiana Black Expo.
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 1, 1971
Performing Arts

Edyvean Repertory Theatre incorporates

In residence at the Christian Theological Seminary, it is the only seminary-sponsored community theater in the U.S. It remains in operation until 2002.

Read More »

1972
Culture

Indiana Convention Center opens

The Indiana Convention Center increases the city’s capacity to host large meetings and events for the tourism industry. It helps revitalize downtown Indianapolis and sets the city on a path to become a major convention site.    

Read More »

1972
Culture
Food and culture meet during one of the programs at the International Center of Indianapolis, 1974

Mayor Lugar establishes International Center of Indianapolis

The need for interpreters and translators for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Conference of Mayors in 1973 sparks the formation of the International Center. It later grows to provide services to local ethnic groups.

Read More »
Pictured: Food and culture meet during one of the programs at the International Center of Indianapolis, 1974
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
1972
Visual Arts
K.P. Singh and Bart Peterson in 2002 at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis for Rangeela Punjab, a celebration of Punjabi culture that includes ethnic food and music hosted by the Sikh Educational and Cultural Society of Indianapolis. Singh is receiving an award.

K. P. Singh Designs created

Well-known as a community leader, Indian immigrant K. P. Singh establishes his business to market his hand-drawn drawings and prints of Indianapolis landmarks and other buildings across the world. His artwork is featured in many public and private collections.

Read More »
Pictured: K.P. Singh and Bart Peterson in 2002 at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis for Rangeela Punjab, a celebration of Punjabi culture that includes ethnic food and music hosted by the Sikh Educational and Cultural Society of Indianapolis. Singh is receiving an award.
Credit: K.P. Singh, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1972
Performing Arts
Dance Kaleidoscope of Afternoon of the Faun, 2008

Dance Kaleidoscope forms

The equity dance company brings dance into public schools. The group holds its first concert in 1978.

Read More »
Pictured: Dance Kaleidoscope of Afternoon of the Faun, 2008
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1972
Literature
Calvin Fletcher diary, 1821-1866

The Indiana Historical Society publishes Calvin Fletcher’s diaries

Covering the period from 1817 to 1866, Fletcher’s multi-volume diaries document the early history of the city.

Read More »
Pictured: Calvin Fletcher diary, 1821-1866
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1972
Culture
The house of Indiana author Meredith Nicholson has served as the home to Indiana Humanities since the 1980s.

Indiana Humanities established

The National Endowment for the Humanities collaborates with a group of five Indiana residents to establish the nonprofit to help carry out its work in the Hoosier State.

Read More »
Pictured: The house of Indiana author Meredith Nicholson has served as the home to Indiana Humanities since the 1980s.
Credit: W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 1, 1972
Visual Arts
The original LOVE statue by Robert Indiana as displayed in the main foyer of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 2019.

Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture moves permanently to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA)

After coming to Indianapolis for IMA’s opening in 1970, the iconic Robert Indiana sculpture becomes a permanent museum installation.

Read More »
Pictured: The original LOVE statue by Robert Indiana as displayed in the main foyer of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 2019.
Credit: Cerebral726 via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Jul 31, 1972
Culture

Woodruff Place becomes a city Historic District

The subdivision is the first of the city’s neighborhoods to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for it to become a protected city historic district in 2001.

Read More »

Oct 18, 1972
Performing Arts
Indiana Repertory Theatre, ca. 1980s

Indiana Repertory Theatre premiers first production

The theater company first resides at the Athenaeum. In 1980, the company moves to its present location, the Indiana Theatre on Washington Street.

Read More »
Pictured: Indiana Repertory Theatre, ca. 1980s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1973
Performing Arts
Elaine Bauer and David Brown of Indianapolis Ballet Theater, 1969

Indianapolis Ballet Theatre established

Indianapolis Ballet Theatre forms as an outgrowth of the Civic Ballet Society of Indianapolis. Initially performing only for Indianapolis Public School audiences, the ballet programs prove successful and expand.

Read More »
Pictured: Elaine Bauer and David Brown of Indianapolis Ballet Theater, 1969
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1973
Performing Arts
Beef 'n Boards Dinner Theater, ca. 1975

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre opens

Beginning as part of a chain of dinner theaters, Beef & Boards becomes a privately owned venue that produces professional Broadway shows and plays featuring its own resident acting company.

Pictured: Beef 'n Boards Dinner Theater, ca. 1975
Credit: The Indiana Album: North Central High School Archives View Source
1973
Culture
Festival-goers watch a live performance at the annual Greek Fest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 2018

First Indy GreekFest

Holy Trinity parish begins hosting Indy GreekFest, a festival aimed at celebrating and sharing Hellenic heritage and the Orthodox Christian faith.

Read More »
Pictured: Festival-goers watch a live performance at the annual Greek Fest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 2018
Credit: Jenna Watson, IndyStar View Source
1973
Culture

Lockerbie Place becomes an official historic district

Lockerbie Place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for the neighborhood to become a protected city historic district in 1987.

Read More »

1973
Culture
The Ruins, 1981

“The Ruins” dedication at Holliday Park

Artist Elmer Taflinger designs the piece to display sculptor Karl Bitter’s “Races of Mankind,” which had been created in 1896 for the St. Paul Building in New York City.

Read More »
Pictured: The Ruins, 1981
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1973
Performing Arts

Crazy Al’s opens

Al Finch establishes the restaurant and music venue on College Avenue in South Broad Ripple. The restaurant has an eccentric vibe and features alternative music, including new wave and punk as well as other genres.

Read More »

1974
Culture

The Indianapolis Association of Chinese Americans organizes

The association provides a sense of community to the Chinese in the city. It offers opportunities to showcase Chinese culture and heritage and to integrate with American society.

Read More »

1974
Culture
President Benjamin Harrison Home, ca. 2000s

Benjamin Harrison home opens as museum

Following a complete renovation, the entire home of the Indianapolis U.S. president opens as a house museum with regular hours.

Read More »
Pictured: President Benjamin Harrison Home, ca. 2000s
Credit: Lee Lewellen, Indiana State Library View Source
Mar 31, 1974
Culture

Conner Prairie dedication

Former Indiana governor Roger D. Branigan presides over dedication of the living history museum’s 1836 pioneer village.

Read More »

1975
Performing Arts
Soul People Repertory Company's Rent Party at Pearl's Lounge (Helen Whitelowe standing in the center), 1981

Helen Whitelowe establishes Soul People Repertory Company

One of the first African American acting companies in Indianapolis, Soul People introduces actors and audiences to theater from a Black perspective.

Read More »
Pictured: Soul People Repertory Company's Rent Party at Pearl's Lounge (Helen Whitelowe standing in the center), 1981
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1975
Performing Arts

Latvian immigrant founds Carmel Symphony Orchestra

Viktors Ziedonis, an immigrant from Daugavpils, Latvia, organizes the ensemble that becomes the orchestra in residence at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in 2011.

Read More »

Sep 29, 1975
Performing Arts
Indianapolis Opera actors performing in Carmen, 1977

Indianapolis Opera forms

Opera enthusiasts organize the new opera company as a nonprofit corporation. Its first season is limited to a one-night performance of two short works.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Opera actors performing in Carmen, 1977
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1976
Culture
Children participate in the 1982 International Festival for the International Center.

International Festival begins

Under the management of the International Center, the festival begins as part of the nation’s bicentennial. It provides a platform for various ethnic groups to showcase their contributions to the culture, history, and economy of Indiana.

Read More »
Pictured: Children participate in the 1982 International Festival for the International Center.
Credit: Jill Kramer, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1976
Performing Arts

Local actress Charlotte Kaufman founds Young Actors Theatre

The organization provides classic theater training to children. It is refounded in 2005 with a new focus on “Self-Empowerment Theatre.”

Read More »

1976
Culture

Report summarizing the economic impact of the arts on Indianapolis published

The Metropolitan Arts Council of Indianapolis, a forerunner of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, summarizes a survey of 36 arts organizations, finding that the arts make a $34 million impact on the city’s economy.

Read More »

1976
Culture

The Polish Cultural Society of Indiana forms

The Polish Cultural Society of Indiana organizes to heighten awareness of the contributions of residents of Polish descent to Indianapolis and the state.


Oct 2, 1976
Culture
Youth performing Princess & the Pea in the Lilly Theater, n.d.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis becomes the largest in the world

New facilities for the Children’s Museum open with visits from U.S. First Lady Betty Ford and other dignitaries. It includes five floors of exhibit space, the Ruth Allison Lilly Theater, classrooms, and administrative offices.

Read More »
Pictured: Youth performing Princess & the Pea in the Lilly Theater, n.d.
Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source
Jun 26, 1977
Performing Arts

Elvis Presley performs his last concert

At Market Square Arena, Presley performs all his hits to a crowd of 18,000 fans. The show receives mixed reviews, and the star takes a break from touring. Presley dies six weeks later.

Read More »

Dec 31, 1977
Performing Arts
Vogue Theatre, ca. 2000s

The Vogue reopens as a music venue

The Broad Ripple movie theater, which opened in 1938, becomes a successful music venue, featuring local and national bands.

Read More »
Pictured: Vogue Theatre, ca. 2000s
Credit: Lee Lewellen via Indiana State Library View Source
1978
Literature

Indiana Writers Center established

Writer and teacher Jim Powell founds the Indiana Writers Center to support local writers. The organization quickly grows from a small community group into a professional nonprofit organization.

Read More »

1978
Literature
Marian McFadden, 1948

First Marian Mcfadden Memorial Lecture

The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation establishes the author lecture series to recognize Marian McFadden, director of the Indianapolis Public Library from 1944 to 1955 who left over $150,000 to the library.

Read More »
Pictured: Marian McFadden, 1948
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
Feb 10, 1978
Performing Arts

First production of Epilogue Players

The theater group, primarily made up of actors 50 years or older, presents its play in the Ruth Allison Theatre at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Read More »

Mar 24, 1978
Culture

The Old Northside becomes an official historic district

The Old Northside is added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for the neighborhood to become a protected city historic district in 1979.

Read More »

1979
Culture
An artist's rendition of the interior for the Madame Walker Urban Life Center, 1983

Madam Walker Urban Life Center created

Created as a nonprofit organization, the Madam Walker Urban Life Center, Inc., begins work to save the historic Walker Building from deterioration and demolition.

Read More »
Pictured: An artist's rendition of the interior for the Madame Walker Urban Life Center, 1983
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1979
Literature
Black History News and Notes, 1983

Indiana Historical Society publishes Black History News and Notes

The free quarterly newsletter from the Indiana Historical Society includes articles on the political, social, and cultural history of Black people in Indiana.

Read More »
Pictured: Black History News and Notes, 1983
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1979
Performing Arts
Norman Shankle, right, is congratulated by P. E. MacAllister after winning the 1998 MacAllister Awards.

P. E. MacAllister founds the MacAllister Award competition

Named for P. E. MacAllister, Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist, the competition brings together young opera singers nationwide to compete in Indianapolis for the largest nonrestricted monetary awards in North America.

Read More »
Pictured: Norman Shankle, right, is congratulated by P. E. MacAllister after winning the 1998 MacAllister Awards.
Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
1980
Culture

Fletcher Place becomes a protected city historic district

The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for the neighborhood to become a protected city historic district, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Read More »

Mar 13, 1980
Culture

Chatham Arch becomes an official historic district

Chatham Arch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for Chatham Arch and Massachusetts Avenue to become a protected city historic district in 2006.

Read More »

1981
Performing Arts

Indiana Opera Theatre emerges from split

The Indiana Opera Theatre forms as a split with Indianapolis Opera, and the nationally recognized MacAllister Awards for aspiring opera singers becomes part of its operations. The company ceases to exist in 2002.

Read More »

Sep 1, 1981
Culture
Anderson Ballet Folklorico at Fiesta Indianapolis, 2008

First FIESTA Indianapolis festival

The first annual festival to celebrate the Latino community is a day-long event that takes place at the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. It becomes part of La Plaza, Inc. in 2004.

Read More »
Pictured: Anderson Ballet Folklorico at Fiesta Indianapolis, 2008
Credit: Jammy Straub, IndyStar View Source
1982
Culture
Freetown village costumed interpreter, ca. 1990s

Freetown Village planning begins

Ophelia Wellington conceptualizes Freetown Village out of her desire to teach African American history. The organization begins as a live-action exhibit in the Indiana State Museum, portraying Black history. Freetown actors later travel the Midwest and recreate Indiana’s post-Civil War Black settlements.

Read More »
Pictured: Freetown village costumed interpreter, ca. 1990s
Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1982
Performing Arts

Indiana Puppetry Guild chartered

The guild is dedicated to educating residents of Indiana about the art of puppetry.


1982
Performing Arts

American Pianists Association move to Indianapolis

Founded in 1979 in New York City, the music fellowship organization moves to Indianapolis because of its central location and affordability.

Read More »

1982
Visual Arts

Patrick King Contemporary Art gallery opens on Mass Ave

The gallery signals the birth of a contemporary downtown gallery district in Indianapolis. It sparks the growth of commercial art galleries in the area.

Read More »

1982
Culture

The Wholesale District becomes an official historic district

The Wholesale District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for the area to become a protected city historic district in 1990.

Read More »

Jun 5, 1982
Performing Arts

Symphony on the Prairie

The summer, outdoor, annual Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra series debuts at Conner Prairie.

Read More »

Sep 30, 1982
Performing Arts
1982 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

Indianapolis debuts the first International Violin Competition

Planning for the first quadrennial competition began in 1980 when Cathedral Arts asked Indiana University violinist and teacher Josef Gingold to be the founding jury president of a violin contest based in Indianapolis.

Read More »
Pictured: 1982 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
Credit: International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public Library View Source
1983
Culture

Three downtown neighborhoods become official historic districts

Lockefield Gardens, Herron-Morton Place, and Fountain Square are added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for Fountain Square and Lockefield Gardens to become protected city historic districts in 1984. Herron-Morton Place follows in 1986.

Read More »

1983
Performing Arts
The Chatterbox, 1990

Chatterbox begins featuring jazz

Previously a small, Mass Ave bar serving first and third-shift factory workers, it expands to include a stage for jazz performances.

Read More »
Pictured: The Chatterbox, 1990
Credit: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development, Indiana Historical Society View Source
1983
Performing Arts

First Waldo M. and Grace C. Bonderman National Youth Theatre Playwrighting Competition

Dorothy Webb, an IUPUI professor, initiates the competition that becomes known nationally for giving new playwrights opportunities to develop new works of theater for young audiences.

Read More »

Oct 28, 1983
Culture
Phoenix Theatre at 705 North Illinois Street, 2021

Phoenix Theatre established

The nonprofit theatre opens under the leadership of founding artistic director Bryan Fonseca. Actors and crew are local residents.

Read More »
Pictured: Phoenix Theatre at 705 North Illinois Street, 2021
Credit: Jenna Auber View Source
1984
Performing Arts
Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, n.d.

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra forms

The orchestra plays its first concerts in the medieval cloister of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, n.d.
Credit: Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra View Source
1984
Culture

Holy Rosary revives Italian Street Festival

Holy Rosary Catholic Church revives the annual festival, first established in 1934, to celebrate the Italian heritage of its surrounding neighborhood.

Read More »

May 6, 1984
Performing Arts
Erroll Grandy, ca. 1980s

Errol Grandy Day

A benefit concert, featuring 14 leading Indianapolis jazz groups, highlights the day honoring Grandy’s jazz contributions.

Read More »
Pictured: Erroll Grandy, ca. 1980s
Credit: Morgana via Find A Grave View Source
Oct 12, 1984
Performing Arts

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO) presents premier performance at Hilbert Circle Theatre

ISO performs in the renovated movie palace for the first time. It becomes one of the few U.S. symphonies to own its venue.

Read More »

1985
Culture

Prelude awards initiated

The awards identify, encourage, and reward Marion County high school students who show great potential in dance, instrumental music, literature, theater, visual arts, and vocal music.

Read More »

1985
Culture
The Slippery Noodle Inn, ca. 1940s

Slippery Noodle Inn becomes blues venue

Hal Yeagy Jr. transforms the city’s oldest continuously operating bar into a blues venue that gains national recognition.

Read More »
Pictured: The Slippery Noodle Inn, ca. 1940s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1985
Literature

Bobbs-Merrill Company ends

The Bobbs-Merrill Company imprint, based in Indianapolis since the mid-19th century, ends with the sales of its backlists to the MacMillan Company.

Read More »

1986
Literature

Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize established

Ruth Lilly, niece of Eli Lilly, establishes the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, an annual $25,000 award for U.S. poets who warrant extraordinary recognition. The nation’s largest poetry prize is raised to $75,000 in 1993.

Read More »

1986
Performing Arts
Meshach Taylor, 2011

Meshach Taylor lands role in Designing Women

Taylor is cast in his most memorable role as Anthony Bouvier on the long-running CBS comedy series.

Read More »
Pictured: Meshach Taylor, 2011
Credit: Lia Chang via Wikimedia Commons View Source
1986
Performing Arts

Indianapolis Children’s Choir forms

Performing at civic and cultural events in the city, in addition to its own concert series, the choir becomes one of the most admired youth choral programs in the country.

Read More »

1986
Culture
Pan American Games, 1987

Pan American Arts Festival begins

The Pan American Arts Festival, which runs through the Tenth Pan American Games in August 1987, celebrates the arts in the Western hemisphere. The Arts Council of Indianapolis works with nearly 40 local arts organizations to produce 200 events.

Read More »
Pictured: Pan American Games, 1987
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1986
Performing Arts

Blues Society formed

The society is founded to promote blues and jazz in Indianapolis.


Apr 26, 1986
Culture
Union Station, 1970

Renovated Union Station opens as a historic site and retail center

Preserving the most significant architectural elements, the $30-million restoration focuses on retaining the experience of a station in its conversion to over 100 restaurants and shops.

Read More »
Pictured: Union Station, 1970
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1987
Performing Arts
Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, in concert at the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, the University of Indianapolis.

IndyBaroque Music forms

The ensemble performs and promotes music of the 17th and 18th centuries using period instruments and historically informed performance practices.

Read More »
Pictured: Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, in concert at the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall, Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, the University of Indianapolis.
Credit: Thomas Gerber, IndyBaroque Music, Inc. View Source
1987
Performing Arts
The historic Metzger Building, home of the Cabaret and Arts Council of Indianapolis, 2021

American Cabaret Theatre comes to Indianapolis

Founded in the 1970s in Connecticut, the theater group moves to Indianapolis and performs at the Hilton Hotel for two seasons before moving into the Athenaeum’s renovated ballroom in 1990.

Read More »
Pictured: The historic Metzger Building, home of the Cabaret and Arts Council of Indianapolis, 2021
Credit: Jenna Auber
1987
Visual Arts
W.H. Bass Photo Co., 1932

The Indiana Historical Society acquires the Bass Photo Collection

The Historical Society’s ownership of the W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection makes available to the public the largest surviving historic collection of photographs of 20th-century Indianapolis.

Read More »
Pictured: W.H. Bass Photo Co., 1932
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 29, 1987
Culture

Part of Irvington becomes an official historic district

The Irvington Historical District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves plans for the neighborhood to become a protected historic city district in 2006.

Read More »

Oct 31, 1987
Culture

Arts Council of Indianapolis incorporates

The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee organizes the Arts Council of Indianapolis as the city’s arts advocacy agency. It works to strengthen the relationship of the arts to economic development and the business community.

Read More »

1987
Culture

The City begins funding the arts

The City of Indianapolis contracts with the newly organized Arts Council of Indianapolis to grant $500,000 to local arts and cultural groups. The grant program becomes one of the Arts Council’s core functions each year.

Read More »

1988
Visual Arts
Artwork on display in the library's Center for Black Literature and Culture, 2018

First Meet the Artists exhibition

Indianapolis Public Library artist-in-residence Anthony Radford organizes the showcase that highlights the works of the city’s top African American visual artists. It becomes an annual event.

Read More »
Pictured: Artwork on display in the library's Center for Black Literature and Culture, 2018
Credit: Doug Jaggers, WFYI View Source
1988
Culture
Advertisement for a Japan-American Society of Indiana Japanese language program, 1996

Japanese residents organize the Japan-American Society of Indiana

The cultural and educational organization fosters cultural exchange between Indiana and Japan.

Read More »
Pictured: Advertisement for a Japan-American Society of Indiana Japanese language program, 1996
Credit: IndyStar View Source
1988
Performing Arts

Theatre on the Square debut performance

Theater director Ron Spencer establishes the theater in Fountain Square to produce plays that address controversial issues. It moves to Massachusetts Avenue in 1993 and becomes known as The District Theatre.

Read More »

Jun 11, 1988
Culture
The Indianapolis Zoo opened its doors on in 1988 at 1200 W. Washington St. inside White River State Park.

Indianapolis Zoo relocates along the White River

The Washington Park Zoo closes in November 1987 and by early December, the zoo’s 500 animals are transferred to the new facility in White River State Park. 

Read More »
Pictured: The Indianapolis Zoo opened its doors on in 1988 at 1200 W. Washington St. inside White River State Park.
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 14, 1988
Culture

Start with Art directory released

The Arts Council of Indianapolis releases its first comprehensive listing of all nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Marion County.

Read More »

1989
Literature
First issue of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, 1989

Indiana Historical Society publishes Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History

The Indiana Historical Society quarterly history magazine focuses on little-known people and events from Indiana’s past.

Read More »
Pictured: First issue of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, 1989
Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
1989
Culture

New Augusta becomes a historic district

The Unigov included town is added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approves the area’s plans to become a protected city historic conservation district in 1999.

Read More »

1989
Culture
Profile of Arts in Indianapolis, 1987

A Profile of the Arts in Indianapolis published

The Arts Council of Indianapolis (ACI) releases a study of arts organizations in the city, carried out immediately after its incorporation in 1987, with the aim of devising a plan to better serve members of the arts community.

Read More »
Pictured: Profile of Arts in Indianapolis, 1987
Credit: University of Indianapolis View Source
May 20, 1989
Performing Arts
Deer Creek Music Center (later Ruoff Music Center), 2023

Deer Creek Music Center begins operation

Sunshine Promotions of Indianapolis opens the $12 million Deer Creek Music Center, now Ruoff Music Center, located near Noblesville. The first concert, a benefit event, features gospel singer Sandi Patti, an Anderson, Indiana, native.

Read More »
Pictured: Deer Creek Music Center (later Ruoff Music Center), 2023
Credit: Visit Indy View Source
Jun 30, 1989