Courtesy Brown Co. CVB
There’s a lot more to art than canvas, paint and frames: In our world of constant entertainment, today’s travelers demand that their art be interactive. And in cities and towns throughout Indiana, that’s just what they’ll get.
Although Indiana’s communities are diverse in size, culture and background, a thriving art scene unifies destinations throughout the state. Groups that tour Indiana can find plenty of opportunities for hands-on art workshops in various cities. There are also places to appreciate some of the great artwork done by local and national artists.
The communities in Dearborn County and the Amish Country of Northern Indiana have well-developed programs that help groups get hands on with local artists. Nashville and surrounding Brown County are home to a whole colony of artists, and there are lots of shops and galleries to be explored. And towns throughout southern Indiana and Hendricks County have museum and gallery experiences that showcase their art heritage as well.
The beauty of central Indiana’s wooded hills has been attracting artists and travelers alike to Brown County for more than 100 years.
“Artists first came to sit and look at the hills and trees and paint,” said Jamie Newton, communications manager at the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We still have a lot of people who come up to Brown County State Park to get the artist inside them inspired.”
Painter T.C. Steele was one of the first artists to discover the area in the early 1900s. Soon word began to spread, and Nashville and the surrounding county became a veritable arts colony.
Groups that visit the area today have plenty of options for appreciating the area’s art, past and present.
“T.C. Steele State Historic Site is where Steele built a home in the middle of the woods,” Newton said. “You can always take tours of the home and studio. They also have resident artists there, and they hold art events and workshops all the time.”
Groups can also arrange to have a hands-on workshop with one of the many artists who live and work in the village of Nashville. Numerous galleries throughout the village display the works of artists who find or have found inspiration in Brown County, among them painters, sculptors and glassblowers.
For a more exclusive experience, the convention and visitors bureau offers the Backwoods of Brown County driving tour for groups during peak fall foliage season.
“We have a ton of studios outside of the village that aren’t necessarily open to the public,” Newton said. “On this tour, guests see the foliage on the back roads, and can go into the studios to see the artists work and buy items if they want to.”
In Dearborn County, an area near Cincinnati along the state’s southeast border, the convention and visitors bureau has helped locals in two different towns put together art experiences for visiting groups.
The Framery, an art and jewelry studio in Lawrenceburg, arranges special arts events for visiting groups.
“They put together Arty Parties for our groups,” said Sally McWilliams, group sales manager for the Dearborn County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The most popular is a large party that will run for several hours. They can do a fused-glass jewelry project or paint wine glasses. They can do themes like a beach party, where they put up a giant patio umbrella inside the studio and serve margaritas.”
These parties involve hors d’oeuvres and drinks, as well as multiple art workstations. Sometimes the studio brings in massage chairs or yoga teachers, so each member of the group can choose from a variety of ways to have fun.
“It’s a chance for them to learn something and be creative,” McWilliams said. “It’s like a progressive art party. They feel very accomplished afterwards, because they’ve done things that they thought they couldn’t do.”
In the nearby historic river town of Aurora, the Southeast Indiana Art Guild has joined with downtown merchants to create a series of 64 murals installed in the upper-level windows of prominent downtown buildings. Groups can take a guided art walk of the area, during which they learn about the unusual mural project and the community history depicted in the paintings.
“The artists found old photos that reflect the late 1800s or early 1900s, and translated those photos into window paintings,” McWilliams said. “It gives you an insight into what you would have seen if you had looked inside these windows or what someone in the community would have seen if they had looked out.”