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Palettes & Performances of the Midwest

Maybe it’s a single well-known artist who paves the way to transform a place into an arts destination. Maybe it’s a grassroots group that forms the nation’s first community arts council. Or maybe it’s residents in a rural town who found an arts center, which serves as the catalyst to become an arts destination.

These Midwestern communities are havens for artists and artisans who are happy to open their doors and share their work with visitors.

Brown County, Indiana

When American impressionist painter T.C. Steele discovered Brown County in south-central Indiana in the early 1900s, he started painting its people, places and panoramas. In 1907, Steele built his hilltop studio-home, known as House of the Singing Winds, on 60 acres between the towns of Bloomington and Nashville.

“Other artists followed him down here — there was a big movement with impressionist painters — and that’s how it became known as the Art Colony of the Midwest,” said Aubrey Sitzman, public relations coordinator for the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

At T.C. Steele State Historic Site, groups can tour Steele’s home and studio, “where you can see some of his works and his old paint palettes,” she said. Visitors can hike at the 211-acre park, which is also known for its gardens. Construction is underway on the new Singing Winds Visitor Center that’s slated to open this summer. 

Downtown Nashville is known as Brown County’s Arts Village. There, groups will find the Brown County Art Gallery, which was established in 1926, and Brown County Art Guild displays the artwork of more than 45 artists. The Brown County Craft Gallery is a co-op that shows and sells work from about 40 area artisans.