90 years of art and artists

For $35 a month, an old grocery store was rented to an association of artists who wanted to open a gallery.

In September, that gallery is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

On Sept. 17, 18 and 21, the Brown County Art Gallery will welcome visitors into its newly expanded home to participate in workshops, see new exhibits and enjoy food and music.

The gallery was started when members of Brown County’s early art colony met in artist Will Vawter’s home. There, they formed the Brown County Art Gallery Artists Association and elected Carl Graf as president, according to gallery foundation President Lyn Letsinger Miller.

With the help of businessman William Wilkes, the association was able to open the gallery in the former grocery store he had bought and refurbished on Main Street, Miller wrote.

For about 30 years, that gallery welcomed many visitors, including former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936. She bought paintings for the White House.

Tragedy struck in the 1950s when a downtown fire and change of ownership forced the gallery to move to the corner of Artist Drive and Main Street, where it sits now. After about 15 years, a new gallery was built on property donated by famed local artist Adolph Shulz.

Arson destroyed the building and many paintings in the early 1960s. Like a phoenix, the gallery rose from the fire again with the support of artists and the community, Miller wrote.

The building remained relatively unchanged for 50 years, until last year, when the gallery foundation board and artists helped build an 8,600-square-foot addition and refurbish the building.

The $2 million project, funded by donors and grant money, includes a new education studio, exhibit hall, galleries, lobby and art collections.

One of the new galleries, the Robert E. Sexton Gallery, is home to a collection of wood block prints by Gustave Baumann.

The former South Gallery was turned into the W.M. Zimmerman Studio, featuring Brown County bird artist’s drafting table and paintbrushes.


The celebration will kick off Saturday, Sept. 17 with the a new exhibit: “Brown County Masters, the Legend Continues.”Food that evening will be catered by Hotel Nashville, with wine from Brown County Winery and music by Jon and Zelton Kay.

Indiana artist C.W. Mundy, who began his career in Nashville, will present a retrospective of his 30-plus-year career. It will feature pieces that have been rarely or never seen from his painting tours across Europe, America and Indiana.

On Sunday, Sept. 18, Indiana State Museum Fine Arts Curator Mark Ruschman will present a program, “200 Years of Indiana Art.”

A “Barbecue and Bluegrass” event, featuring Mundy on banjo, will take place Wednesday, Sept. 21.

The public is invited to all of the events.

Admission fees will allow the gallery to present its “Brown County Masters” exhibit free to the public from Sept. 19 to Oct. 30.

Celebrate with the Brown County Art Gallery


What: Brown County Art Gallery Collector’s Showcase opening night reception

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17

Where: Brown County Art Gallery, 1 Artist Drive, Nashville

Cost: $55 per person. To make a reservation, call 812-988-4609 or visit browncountyartgallery.org.

What: Indiana State Museum Fine Arts Curator Mark Ruschman presentation on “200 Years of Indiana Art”

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18

Where: Brown County Art Gallery, 1 Artist Drive

Cost: $5

What: Barbecue and Bluegrass

When: Evening of Wednesday, Sept. 21

Where: Brown County Art Gallery, 1 Artist Drive

Cost: $10; beer and wine available

Brown County Art Colony Weekend

Art colony 2

Before the Brown County Art Gallery celebrates its 90th anniversary beginning Sept. 17, artists and admirers will visit Brown County to celebrate Art Colony Weekend from Sept. 9 to 11.

The weekend kicks off with a ceremony at the Brown County History Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. It will include a birthday cake for artist T.C. Steele, a presentation on Brown County artists and entertainment by the Matt Romy Duo. Admission $10 per person.

From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. the next day, the T.C. Steele State Historic Site will host the 28th annual Great Outdoor Art Contest. Winning paintings will be on display and for sale at the Brown County Art Guild from Sept. 12 to 30.

Visitors can watch artists work during the contest.

The Village Art Walk will take place in downtown Nashville Saturday, Sept. 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. The Brown County Art Guild will feature work by members Peggy Brown and Judith Lewis and a Dale Bessire retrospective.

The Guild will also have entertainment by Lemoyne Smith from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and Amanda Webb from 6 to 8 p.m.

The final of day of the Art Colony Weekend begins with a breakfast with artists at the Artist Colony Inn.

From 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, artists will paint around town during the Guild’s Nashville Villagescape Plein Air Paint Out.

The Hungarian Slacks, including Brown County Art Guild artist member Wyatt LeGrand, will perform from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. that day at the Brown County Playhouse.

The weekend concludes with a reception and awards ceremony at the Guild from 4 to 5 p.m.