I don’t know if I’m fully over it yet, the stiff fee the Indianapolis Museum of Art started charging in 2015 to visit any part of the museum and its grounds. I understand a fee to tour the museum — but the grounds? Really?
There is a fee-free way in, via the far west end of the campus, a small parking lot, and a long walk. But I haven’t done it. It’s a principle, darn it, and I’ve stood staunch. This walk should be as free and easy as it ever was!
But I’m almost over it. My idealism stretches only so far. If I weren’t about to move away, I’m sure that shortly I’d become willing to buy an annual membership and get back to photographing the lovely campus, on which I have not set foot in more than two and a half years.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art traces its roots to 1883, when the Art Association of Indianapolis held its first exhibit. The Art Association established its first permanent home in 1902 at 16th and Pennsylvania Streets, where Indianapolis’s Old Northside neighborhood ends and the Herron-Morton neighborhood begins. Herron-Morton gets its name in part for John Herron, who left most of his fortune to the Art Association on the condition that the funds establish a museum and art school in his name.
By 1964, the Art Association’s museum was out of space. In 1966, the John Herron School of Art lost its accreditation. It was time for change. The Herron School was transferred to Indiana University, which reaccredited it and operates it today. And the Lilly family of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company donated the family estate, Oldfields, on Michigan Road at 38th Street. The Art Association changed its name to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and in time its new facilities were built on the sprawling Oldfields grounds.
Sprawling — and stunning. The White River runs behind it; the Indiana Central Canal runs through it. (The Canal is a feature of many of my favorite subjects!) The classical buildings of the Oldfields estate contrast with the modern buildings the Museum built to house its collections. And it’s all tied together by a system of beautifully landscaped paths and trails.
Everywhere you walk, there is something interesting to see.
I don’t know why it took me so long to visit the IMA for photography. Except for a few photos I made when I surveyed the Michigan Road in 2008, my first visits for photography were in 2013. And my last were in 2014, for that year the IMA announced it would henceforth cost $18 to set foot on the grounds. I wrote a scathing blog post criticizing this decision then; read it here. But for those two years, I visited all the time and made dozens of lovely photographs. So many outstanding subjects lurk everywhere!
You can spend hours just photographing the flowers and other plant life.
Statues dot the grounds.
For me, though, the campus’s showpiece is the Lilly house.
Oh my gosh, but do I miss wandering these grounds with a camera in my hands. It’s why I’m almost over the IMA’s ridiculous entry fee. $75 would buy an annual pass for me and my family.
The IMA recently announced that it is rebranding all of its offerings on its 152-acre campus — the museum, the grounds, the Lilly house, the acreage between the canal and the river, and all of the events that happen anywhere within these spaces — as Newfields. It deftly ties all of their offerings together, and reminds me that even a stroll on their grounds is good and valuable.
My wife enjoys what is now known as Newfields as well. Even though we’ll be farther away, up in Zionsville, it’s still an easy drive along I-65 to get here. A family membership might still be worth it.
Last updated on 14 March 2020 by Jim Grey