Photography

Favorite subjects: The grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

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.

Entering the IMA
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014

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.

IMA entrance
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2010

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.

Man with dog
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Pathway
Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013
House
Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Everywhere you walk, there is something interesting to see.

Bridge at IMA
Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013
Eden II
Pentax ME, Fujicolor 200, 80-200mm f/4 Sears zoom, 2013
Shutter
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200

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!

On the grounds of Oldfields
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
At the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Canon FT QL, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FL, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Steps
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800, 2013
On the bridge
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Love
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

You can spend hours just photographing the flowers and other plant life.

Phlox, I think
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800, 2013
Polaflowers
Polaroid Colorpack II, Fujifilm FP-100C, 2014
Bloomed
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013

Statues dot the grounds.

Cherub
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Arms wide
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
The girls
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014
At the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Canon FT QL, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FL, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Studying the map
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014

For me, though, the campus’s showpiece is the Lilly house.

Oldfields
Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Oldfields
Minolta XG-1, MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Stately
Kodak Pony 135 Model C, Fujicolor 200, 2013
Dormer
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Window
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Arches
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014
Evening light at Oldfields *EXPLORED*
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Ektar 100, 2014
Through the window
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014
A Lilly Christmas
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014
Tea service before the fireplace
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014
Lamp
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 800, 2014

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

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5 thoughts on “Favorite subjects: The grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

  1. If there were that many interesting photo opps all in one place, I’d be tempted to pay the annual fee. I do that with the Sonoma County Parks since I spend so much time shooting the coast.

  2. I really like this idea of gathering together photographs of a favourite subject, made with different cameras over a period of time.

    My favourite shots are the broken white shutter, the sundial, and the first pink plants shot with the Pentax ME. The following shot with the Polaroid is fantastic too, love the colours and the woozy, swirly background.

    • It’s been fun to look back through my various cameras and lenses at these places I visited often! One more Favorite Subject left: the grand and glorious Crown Hill Cemetery. It’s queued and ready to fire off in the coming days.

      That Polaroid shot really is lovely, and every time I look at it I wish Fuji hadn’t discontinued pack film.

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