Students’ artwork hits a high note

by Meredith McGovern, Arts and Culture Collection Manager

What do you get when you cross a lone fishing boat, a team of galloping horses, a twirling ballerina and two giraffes with plumed Venetian masks? Symphony in Color at the Indiana State Museum!

Here’s how the annual art contest — administered by volunteers from the Junior Group of the Women’s Committee of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra — works: Indiana students in grades one through six listen to classical music performed by the ISO and create artwork to interpret what they hear. The young artists use a variety of material and techniques — acrylic, watercolor, paper, glitter, collage and batik, to name a few — to represent crashing symbols, surging chords, lilting flutes, high-pitched strings and lively horns. From the thousands of pieces of art submitted, 100 finalists and 10 honorable mentions are selected for exhibition at the museum.

Through May 5, you are invited to stroll the gallery — watch and listen as the students’ creations leap off the page!

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Dialogue Blog: Camp Favorites

by Katy Creagh, School Programs Developer, and Eric Todd, Gallery Programming Manager

041113_katy_ericKATY: Eric, I am so excited! My job has changed and I am now the Indiana State Museum Summer Camp Director. Now, I know you have a special place in your heart for Summer Camps, so I thought it might be fun to discuss our Top 5 favorite things about camp.

ERIC: If there are two things I love, they are camp and lists. So sure, I’ll play along. 

KATY: Great, I’ll go first.  At number five, I have recess. You get to spend time outside playing games and enjoying the summer weather. It has all the perks of recess when you were in elementary school.

ERIC: You may have just stolen one of mine, but that is fine. My fifth favorite thing about summer camp is the free camp t-shirt. Every time I get one, that’s one more day before I have to do laundry.

KATY: Are you sure it’s just one more day? For number four, I went with looking for fossils. That includes microfossils in Diggin’ Indiana and Exploring Nature Camps and then sifting dirt in Paleontology II. It’s something I’ve never experienced before coming to the museum, and it’s fun to think that I’m doing the same work that REAL scientists and paleontologists do.

ERIC: That is cool, I agree. My number four is making things. You might call them crafts, but it’s really more than that. By summer’s end my desk is always filled with awesome new decorations that also serve as reminders of the fun I had.

KATY: Perfect transition, my number three is also crafty—weaving. You get to try weaving in two different camps (Indiana Artists and History Alive!) and make my favorite, “mug rugs.”

ERIC: I would normally give you a hard time about “mug rugs,” but I do have one at my desk that I use daily. My number three choice is a repeat of one of yours, but you’ll notice I placed it a bit higher on my list. Recess, lunch break and snack time. I have so much fun in those moments! I loved recess as a kid, but now I really appreciate it. And, if my boss is reading this, Susan — what are your thoughts on instituting museum recess?

KATY: I’d vote “yes” for that one. Alright, now we’re getting down to the big ones. At number two on my list, I have all things crafting. See how high it is on my list compared to yours? From the end of the week presentations to making a mosaic in Diggin’ Indiana camp … I love all the projects and crafts we get to make.  

ERIC: I am shocked that is not your number one, frankly, especially with the new Indiana Fashion Runway Camp which I imagine will let you craft around the clock. My number two is behind-the-scenes tours. As you know, even as museum employees we don’t have access to everything in the museum, but during camp, we get to go places and see things that most visitors — and staff — never see.

KATY: Nice choice. But now the big one. My number one favorite thing about summer camp at the Indiana State Museum is … the campers! Spending time with old friends and making new ones — I get to play games and learn new things about Indiana and don’t have to sit at my desk all day … I get to hang out with cool people all day which is way better.

ERIC: Great minds think alike — my number one choice is also the people. I always meet the coolest people in summer camp. From wildlife experts (with their animals) to Abraham Lincoln himself, you never know who you’ll see stopping by an Indiana State Museum camp. Oh, and the campers and counselors are pretty cool, too!

Eau de old stuff

 by Gaby Kienitz, Conservator

I have a secret to tell — historic artifacts smell. They often smell bad. When you get close and personal with historic artifacts like I do in the Conservation Lab, you realize they have odor issues. It’s not their fault. Dust, mold, bird droppings, mouse pee and, shall we delicately say, various “debris” from human use contribute to a potent olfactory cocktail. If I could bottle it to sell at the perfume counter it would be called “eau de old stuff.” But, I don’t mind, I’m used to the smell.

I’ve been lucky; I hear stories from friends at other museums about a collection of artifacts that smell of old cigarette smoke and even worse, a contemporary art object that smells of rotten flesh. I’ve never had to deal with objects that smell so bad they make you feel sick. This year, I hit the jackpot with artifact smells. Not because it was terrible, but because it was so very good. Enter the bee skep …

What is a bee skep exactly? Well, other than a hollow in a tree trunk (à la Winnie the Pooh), this is the traditional home of the honeybee. Those efficiently square bee boxes we’re familiar with today weren’t invented until the middle of the 19th century. For hundreds of years before, humans provided the humble, hardworking honeybee with a home that’s basically an upside-down coiled basket made of straw, held together with strips of tree saplings. After the bees move in, they create their own honeycomb, by building directly onto the inner walls of the skep.

Our bee skep is an exile from the Odd Indiana exhibit. It was intended to be part of the display of torturous farm tools, but was cut from the show several months before installation. It didn’t look like anything special when it was brought to the Conservation Lab. Heck, I didn’t even know what it was. But, when I leaned in to take a closer look at the interior, that’s when it hit me – the smell, that fabulous smell. The inside is glossy from a thin coating of wax and high on the inner dome of the skep are small hexagonal remnants of honeycomb. There is still a faint, warm smell of beeswax mingled with the sweet earthy smell of straw.

For the first time ever, I found myself wanting the smell from an object to linger. I’d love to spend my days with my nose up against the inside of the skep, making myself giddy with the smell, but then who would do the work? Although the skep was rejected from exhibition, I wanted to give it another chance. I’m hoping to have it placed on exhibit in the second floor main gallery in the summer of 2011. But, before it’s ready for exhibition it needs to be treated in the Conservation Lab; part of the lower coil on the skep has detached and there’s some straw missing.

Look for an update in the coming months on the treatment and installation of the bee skep. Until then, I’ll be keeping my nose to the skep … er …grindstone.

All photos by Anna Yu.

Art on the go … A brief sketch of school groups

by LeAnn Luce, West Region Program Manager, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

They say pictures are worth a thousand words. If that is so, we have that to the nth degree here at T.C. Steele. Both in the wondrous works of art on display in the Studio and the House of the Singing Winds, and as illustrated in this collection of photos recently portraying the visiting school groups to our site. Boy, have we had school groups! More than 500 children have visited in October!

Let me draw you a picture of a typical field trip. They ascend on us in the friendly big, yellow buses. Teachers come out first and assemble the children into groups of three to four. Backpacks in tow, they excitedly approach their stations — the House, the Studio, the Classroom — for an intermittent art project, or perhaps a hike on one of our Trails of Inspiration filled with the flora and fauna captured in so many of Steele’s paintings. Recently, we captured some pictures of Monroe County School Corporation students who were able to attend due to the generosity of a grant from the Monroe County Community Foundation.

Picture this, children touring, creating, hiking, learning, laughing, sharing, experiencing, questioning, living and loving the art that is the T.C. Steele State Historic Site! Come and visit us and see for yourself. We are having a ton of fun!

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Figures from the past

Written by Michele Greenan, natural history collections manager at the Indiana State Museum

Have you ever wondered how archaeologists come up with ‘educated’ guesses as to how people in the past looked or behaved? For the archaeologist, art can sometimes be the vehicle that delivers that element of humanity. A few weeks ago, archaeologists at the Indiana State Museum began the long, arduous process of cataloging some of the beautiful artwork created by the people of Southern Indiana some 1,700 years ago.


Figure 1: Figurine Faces

There are many occasions during the day when non-archaeology staff comes traipsing through the lab spaces. Archaeologists are always cataloging something in the labs, so there is a continual flow of things to look at. When these figurines were laid out, the reaction was one of sheer amazement. People would start to walk by then catch a glimpse out of the corner of their eye and stop dead in their tracks. In a low voice, you’d hear something like “…Oh my God!”


Figurine 2: Figurine Bodies

As we pick each figurine up and get a good look at it, we can’t help but think – just for a second – that we are somehow looking into the faces of the people who made these figurines 1,700 years ago. As we catalog these beautifully crafted objects (there are over 400 in the collection), we can see evidence of how they wore jewelry and what their hair and clothing styles were like. Other figurines may indicate religious practice or perhaps social standing. We may never know the intended meanings of these figurines, but they certainly provide a unique glimpse into their culture.


Figure 3: Figurine Fragments

Nowadays, our lab looks a bit more like a CSI episode. We have over a hundred fragments of figurines left to catalog, most of which are parts of feet, torsos or limbs. The amount of information we can obtain from these fragments (we will try and fit them together) as well as the faces and bodies are immeasurable. Staff from the Indiana State Museum discovers something new about them almost every day.

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And the winner is…

Tile-A-Vision by Cappi Phillips

Tile-A-Vision by Cappi Phillips

The results are in and the Indiana Art Fair Signature Artist piece has a name. It was tough for this year’s artist to choose among the over 400 suggestions left by Indiana Art Fair visitors in February. But there was one title that 11 contestants all agreed would make a terrific name: “Tile-A-Vision.” Congrats to all of the following contestants who recommended the title: Rebecca of Plainfield; Jeb Smithwick of Indianapolis; Jeff Marsh; Greg Mac of Indianapolis; Brian Blackburn of Decatur, Illinois; Christopher Lyons of Indianapolis; Betty Cockron of Indianapolis; Jacob Crouch of Indianapolis; KyleeAnn Wheeler of Indianapolis; Adam Hon of Marion; and Mary Jane Schnake of Danville. And thank you to all who helped to give this piece of art a unique name!

 Here are the “runners-up” that were also personal favorites of the artist:
“Archaic Mosaic” by Vicki Bohlsen of Whiteland, Indiana
“Don’t Touch That Tile!” by Greg Dale of Defiance, Ohio
“Ode to Analog” by Sheila Walsh of Toledo, Ohio
“Boob Tube Redux” by Jane Runge Darlage of Indianapolis

What’s In A Name?

Cappi Phillips' Signature Artist piece for the 2009 Indiana Art Fair.

Cappi Phillips' Signature Artist piece for the 2009 Indiana Art Fair.

The time has almost arrived. The Indiana Art Fair is right round the corner! And with that, the Signature Artist piece has been revealed and will be on display in the museum’s Frank O’Bannon Great Hall leading up to the event. Though plans for the event are pretty much finalized there is one last point of business – there is not title for the Signature Artist piece!

Here is your chance to get involved with a real piece of art. We are looking for a title for this year’s 2009 Indiana Art Fair Signature Piece by Bloomington, Indiana artist Cappi Phillips. To contribute, visit the Indiana Art Fair on Feb. 21 or 22 and visit Cappi’s booth to get an up close view of the piece and leave your title suggestions. The chosen title will be shared via the museum’s website by the end February.