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Making It in the Midwest: Artists Who Chose to Stay

June 20 - October 18, 2009


Making It in the Midwest: Artists Who Chose to Stay is a double exhibition exploring the efforts of artists living in Indiana and the Midwest to establish reputations and careers of national and international standing. By presenting both historical and contemporary perspectives, Making It In the Midwest: Artists Who Chose to Stay (June 20, 2009 through October 18, 2009), showcases not only the extraordinary talent found throughout Indiana and the surrounding region but also explores continuity and change in the ways artists have gained recognition outside the centers of the art world. It is the first major exhibition to explore the challenges facing working artists in the Midwest and brings together an important array of historical works, many of which are in private collections and have not been seen publicly for decades. (right: T.C. Steele, An August Morning, Society of Western Artists' Fifteenth Annual Exhibition, 1910, Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. John Rapp)

The first part of the exhibition examines the Society of Western Artists, a group of artists from Indianapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis who sought to counteract the East coast's dominance in American art and bring work from the Midwest "before the public in a more satisfactory manner." Between 1896 and 1914, they organized annual exhibitions that toured major Midwestern museums and attracted national notice, enhancing the reputations of the artists who participated. The historical exhibition, installed in the Indiana State Museum's NiSource Gallery, showcases approximately fifty paintings that were included in the Society of Western Artists' annual exhibitions, with an emphasis on work by members of the Hoosier Group who were leaders in the Society.

Contemporary Hoosier artists continue to struggle to survive as artists and to attract widespread attention for their work. Their efforts to build careers and sustain their artistic passions while remaining based in the Indiana is the focus of the second part of the exhibition. This 3,000 square foot installation in the museum's Ford Gallery focuses on twenty Hoosier artists who, through varying means, have succeeded in establishing artistic careers and raising their visibility. The artists' approaches range from more traditional strategies such as teaching, participating in national juried shows, and seeking gallery representation in multiple cities to self-promotion using digital technologies or through their own galleries, pursuit of public art commissions, representation in corporate collections, or cooperative efforts to build the local and regional arts communities. The artists represent a diversity of backgrounds, media, artistic styles, and approaches to building their identities as successful artists. (left: T.C. Steele, Afternoon at the Ford or The Muscatatuck, Society of Western Artists' Third Annual Exhibition, 1898, Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Randall Tucker)

The publications associated with the exhibition will ensure that it continues to contribute to public awareness of Indiana art and to the growing body of scholarly research. Making It in the Midwest coincides with the publication of the first major study of the Society of Western Artists by Rachel Berenson Perry: T. C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists, 1896-1914 (Indiana University Press, 2009). To document and elaborate on the contemporary exhibition, the museum plans to produce a full-color, approximately 50-page exhibition catalogue with an essay by Rachel Perry as well as color illustrations and a checklist of works in the show. Five hundred copies of the catalogue will be printed and distributed without charge.

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For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

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