20171025bc steele visitor center 1
Bob and Barbara Stevens of Columbus talk about the reasons they donated much of the money needed to build a new visitor center at T.C. Steele State Historic Site. Sara Clifford

Mention the name T.C. Steele, considered the father of Indiana impressionism, and one is likely to think of Brown County. For good reason.

Later in life, Steele and his second wife, Selma, moved to the county and built a hilltop studio-home.

Brown County also is home to the T.C. Steele Historic Site, with more than 200 acres of gardens and woods.

But for all the site’s beauty and charm, it lacks basic amenities such as flush toilets and ample running water. That spurred arts supporters Bob and Barbara Stevens of Columbus to action.

They have long supported the Brown County arts colony of Nashville, demonstrating their support again by stepping up with their own money to finance, with a matching grant from the state of Indiana, a modern visitors center as a companion structure to complement the Steeles’ House of Singing Winds.

Construction began in late September and the new 4,600 square-foot visitors center is expected to open in the summer of 2018. It also will have a gift shop, elevator, classroom space for visiting artists, staff offices, a coffee shop — and restrooms.

The new addition will make visiting the T.C. Steele State Historic Site even more enjoyable for artists and art enthusiasts thanks to the generosity of the Stevenses.

They have shown such support in the past. They helped restore lily ponds at the site, and provided support for an 8,700-square-foot addition to the Brown County Art Gallery in 2015. One part of the gallery bears their name: The Bob and Barbara Stevens Art Education Studio.

Their support of the arts in Brown County has been tremendous, and has helped the community thrive as an arts colony. That is commendable.

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