Expanded Brown County Art Gallery gets Columbus support

The Brown County Art Gallery — complete with a Columbus Room — will host a grand opening Oct. 24 of a 8,700-square-foot addition that has been three years in the making.

The gallery foundation has raised $1.7 million of the $2 million needed for the new addition.

The foundation still needs $200,000 to completely fund the project, said Lyn Letsinger-Miller, president of the art gallery foundation.

“Everything seems to be going on schedule as far as we can tell,” she said.

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Part of the building will open this weekend: The Bob and Barbara Stevens Art Education Studio and the new exhibit hall, which features the Columbus Room and the Wrapp Family Gallery.

Workshops are scheduled in the studio today and Oct. 30. Member artists will be able to display their works in the exhibit hall beginning this weekend, too.

Come Oct. 24, the public will be invited to view the entire new addition.

Outside support

The Heritage Trust of the Bartholomew County Community Foundation gave the art gallery foundation $10,000, which has never happened before, Miller said.“They have never given money outside of Bartholomew County before,” she said. “They came over and met with us. They felt like this would be an important arts center that would attract people in the entire region.”The Columbus Room in the new exhibition hall is in honor of 10 Columbus families who donated $10,000 each.

The Wrapp Family Gallery was named after art collectors in Indianapolis who donated to the project.

Eli Lilly and Co. CEO John Lechleiter and his wife, Sarah, donated $50,000.

All donations will continue to be matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous family trust until the end of the year, Miller said.

“A lot of people has given us a lot of money and a lot of responsibility, so we’re working really hard to meet all the challenges and to present a full calendar of events starting next year,” Miller said.

Next year will also be the gallery’s 90th anniversary.

‘On the map’

Miller is working with a national arts group to bring its national convention and national exhibit to Brown County in 2017. She hopes to make a formal announcement of who the group is later this month. The convention will last one week and the exhibit for 3½ weeks.“In the art world, it will be Brown County on the map, especially if this national convention comes in,” Miller said.“Putting Brown County on the map” using the arts was the topic of a Sept. 24 community conversation at the Brown County Public Library.

The League of Women Voters of Brown County sponsored the conversation that focused on Brown County’s art heritage and how it can be used to attract visitors.

Discussion centered on using events such as outdoor concerts or storytelling; possibly using Arts Road 46 as an umbrella organization that organizes all of the art groups in Bartholomew, Brown and Monroe counties; and the importance of having access to high-speed Internet throughout the county.

“There has to be a coordinated effort,” said Miller, who was one of the panelists. “There has to be an umbrella agency that is well funded and with the expertise to market this community on a collective basis.

“That does not exist. Everybody is off doing their own thing because there isn’t that financial basis here.”

Kathy Anderson, president of Brown County Playhouse Management, said Arts Road 46 could be that umbrella organization. Arts Road 46 is made up of the art commissions in Columbus, Nashville and Bloomington that are working together to try to promote State Road 46 as a corridor to visit, she said.

“But, of course, funding is an issue,” Anderson said. “In order for those three to work together, we have to have projects that are a win-win-win. We’re working on it, but there’s no one person driving it.”

Moderator Julie Winn suggested hosting another community conversation specifically on Arts Road 46.

Panelist Jon Kay, the director of Traditional Arts Indiana, said nothing beats face-to-face interaction between an artist and potential customer.

“I have my CDs online, but there are very few people who buy my CDs that haven’t met me,” he said. “There still needs to be a personal connection.”

Both Miller and local business owner Jeremiah Reichmann agreed on the importance of connecting with leadership in other counties as a way to raise funds.

“But you need to show what you can do for them,” Miller said.

Experiencing art

The two types of tourism that are popular right now are wellness and heritage tourism, League of Women Voters member Ruth Reichmann said.Wellness includes both mental and physical wellness, like mountain biking or painting. Heritage includes art and history.“We have all of this,” she said.

Currently, the Brown County community uses two types of art models: retail and entertainment, Kay said.

He would like to see Brown County also use art as a service, where visitors can come to Brown County and learn art.

He also would like to see Brown County embrace its naturally occurring retirement community status.

“I think we’re perfectly positioned to move beyond tourism, beyond the sheer entertainment factor of the arts and really look at the way the arts help us make us whole people and help people, especially in their aging range,” he said.

The new art education studio at the Brown County Art Gallery will provide opportunities for people to come and learn art in Brown County.

“We’re lining up teachers so that we can teach kids, teach senior citizens, teach professionals,” Miller said. “Our association gives us a tremendous pool of instructors.”

The new art center overall will attract people to Brown County, she said.

“This whole building is a unique facility. There’s not many art centers. You may have large exhibition areas, you may have a working studio, but you have it all in one here,” Miller said.

Suzannah Couch is a staff writer for the Brown County Democrat, a sister publication of The Republic.

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What: Brown County Art Gallery grand opening celebration

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24

Where: Brown County Art Gallery, 1 Artist Drive

Cost: $25 per person

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Bob and Barbara Stevens Art Education Studio

The studio will be used for classes and workshops; it will have concrete floors. It will be outfitted with sound and video so the gallery can do demonstrations and lectures. Groups will be able to rent that space.

Exhibit hall

The new exhibit hall will be where the Arts Association and Indiana Heritage Arts works will hang. The Columbus Room will be on the north wall. It’s in honor of 10 Columbus families who donated $10,000 each. The Wrapp Family Gallery will be on the east wall and will be where the IHA works are displayed.


The lobby was named in honor of Lyn Letsinger Miller and her husband, Leo Miller. It will be the new entrance to the gallery and will feature a TV to welcome visitors, informational brochures and souvenirs. 


The first studio after exiting the exhibit hall at the northern end of the building will be the Robert E. Sexton Gallery. It will be home to “Gustave Baumann: The Indiana Collection.” Baumann was a printmaker.

The Sexton Gallery connects to two separate galleries: The Stevens Family Gallery and the Cheryl and John (Abe) Eyed Gallery. Both will be used to rotate non-permanent exhibits. This space connects to the current gallery to allow visitors to make a full circle.

South gallery

The south gallery will be turned into the W.M. Zimmerman Studio, sponsored by the Johnson family. It will feature Zimmerman’s drafting table and paintbrushes.

Current main gallery

The current main gallery is being remodeled and will house permanent works by early Indiana artists.