Ex-Columbus folk artist’s work becomes a part of permanent collections

Photos by Hadley Fruits Painter Carole Wantz is shown at an exhibition in Richmond, Indiana.

Several of the works of noted, ex-Columbus folk artist Carole Wantz recently have been acquired as a part of permanent collections.

Richard McCoy, founding executive director of the non-profit Landmark Columbus Foundation, made the announcement. McCoy has become a central figure in recent years in Wantz’s work, including helping to arrange the artist’s first-ever museum exhibition “The Artwork of Carole Wantz: Collected Stories from Columbus, Indiana” at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis in 2021.

Wantz, 83, now a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, lived and painted story-style scenes that she calls portraits of noted Columbus residents from 1975 to 1985. In fact, her approach is one major element that McCoy is impressed with in Wantz’s work.

“Instead of writing a book about some of the significant history of Columbus,” McCoy said, “she has done so in pictures. I think that’s pretty amazing.”

He explained that her style immediately appealed to his artistic tastes. McCoy’s background includes work at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

“I fell in love with Carole’s painting the moment I saw the very first one, and after many years of work, it feels really great to know some of the most important works will be preserved for public enjoyment in many important collections,” McCoy said.

Besides her first-ever commissioned painting in 1975 for former Cummins Engine Co. longtime leader J. Irwin Miller, she figures she completed about 150 works highlighting some of the area’s business and societal leaders such as Henry Schacht, former Cummins chairman and chief executive officer, and later CEO of Lucent Technologies; Laurance “Laurie” Hoagland, president and CEO of Stanford Management Company, and later chief investment officers for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and James Baker, the president and chair of Arvin Industries.

The acquired works are as follows:

  • “Christmas Millenia—They All Came” (1979) was acquired by Newfields for the Miller House and Garden collection and was formerly in the collection of Carole Wantz. This piece was acquired with support from many supporters in the LCF community. The painting is displayed on the “storage wall” at the Miller House during the holidays and features J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller at the bottom center. (Carole is seen near the top wearing a red tracksuit and holding a painter’s palette.)
  • “E. Don Tull Portrait” (1979) was acquired by Cummins Inc. and was formerly in Donna Tull’s collection. J. Irwin Miller commissioned Carole to make this painting, which features Don wearing glasses in many scenes from his life around Columbus. Clessie Cummins stands by the Cerealine building wearing a white shirt and black tie.
  • “Downtown Columbus” (1973) was acquired by the Bartholomew County Historical Society and was formerly in the collection of Christine Lemley. The painting was hung for many years in Saps Buffeteria and features Saps at the center and many of the regulars of that restaurant.
  • “First United Methodist Church History” (1981) was acquired by the Indiana State Museum and was formerly in the collection of the Rev. Joe and Gloria Emerson. This painting was made for Emerson’s 50th birthday and his 10th anniversary at the church. He is at the bottom in front of the church while parishioners are engaged in many activities. The “God’s Nightcrawler” bus featured prominently in the foreground offered rides to teenagers and was driven by Larry Nolting.