Arts and Culture in Indiana
Like several of its Midwest neighbors, Indiana is dominated by a great city. Indianapolis, which lies at almost the exact geographical center of the state, is easily Indiana’s arts and cultural hub. Even so, the state boasts other robust cultural centers, including Bloomington in the southern hill region, home to Indiana State University and the thriving arts scene that the school has generated. Another college town, Evansville, boasts several museums, a preserved Victorian home, and a variety of music venues.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1930, has consciously molded itself into a multi-faceted institution, as comfortable playing classical music at its Hilbert Circle Theatre home base as it is putting on pop concerts in the park, touring the state, and conducting outreach programs for inner-city kids. Originally a volunteer group, the orchestra grew over the years into a professional organization that now gives more than 200 performances annually. It has occupied the Hilbert, an extravagant, fully restored 1916 movie palace, since 1984.
Another notable symphony, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, was started in 1970 by an Australian graduate music student at the University of Indiana, who asked the dean of the music school there if he could form a community-based orchestra open to any serious, competent musicians, regardless of their day jobs. Today, the 85-member orchestra is one of the most important cultural institutions in southern Indiana.
Founded in 1942 in Munster, the 75-member Northwest Indiana Symphony is almost as old as the Indianapolis Symphony. The symphony boasts a youth orchestra, a chorus, and a women’s association.
Northeast of Indianapolis, the volunteer Anderson Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1967, presents four or five concerts per season in the restored Paramount Theatre. Near the state’s western border, the Terre Haute Symphony has been playing since 1926, making it the state’s second-oldest symphony orchestra. Other cities and towns boasting symphony orchestras include South Bend, Muncie, Carmel, Lafayette, and Richmond.
Founded in 1975, Indianapolis Opera is Indiana’s only professional opera company, offering a repertoire of classic European, as well as more recent American, operas. At the heart of the company’s outreach, which covers much of the Midwest, is the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble, which features five young professional singers selected via nationwide auditions. The ensemble travels widely each year, presenting scores of programs and performing for thousands of audience members. In 2008, the company acquired the Basile Opera Center, a former Greek Orthodox church, which provides additional performance space. Its main performance venue remains Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University in Indianapolis.
The state’s other renowned opera company is the Opera Theater at the world-famous Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. The company is distinguished as the only university opera group that the New York Metropolitan Opera invites to its stage.
Indiana’s greatest opera singer was tenor James McCracken, who died in 1988 at 61 years of age. In his obituary, the New York Times called McCracken "the pillar of the Met," referring to his stature as the Metropolitan Opera’s premier tenor in the 1960s and 1970s. It also pronounced him "the most successful dramatic tenor yet produced by the United States."
Indiana currently has no full-time professional ballet company. (The Indiana Ballet Company and its affiliate, the Russian Ballet Company of Indiana, ceased operations in early 2010.) Indiana Ballet was the successor to Ballet Internationale, a professional troupe that existed for 32 years before folding in 2005. In each case, the companies were hampered by an inability to attract and sustain long-term funding. A successor organization, the Indianapolis City Ballet, is in the works and is already offering master-level ballet training classes, but as of this writing has not yet announced a formal schedule or mounted a production. Elsewhere in the state, the semi-professional Anderson Young Ballet Theatre & Academy performs at the Big Four Arts Depot in Anderson, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. The Lafayette Ballet Company and School offers classical and new ballets in its repertory and season performances.
Choreographer Twyla Tharp undoubtedly has been Indiana’s greatest contribution to dance. Tharp’s storied career—she was one of the first to offer daring admixtures of classical, jazz, and pop music in her ballets—has included choreography for the world’s greatest ballet companies, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, the Royal Ballet, and the Boston Ballet.
Indiana boasts 20 art museums statewide, six of them in Indianapolis. The most prestigious is the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), founded in 1883 and set in a 100-acre (40.5-hectare) park—one of the largest museum parks in the country. The IMA is noted for its largest U.S. collection of paintings by 19th-century British landscapist J.M.W. Turner, and its extensive collections of neo-impressionist works and Japanese paintings from the Edo period.
In Bloomington, the Indiana University Art Museum has emerged since its founding in 1941 as one of the country’s leading university art museums, with an expansive 40,000-object collection that ranges from Monet and Picasso works to Chinese bronzes, African masks, and Mayan sculptures. The centerpiece of the museum is a soaring atrium designed by architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the entrance to the Louvre in Paris and the east wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Other university art museums include Ball State University Museum of Art in Muncie, Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, the Indiana State University Art Gallery in Terre Haute, the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, and the Purdue University Galleries in West Lafayette.
Notable museums in locations outside Indianapolis include the Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science in Evansville, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, the Greentown Glass Museum in Greentown, the Greater Lafayette Museum of Art in Lafayette, the Richmond Art Museum in Richmond, the South Bend Museum of Art in South Bend, and the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute.
Indianapolis is also home to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (founded in 1989 with a focus on Native American cultures of the Southwest), the Indiana State Museum, and the Herron School of Art Gallery.
An interesting niche museum is the National Art Museum of Sport in Indianapolis, whose 800 paintings, sculptures, and other works depict 40 sports from ancient to modern times. The 12-acre (4.9-hectare) Indianapolis Art Center is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to bringing the arts to all of the city’s residents. The center features a 224-seat auditorium designed by architect Michael Graves, a cultural complex that houses artists’ studios, and a writers’ center.
Another unusual space is Artsgarden, a large glass dome that sits atop a concrete bridge spanning a downtown intersection of Indianapolis. Its 12,500-square-foot (1,161-sq-m) interior space is the site of more than 350 art, cultural, social, and commercial events every year.
Indiana has been one of the country’s great generators of musical talent, especially when it comes to composition. Two of the modern era’s greatest songwriters, Hoagy Carmichael (1899–1981) and Cole Porter (1891–1964), were both born in the Hoosier State. Carmichael wrote such standards as"Stardust," "Georgia," "Up a Lazy River," and "Am I Blue?," while the even more legendary Porter penned classics like "Night and Day," "I’ve Got You Under My Skin," and "Begin the Beguine."
Terre Haute-born composer Paul Dresser (1857–1906) was famous for composing "On the Banks of the Wabash" and "My Gal Sal." (He was also the brother of famed Indiana-born novelist Theodore Dreiser.) Indianapolis’ John Hiatt has composed songs sung by dozens of noted performers, including Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, The Everly Brothers, and Three Dog Night. Composer Ned Rorem, born in Richmond, is noted for his ballet and Broadway music, including pieces for the Tennessee Williams plays Suddenly Last Summer and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Indianapolis-born Albert Von Tilzer (1878–1956) is remembered for "I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time" and the music to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Indiana was one of the first places outside of Chicago and New Orleans where jazz gained popularity. The jazz scene in the state produced such seminal figures as Albert Edwin "Eddie" Condon (1904–1973). A guitarist, composer, bandleader, and promoter who played with such greats as Artie Shaw and Bobby Hackett, Condon later hired legendary drummer Gene Krupa for his own band, and went on to promote Fats Waller at Carnegie Hall. Singer-drummer Scatman Crothers (1910–1986), from Terre Haute, wrote scores of tunes and later enjoyed a 30-plus year career in Hollywood films as a character actor.
Bandleader Charlie Davis enjoyed acclaim in the 1920s and 1930s with a band that featured the likes of Dick Powell and Bix Beiderbecke, and the collaboration of Hoagy Carmichael. Johnny "Scat" Davis’s (1910–1983) 1937 rendition of "Hooray for Hollywood" is regarded as the standard for that song. In his short life, Wes Montgomery (1923–1968) rose to become one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history. The voice of Phil Harris (1904–1995), composer, bandleader, and raconteur, frequently appeared in Disney animated films like Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood).
In the production of rock and pop idols, Indiana has stood toe-to-toe with much larger states. Along with his Jackson 5 band mates and brothers (Tito, Marlon, Jermaine, and Randy), the legendary Michael Jackson (1958–2009) was born in Gary, as was his sister, Janet Jackson. Both became behemoths in the world of pop, R&B, and soul music. The state’s pre-eminent rockers have included Axl Rose ofGuns and Roses fame, singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, and former Van Halen front man David Lee Roth. Bobby Helms leapt to fame with his 1957 hits, "My Special Angel" and "Jingle Bell Rock."
Concert violinist Joshua Bell, born in Bloomington in 1967, has been acclaimed by some as one of the greatest violin talents of this era. A crown jewel in the state’s musical reputation is the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, one of the leading institutions of its type in the world. The 1,600-student school puts on more than 1,100 performances per year, including seven full operas. The combined number of recital halls, practice rooms, studios, and rehearsal spaces is well over 200.
THEATER AND PERFORMING ARTS
The state’s most prestigious equity theatrical troupe is the non-profit Indiana Repertory Theatre, founded in 1972 and housed in the magnificent Indiana Theatre in Indianapolis. The 1927 building has a distinctive Spanish Baroque façade. The theater’s nine-production season is divided between major plays in its main stage space, and smaller, often original plays in its "upperstage" area. The troupe is known for its outreach to youth, often performing in dozens of counties throughout the state in any given season.
Indianapolis Civic Theatre, founded in 1915, ranks among the 10 largest community theater groups in the United States, and is the nation’s longest continuously running community theater. Long housed on the campus of Marian University, the company will move in 2011 to a 500-seat theater in Carmel, a suburb about 15 miles north of downtown Indianapolis.
American Cabaret Theatre in downtown Indianapolis specializes in presenting great pop and Broadway songs in an intimate setting with little distance between performer and audience. The Phoenix Theatre, founded in 1983 and housed in a restored Indianapolis church, presents often edgy, issue-oriented plays intended to spark thought and discussion.
Bloomington’s stage scene boasts the Indiana University Department of Theatre & Drama, the Bloomington Playwrights Project (which produces all original plays), the recently established Cardinal Stage Company, the Monroe County Civic Theater, and Theatre of the People, a community theater that stresses social themes and inclusiveness.
Bloomington’s 616-seat Buskirk-Chumley Theater is a renovated 1922 movie house that was donated to the city in 1995 for use as a performing arts center. Since then it has hosted thousands of performances by various groups.
FILM AND TELEVISION
Indiana has been both the location and the subject of many Hollywood and independent films. Among the most famous films shot in the state are the 1958 Frank Sinatra–Shirley MacLaine drama, Some Came Running, and the 1969 Paul Newman–Joanne Woodward Indianapolis Speedway drama, Winning. Much of one of the most successful television movies of all time, the touching drama Brian’s Songstarring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, was also filmed in Indiana. Rain Man (1989), starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman (who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role), was partially shot in Franklin County.
Indiana provided the shooting location for many memorable sports films. One notable is Breaking Away(1979), filmed in Bloomington, a "small" film that was later nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture. Hoosiers (1986), starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, has endured over the years as perhaps the quintessential underdog sports story. Evansville and Huntingburg were the shooting locations for 1992’s A League of Their Own, a baseball dramedy starring Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and Tom Hanks. Notre Dame University in South Bend was the setting for Rudy(1993), the popular story of a not-so-gifted football player wannabe whose grit and spirit finally win him some moments in a real game.
Notable films that supposedly took place in Indiana but were shot elsewhere include The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Friendly Persuasion (1956), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and the now-classic "small picture," A Christmas Story (1983).
The state has provided some of filmdom’s most notable actors and actresses, including James Dean, Steve McQueen, Carole Lombard, Karl Malden, Anne Baxter, Forrest Tucker, and Burl Ives. Beloved TV clown Red Skelton was from Indiana, as are more contemporary actors such as Florence Henderson, Shelley Young, Avery Brooks, Jim Gaffigan, Brendan Fraser, and Ron Glass.
Television series set in Indiana (although not shot there) include One Day at a Time (1975–1984), Parks and Recreation (premiered in 2009), and the classic drama The Fugitive (1963–1967). Indianapolis-born David Letterman (Late Night with David Letterman and Late Show with David Letterman) has been a late-night TV staple since 1982.
Indianapolis hosts two annual film festivals, the Indiana International Film Festival in April, and the Heartland Film Festival in October.
Indiana’s greatest writers have been some of the most memorable contributors to American literature, whether highbrow or popular. Perhaps the two most notable were Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945), who wrote Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, and his contemporary, Booth Tarkington (1869–1946), who penned The Magnificent Ambersons, which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and Alice Adams, winner of the same prize in 1922.
Mystery writer Rex Stout (1886–1975) created one of his genre’s most enduring characters, detective Nero Wolfe. From 1934 until 1975, Stout penned 45 Nero Wolfe mystery novels. Alfred Bertram "Bud" Guthrie (1901–1991) was one of the nation’s most popular writers of western-themed novels, includingThe Big Sky, These Thousand Hills, and The Way West, with the latter winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1950. Author Jessamyn West (1902–1984) was best known for The Friendly Persuasion, a novel about a Civil War-era Quaker family that was later made into the motion picture Friendly Persuasion.
In more recent times, Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) attracted a huge baby boomer following with his satirical, often black-humor novels that included Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan, Cat’s Cradle,Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions.
Two of the state’s outstanding poets were James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) and Joaquin Miller (the pen name for Cincinnatus Heine Miller, born sometime between 1837 and 1841, and who died in 1916). At their peak, both men were highly regarded. Riley’s most famous poems include Little Orphan Annie,A Barefoot Boy and When the Frost Is on the Punkin. Miller, who later emigrated to California, where he became known as "Poet of the Sierras," was noted for Columbus, an homage to the explorer that schoolchildren across the country often learned by heart. Other Miller poems include Songs of the Sierras and The Ship in the Desert.
Although not a literary writer, newspaperman Ernie Pyle (1900–1945) gave millions of Americans a bird’s-eye view of World War II with the daily columns he wrote while on the front lines in Africa, Europe, and the Pacific. His writing, which won a Pulitzer Prize, was a folksy, accessible, down-to-earth style that endeared him to readers in 300 newspapers. Pyle died from enemy gunfire during the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.
The state has produced few artists of note. Exceptions include sculptor David Smith (1906–1965), noted for his large abstract geometric sculptures made of steel. J. Ottis Adams (1851–1927) was an impressionist painter who later founded the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. His contemporary, T.C. Steele (1847–1926), was noted for his impressionistic landscapes of Indiana.
Notable contemporary artists include Robert Indiana, a sculptor noted for works based on numbers or words. His most famous work, "Love," an iconic steel sculpture originally designed for a Christmas greeting card, has been copied and is recognized worldwide. The original is on exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Bruce Nauman’s work spans several different media, including photography, sculpture, neon installations, performance art, videos, drawing, and printmaking.
HANDICRAFTS AND FOLK ART
The Indiana Traditional Arts Center in Monrovia displays and sells traditional woven goods by Indiana artisans. Bloomington-based Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI) was established in 1998 to promote and present the state’s traditional arts and artists. TAI has documented a more complex cultural picture than Indiana’s often homogenous exterior may give it, including the northern state’sMennonite and Amish folk arts, central Indiana’s love of wood carving, and southern Indiana’s rich tradition of bluegrass-inspired folk music.
-World Trade Press