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Growing For The Future: The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse

Exciting things are happening at The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse as we continue on the path to making the IMA Gardens and Greenhouse a world class destination. The Elder Greenhouse, which is located on our diverse 152-acre campus is announcing a host of new plant purchase opportunities, classes and workshops, as well as exciting plans for additional displays and interpretation. In addition, seasonal plant sales will be held in vehicle-accessible locations on campus throughout the year.

Greenhouse manager, Sue Nord Peiffer, and her staff have been busy developing an extensive line-up of classes and workshops to be held throughout the year. Programs include making art from nature, holiday workshops, plant propagation, and more!  The line-up for the remainder of 2015 includes:

  • August 6 – Gardening for Pollinators (Bees, Butterflies & Hummingbirds) Talk & Walk
  • August 29 – An Herbal Lifestyle – Cooking & Crafts with herbs in daily life with Carolee Snyder
  • October 17 – Ornaments from Nature
  • November 14 – Mini treehouse workshop inspired by our upcoming Gustave Baumann exhibition
  • November 19 – Evergreen Wreath Workshop
  • December 12 – Vintage Paper Wreath Ornament workshop

This enhanced array of programs is one part of the new strategy for the Elder Greenhouse, an integral part of the IMA Gardens. Plans are underway to significantly develop the Greenhouse’s plant collections, especially the orchids for which it is so well-known. For example, we will stage an orchid exhibition in February 2016, complemented by related lectures and programming culminating with an opportunity to purchase these intriguing plants.

At key times throughout the year the IMA will continue to offer special plant sales that will feature a wide array of Indiana native plants, herbs, succulents, bonsai, and orchids.  Mark your calendar now for these IMA hosted “can’t miss” plant sales, which will be held on vehicle-accessible areas on campus. These special sales include:

  • September 19 – Autumn Equinox Native Tree and Bulb Sale (Campus-wide free Community Day)
  • December 3 – Holiday Hullabaloo (First Thursday free evening)
  • December 17 – Winter Solstice (Campus-wide free Community Day)
  • April 23 – 24, 2016 – Perennial Premiere
  • June 12, 2016 – A Garden Affair (Horticultural Society event)
  • June 18, 2016 – Summer Solstice (Campus-wide free Community Day)

The Elder Greenhouse is in the heart of the IMA Gardens, and is easily accessible for all guests.  After entering the gardens through the main Welcome Center, guests can enjoy a short walk or take our eco-friendly tram to the Greenhouse. Daily, the Elder Greenhouse is staffed with extremely knowledgeable horticultural staff and volunteers who are on-hand to share their extensive expertise in plant selection and garden design with all guests.


Filed under: Uncategorized


Indianapolis Museum of Art Bike Access Route

Bikers on Canal Towpath heading to IMA

Bikers on Canal Towpath heading to IMA

Recently, there has been much concern expressed over the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s accessibility to bikers who commute to our campus. We appreciate hearing feedback from our guests, especially those who have been visiting us for many years. We fully understand the sense of loss of not being able to use the IMA campus as it has been used in the past. Major changes like this are always difficult. We would like to take this opportunity to address these concerns directly.

The commentary stating the IMA has banned bicycles from our property is untrue. The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres, which comprises two-thirds of our 152-acre campus, is available to cyclists just as it was before our new policies went into effect this April. The most significant change is restricting vehicle traffic in our gardens. Following the model of many public, botanical gardens around the nation, we have reserved our gardens for pedestrians in order to enhance the safety and experience for our guests. We have also added considerable amounts of new sidewalks, benches, trashcans and bike racks, as well as opened our pedestrian gates on both Michigan Road and 38th Street.

We welcome bikes at the IMA, and we suggest that bikers arrive via the Canal Towpath, to ensure that our guests arrive safely. Bikers who are commuting to the IMA can enter via the Canal Towpath, cross the Waller Bridge (the red bridge that connects the Museum and formal gardens with the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres), can park their bike at the bike rack and walk up to our Upper Campus.

At that point, guests can check in at one of our Guest Services desks. Our main Guest Services desk is located in the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion. For the convenience of our guests arriving by bike or on foot via the Towpath, we have added two additional Guest Services desks located at the end of the Garden Path (just inside of Deer Zink Events Pavilion) and inside the Lilly House. Guests should check in upon arrival.

waller-bridge-bike-rackBike racks are located in the following areas:

  • On the north (Museum & Gardens) and south (The Park) side of Waller Bridge
  • In the parking garage, just outside of the entrance to the Catherine and Robert Lictenauer Passageway Gallery
  • Next to The Dudley and Mary Louise Sutphin Mall
  • Outside of Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion (38th Street entrance)

Adding bike lanes outside of the IMA property to aid bikers in accessing our campus is a decision that must be made by the City of Indianapolis. We have met with the City to discuss adding additional sections of sidewalks at 38th Street and Michigan Road that would connect with our sidewalks. City Officials felt that was a reasonable request and assured us that they will try to work with us on this initiative. We asked that consideration be given to restriping the crosswalks at 38th Street and 40th Street. We also discussed the possibility of adding a bike path from 42nd Street to the IMA’s 40th Street entrance on Michigan Rd. That request was heard, but no commitment was made. We continue to work closely with neighboring institutions to convince the City to improve walkability and bikeability along Michigan Rd. and 38th St. While it may take some time to accomplish all that our anchor coalition wants, we are confident much can be achieved.

To provide you with some context for the new policies, we want you to know that our Senior Staff and Board of Governors spent an enormous amount of time and effort exploring options before taking unanimous action last December. After studying the situation for two years, we came to the conclusion that if we want to achieve our vision of advancing our gardens to the level of a major public garden and to make them safe for all visitors, part of our campus needed to be reserved for pedestrians.

Canal Towpath leading to IMA

Canal Towpath leading to IMA

Although we have many things to improve on as we implement the Board’s directives during the coming months, we hope that you and other friends of the IMA will understand the need to do things differently going forward. If you are interested in learning more about the reasons behind the transition, we hope that you will take the time to view the video of our Board Chairman, Thomas Hiatt, and CEO, Charles L. Venable, addressing guests at our Annual Membership meeting on May 20, 2015. Their presentation answers a number of the questions that many have posed about the IMA’s finances and changes to our admission policy and entrance to the campus. We also welcome questions or comments at

We will continue to seek outlets for connecting with the community in order to arrive at solutions that both further the IMA’s mission and keep all of our guests safe while traveling to and visiting the IMA.


More details about the Central Canal Towpath, including a comprehensive, can be found on the City of Indianapolis website.

Filed under: IMA Facilities, Uncategorized


Style and Science: Assessing a Rembrandt, Part 2

Today's blogger is Jacquelyn N. Coutré, the Allen Whitehill Clowes Curatorial Fellow, European Painting and Sculpture before 1800.

Figure 1:  Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), Self-Portrait, about 1629 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Clowes Fund, C10063

Figure 1: Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), Self-Portrait, about 1629
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Clowes Fund, C10063

In the last posting on the Rembrandt self-portrait in the Clowes Collection (Fig. 1), we considered how art historians evaluated its status according to characteristics visible on the picture’s surface. But we can also gather scientific data to support this stylistic analysis.

In the early 1980s, IMA conservator David A. Miller examined the surface of the painting with a stereomicroscope and looked below its surface using X-rays (Fig. 3). The high magnification showed the “RHL” monogram to be contemporary with the painting, which means that it was applied while the painting was still wet. The x-radiograph, in turn, provided important insights into the artist’s creative process. It illustrates, in fact, two significant changes below the surface: the beret was originally poised more squarely on the head, and the contour of the proper left shoulder had previously extended further to the right. In other words, the artist had made changes to his painting while working on it, changes that would not have been visible to a student in his workshop or a later artist making a copy. The best of the other versions of this painting, the one in Atami, Japan, shows a strong correlation between the surface and underlying layers – telling evidence for the Atami version being a copy after the Clowes original! (It also omits those pesky pimples.)

Figure 3: X-radiograph of Figure 1

Figure 3: X-radiograph of Figure 1

But could the Clowes panel have been done by a later artist in order to look like a painting by the 17th-century master?

The investigations of Peter Klein, a wood biologist at the University of Hamburg, in 1999 help us to understand more about the panel upon which the painting was executed. It is made of oak and comes from the Baltic region, a profile typical of panels used by 17th-century Dutch artists. Relying on the facts that tree rings grow at different rates in different years and that trees of the same species in a particular region will show similar growth patterns, Dr. Klein has determined that the youngest growth ring in our panel dates to 1581. Add on a few years for the panel to dry and become less porous, and the painting could have been executed as early as 1598. While this may seem quite a few years before our estimated date of c. 1629, it confirms that the panel was ready to be used during Rembrandt’s lifetime.

Combining the stylistic and technical evidence yields the conclusion that our painting is indeed a self-portrait by Rembrandt. What was first supported only by connoisseurship is now augmented by scientific study – a wonderful demonstration of the important role that science plays in the museum.

Filed under: Art, Guest Bloggers, Technology, The Collection, Uncategorized


An Act of LOVE: Photographic documentation of Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture

Photo from Wikipedia:

“Charioteer of Delphi,” photo from Wikipedia: Charioteer_of_Delphi

One of the greatest sculptures in the history of art is the bronze “Charioteer of Delphi”. The life-sized figure is a masterpiece of balance between realism and formality, true to the tradition of Classical Greece but singular in its perfect achievement of cherished artistic ideals. The sculpture, which was erected in Delphi in 474 BC, was unearthed along with sections of the chariot horses in 1896. The base contained an inscription that credited the financial patron for this sculptural commission (a political figure) but the artist is not named, and even the city where the sculpture was conceived and fabricated is not conclusively known to scholars. Fortunately, the available documentation surrounding great works of art increased slowly through the ages. Prepatory drawings, sketch notations, diaries, letters, bills of sale, estate records and contemporary critiques are at times obtainable for study. But sadly, even a relatively thorough paper trail could be decimated through migrations, natural disasters and violent conflicts, and we are often left with fragments that must be bridged with speculation.

It is incumbent upon the art historian and the conservator to discover as much information as possible about an artwork in order to create both a cultural and technical context for the diverse works in museum collections. They utilize this augmented perspective in the service of insightful presentation in the galleries and informed preservation in the conservation labs. It is the mission of museums to provide not just a safe haven for art but to build an experience around a painting, a drawing, or a sculpture that will be infused with a greater knowledge – a sense of time and place, an understanding of the artist’s personality and inspiration, and the challenges and triumphs in the creative process itself. In this way we hope to turn the act of “looking” into an act of “appreciating” which carries the visitor into a genuine sense of empathetic connectedness to an art object.

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928), “LOVE,” 1970 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of the Friends of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in memory of Henry F. DeBoest. Restoration was made possible by Patricia J. and James E. LaCrosse, 75.174 © Morgan Art Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928), “LOVE,” 1970
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of the Friends of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in memory of Henry F. DeBoest. Restoration was made possible by Patricia J. and James E. LaCrosse, 75.174
© Morgan Art Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Which brings us to the LOVE sculpture of Robert Indiana. It could be confidently stated that this particular artwork enjoys international recognition within the IMA’s holdings, and its monumental form is much beloved by museum patrons. It was a pivotal work for Robert Indiana, serving as a commanding foray into the rapidly evolving artistic climate of non-traditional aesthetics in the 1950s through 1970s. This was also a time of awakening for artists who desired to work in large scale formats, which helped in turn to fuel a new zeal for public art commissions. The fabrication of the 12 foot tall, three ton sculpture at the Lippincott foundry in North Haven, Connecticut, was completed in 1970. It proceeded to Indianapolis in October of that year, and in 1975 LOVE was formally accessioned by the IMA and permanently settled on the grounds of our campus.

Tom Rummler (American), “Photograph of ‘LOVE’ in the Making in North Haven, Conn.,” 1970 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Robert Indiana, 72.78.14

Tom Rummler (American), “Photograph of ‘LOVE’ in the Making in North Haven, Conn.,” 1970
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Robert Indiana, 72.78.14

Fortunately for scholars of Robert Indiana and his iconic accomplishment, a sizeable group of gelatin-silver photographs by Tom Rummler had slipped quietly into the IMA collection in 1970, a gift from Robert Indiana himself. This body of work documented the construction process of the LOVE sculpture from the foundry floor and beyond, which is an invaluable record that informs the vital questions of who, how, when, and where in art historical inquiry. For the conservator, these images of process are a solidly reliable source of information regarding the assemblage of this imposing Cor-ten steel structure. I became aware of these photographs during the IMA’s conservation condition survey for all collection photographs that has been undertaken by contracted photograph conservator Paul Messier. This survey was generously funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) in 2012, and we are profoundly grateful for this preservation project that has brought our photographs to the focused attention of the staff. The Rummler images document the creation of the LOVE sculpture at Lippincott Inc., and this massive undertaking is chronicled in views that celebrate the complexity, verve, and joy of the process. These photographs are beautiful in their own right as skillful compositions of light and texture; they visually convey the thrill of elemental industrial power harnessed to creative forces. A young Robert Indiana strikes poses worthy of a brave new world in art, and the faces of the fabrication crew are also preserved, a rare treat in art history up until the age of video. Paul confirmed that the 30 gelatin-silver Rummler photographs are currently in excellent condition. They are stored among works of photographic art, not in the library or the Registration office, which is a testament to the museum’s determination that they are at the same time art and document, a treasure of multiple virtues that deserves the highest level of care.

The Rummler photographs are offered here in light of the IMA’s designation of 2014 as a year in celebration of Robert Indiana – his art, his contribution to art history, and his ongoing relationship with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Visitors can view Robert Indiana’s graphic work and the Rummler photographs as part of The Essential Robert Indiana.

If only photographers had been on hand in Delphi in 474 BC …

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Contemporary, Guest Bloggers, Installation, Uncategorized


A reminder of classical Rome in Indiana

Early January in Indiana is a time that limits activities in the garden. At the Miller House, there has been flood clean up from the rains that came just before Christmas, and tree pruning is an annual winter task. Otherwise, there is planning for the coming year and reflection on the year that’s passed.

Thinking back on 2013, one item that we’ve checked off the to-do list is repairs to the fountain in the north garden. The main element of the fountain is an alabaster bowl, purchased by the Millers while on a trip to Rome in 1957. In a letter to Alexander Girard, Mr. Miller referred to it as a “Second Century Roman alabaster bowl” that he and Mrs. Miller purchased to “add to our house some reminders of classical Rome.” As a classics scholar himself, Mr. Miller would have found such mementoes particularly meaningful.

By the time the museum acquired the property in 2009, the fountain was in need of attention. The bowl itself was badly cracked, its metal lining was failing, its exterior was thickly encrusted with mineral deposits, and its spray jet had been replaced with a short length of white PVC pipe – the stuff plumbers call “schedule 40.” Not attractive.


Laura Kubick of the museum’s conservation department worked with Kemna Restoration and Construction, Inc., of Indianapolis to undertake the needed repairs. Of all aspects of the project, the most challenging was the removal of the mineral deposits on the bowl. Ranging in color from brown to white, these deposits obscured both the color of the material and the details of its carving. The completed bowl emerged as lustrous black with faint white veining, beautifully echoing the color scheme of the house itself. Its exterior was handsomely carved with strigillations, the curving flutes most often associated with Roman sarcophagi. Miller House site administrator Ben Wever found the spray jet among irrigation parts in storage and took it to a local metal fabricator for repairs. When reinstalled, the fountain again brought the sound and movement of water to the Miller garden, but now in a way that represents the Millers’ aesthetic intention.

Presently, the fountain is snugly covered with a Tyvek shroud to protect it from freeze-thaw damage as we look forward to the fine spring days when it will again sparkle with water droplets and add its soothing note to the garden.

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Guest Bloggers, Miller House, Uncategorized


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