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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website, newsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET. It’s over the air in Central Indiana at WICR 88.7 fm, or you can stream at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.

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August 19, 2023

Richmond art: a historic colony, a museum and more

Even those who only dabble in Indiana's art history likely know about the Hoosier Group of painters, including T.C. Steele, who drew national fame. But another group of painters actually formed the state's first colony of artists.

The Richmond Group Artists formed in the late 19th century in far-eastern Indiana, traveling along the Whitewater River and painting on weekends. In 1898, they founded the Art Association of Richmond.

That evolved into the acclaimed Richmond Art Museum, which is generally considered to be the only independent art museum in the country that's housed in a public school: Richmond High School.

Earlier this month, the art museum and its executive director, Shaun Dingwerth, were named recipients of the Governor's Arts Awards. The awards are given by the Indiana Arts Commission and the office of the governor to honor outstanding contributions to the arts.

Shaun, who has been executive director of the Richmond Art Museum since 2004, will be Nelson's studio guest to share insights about the art heritage in the city. He is the author of The Richmond Group Artists, a lavishly illustrated book about the pioneering painters.

Sometimes known early on as the Ramblers, the Richmond Group Artists were primarily self-taught impressionists. The subjects of their artwork often were local people, flora and landscapes.

The so-called "dean" of the group, John Elwood Bundy (1853-1933), was known for his landscape paintings, particularly of fall and winter scenes. "Auctioneers say that each cow in a landscape added another $500 to the price of a painting", Shaun says.

In 1910, Morton High School, the predecessor of Richmond High School, built three galleries for the art association to hold exhibitions and house a growing, permanent collection. "This is thought to be the first art gallery ever built in a public high school", Shaun says.

Today, the Richmond Art Museum is known for its extensive educational programming. According to Shaun, an art historian and juror, the programming reaches nearly 4,000 students annually in Wayne County and nearby far-eastern Indiana counties, including elementary school children. In addition to the Richmond Group Artists, the museum has paintings by other Indiana artists, including the Hoosier Group.

The museum, which is admission-free, hosts an exhibition of art by high school students. The former Morton High School building still stands in Richmond and houses an insurance company.

In addition to John Elwood Bundy, painters in the Richmond Group Artists included Edna Stubbs Cathell, who was acclaimed for her floral paintings. As her "day job", she worked for the former Hill Company, a nationally known breeder of roses based in Richmond; she was hired to create watercolor paintings of their products.

The Richmond Group Artists also included Charles Conner, a plein-air (outdoors) painter known for his landscapes. According to Shaun Dingwerth, Bundy and others considered Conner the most talented of the Richmond Group Artists.



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-Wayne Hastings, Bloomington listener and library science student

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Roadtrip: Oakhurst home and gardens in Muncie

Guest Roadtripper Molly Beausir, Project POTUS fellow at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, recommends a visit to the Oakhurst Experience in Muncie. The historic home, Oakhurst, is the home of George Alexander and Frances Ball and their only child Elisabeth "Betty" Ball, and was in 1895 alongside the family homes of other Ball brothers. The historic homes along the White River are part of the Minnetrista campus, which means "a gathering place by the water". 

The home has a distinct style, which includes a shingled roof, wood parquet floors, and high ceilings. Another unusual feature is the home’s hidden passageway in George's study which leads to the first floor of a 2-story screened in back porch. Here the family could look out on their expansive gardens!

Many touchstones of Elisabeth Ball's life as a young girl, and during her grown-up years as a botanist, are evident in the home and gardens.

Other fun facts: George's study contains hundreds of original books belonging to the family. At one point the family boasted collection of over 10,000 books, as well as the biggest children's book collection in the country.

Kids or kids at heart who visit Oakhurst today can sit and pick a book to read in the library, make a cup of tea or coffee, and sit on the screened porch. Visitors can also explore the formal, sunken, and rock gardens surrounding the house. And many native plants and wildflowers abound.

A 'dollhouse' which is the size of a small study out in the woods behind the home can still be seen, where Elisabeth spent time with her many dolls reading books and hosting tea parties with childhood friends.


"Peru Circus Heritage" guests in WICR studio last week

Last week's "Peru Circus Heritage" guests in the WICR studio, August 12, 2023. L to R Tim Bessignano, circus historian, Hoosier History Live host Nelson Price, Matt Barnett, a middle school history teacher, and Kathi Greene, a former youth performer.

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