Art History of the Midwest

Art History of the Midwest

History of the Art Colony of the Midwest

There are many attractions in Brown County, but did you know that one of the oldest art galleries in the United States is located in Nashville? The Brown County Art Gallery was established in 1926 by early Indiana artists making Nashville and Brown County, one of the most important regional art colonies in America.

The early artists were trained at the best art schools in Europe and the United States. They were inspired by the French Impressionists who painted out in the countryside. They chose this remote southern Indiana County as a painting ground because it offered beautiful vistas and interesting characters still living in log cabins for subjects. And just as important, Brown County was close to large markets like Indianapolis, Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati.

The first major artist to make his home in Brown County was T.C. Steele. In 1907, he bought property between Nashville and Bloomington. Steele attracted other artists to visit, including Adolph Shulz and his wife Ada. Adolph and Ada were trained in Paris and Chicago and were living in Wisconsin when they read about Brown County in a Chicago Newspaper. They relocated to Brown County in 1917 establishing an art colony in Nashville.

Many other artists followed and in 1926, they organized the Brown County Art Gallery Association and set up exhibit space in an old grocery store. In the 1950’s, a fire forced the Gallery to move to its present location just east of the Courthouse at the corner of Main Street and Artist Drive.

Another group got space on Van Buren Street and formed the Brown County Art Guild.

Present day visitors can learn more about Brown County’s important art history by visiting The Brown County Art Gallery, where paintings by the original artist members are on display, along with other historic exhibits.

In addition, paintings by current Brown County Art Association members fill the Main Hall, just as they have for over 80 years.

The Brown County Art Guild also remains open and exhibits early art as well as the work of their members.

The T.C. Steele State Historic site welcomes visitors to Steele’s original home and studio as well as a 200 acre nature preserve. It is located just off State 46 between Nashville and Bloomington at the tiny community of Belmont.

Courtesy of the Brown County Art Gallery, visit their website at

VIDEO: Frank Hohenberger and the Brown County Artists


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