Upgrades and Additions to Brown County’s Arts Offerings

Additions to Brown County’s portfolio of arts, entertainment, and historical offerings mean there’s more to take in than painted hills.

This article is part of the Rediscover Brown County package in the October 2016

Indianapolis Monthly issue. For more on our favorite fall destination, click here.

Costume up for the Rocky Horror “Time Warp.”

IU owned the Brown County Playhouse until 2010, and the school’s theater department staged productions there in the summer and fall. Now run by a local nonprofit and upgraded to a “Performing Arts Center,” the venue has year-round programming—and a spiced-up calendar. A far cry from the traditional and folksy offerings Nashville is known for, an annual screening of bawdy cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (October 29) is one of the highlights, with door prizes, Bloody Marys and Jell-O shots, and, of course, a costume contest. Also this month: The Breeze Bends the Grass (October 13–14, 20–21), a musical composed by Hoosiers Krista Detor and Arbutus Cunningham, about early-20th-century Indiana women artists, including Brown County’s own Selma Steele. 70 S. Van Buren St., 812-988-6555, browncountyplayhouse.org

Learn to paint like T.C. Steele.

The artist moved to Brown County in the early 1900s for its idyllic countryside (pictured above)—and became Indiana’s most famous plein air painter. Others followed, establishing Nashville as an arts colony and hub that thrives to this day, with the Brown County Art Gallery (est. 1926) as a focal point. Thanks to the addition of an education studio and classes—part of an 8,600-square-foot expansion unveiled last year—visitors can enjoy the kind of creative experience that inspired Steele’s celebrated landscapes: artist Troy Kilgore’s four-day workshop on plein air painting around Nashville and the state park (October 6–9, $375). Newly enlarged gallery space displays works by Steele and original colony members, and includes the new Brown County Artists Association Exhibition Hall, a showcase (and point of sale) for the group’s 45 current members. Other permanent exhibits include a re-creation of the studio of noted Hoosier nature artist William Zimmerman, complete with paintings of birds—his most recognized subject—as well as a collection of Indiana works by woodcut printer Gustave Baumann. 1 Artist Dr., 812-988-4609, browncountyartgallery.org

Go real old school.


Formerly stashing an overflow of artifacts and archives in a leaky-roofed bowling alley, the local historical society got a new Brown County History Center last year. It has relatively grown-up (read: interesting but quiet) exhibits like the Gnaw Bone Cabin room—a space made to look like the inside of a pioneer dwelling, filled with antiques you’d expect to see in one—and a sewing collection that includes an early-1900s Singer machine, old buttons, frontier dresses, and a wooden loom. Organizers realized, though, the center didn’t offer much in the way of excitement for kids. Solution: a “Hands-On History” program and 1860s-style Pioneer Schoolhouse, built earlier this year. On wooden benches warmed by a wood-burning stove, facing a chalkboard listing rules appropriate to the era (“Wash your feet, if they’re bare”), young’uns ages 8 to 12 see just how good they have it nowadays. Activities also include learning about daily life in the Nashville of yore—from cooking soup in a Dutch oven to laundering clothes on a washboard—in the Pioneer Village across the street, which just added a “Tool Room” filled with antique farm implements and house-hold equipment. An 1840s smokehouse with original lumber, re-created from a photo, is currently under construction. 90 E. Gould St., 812-988-2899, browncountyhistorycenter.org