Friends of T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Inc. is a support group officially incorporated on August 16, 1991 and has status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Although the historic site had volunteers and “friends” on an informal basis for many years before that, then-assistant curator Rachel Berenson Perry was instrumental in organizing and gaining tax-exempt status for the fledgling group, drawing in part from the support of a local group interested in the natural and cultural resources of the area, the Friends of Brown County.
At first, the Friends of T.C. Steele operated in partnership with the Indiana State Museum Society (ISMS). In 1993, the Friends of T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Inc. split from Indiana State Museum Society, largely in order to gain autonomy in gift shop operations.
In 1996, the Friends of Brown County disbanded as a separate entity and combined with the Friends of T.C. Steele. The Friends of T.C. Steele agreed to take responsibility of their organizational records and membership list, and committed itself to continuing a cooperative event of interest to both groups, the annual Wildflower Foray. The Friends of Brown County now exists as a permanent standing committee of the Friends of T.C. Steele whose primary responsibility is to organize the Wildflower Foray. The event is now in its 35th year (Spring 2020).
Over the years, the Friends of T.C. Steele have helped with site operations as docents and with building maintenance, garden and grounds maintenance, collections care, and special events (these last three in both volunteer hours and financial assistance). In the years of its existence, the Friends group has tackled many projects: creating reproduction draperies for the historic home, rewiring the Dewar Log Cabin and the Guest Cottage, purchasing computer equipment for the historic site, establishing an Adopt-a-Painting program to support restoration of artwork, restoring Mrs. Steele’s gardens—an enormous, ongoing project—and co-sponsoring many events, programs and workshops for both adults and children. Friends’ members also work with other organizations to link site events with community-wide activities such as September’s Brown County Art Colony Weekend, of which the site’s Great Outdoor Art Contest is an integral part.
The Friends of T.C. Steele’s most visible presence at the historic site is the gift shop located in the Large Studio. The shop is operated on contract with the Division of Museums & Historic Sites, and is a primary source of revenue for the group.