We hope many of you had the opportunity to visit the special exhibit at Monroe County History Center showcasing Steele’s time in Bloomington, and artifacts from his studio on the top floor of the library (now Franklin Hall). This special exhibit ran from July 20 – November 13. The exhibit was supported by the IU Office of the Bicentennial, and received a visit from Indiana University President Michael McRobbie.
T.C. Steele served as Indiana University’s first artist-in-residence, and received the appointment of honorary professor of painting at the University in 1922. The nomination was led by President William Lowe Bryan (IU’s tenth president) and approved by the board of trustees. The studio was maintained on campus though four successive years, up to Steele’s death in July, 1926.
Interactions and access with students was important in the artist-in-residence arrangement. One student visitor said;
“Mrs. Steele has arranged the studio so beautifully with old furniture and window plants, Turkish rugs and specimens of her collection of colorful shawls that it is delightful place to be in. It also is a temptation to pick up the book which Mr. Steele evidently has just been reading to see is there is anything in a book on art which the ordinary mind can understand. If Mr. Steele is painting when you visit the studio, he continues to paint, and you may either wander about looking at the canvases on the walls or watch him work.”1
According to A.J. Gianopoulos, Exhibits Manager, the exhibit took about two years of effort to achieve. Mr.Gianopoulos produced the entire exhibit in-house and worked with Indiana University and Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites to procure artifacts, paintings, and furniture that was present in the Franklin studio. “I wanted to relate Steele’s work to Monroe Country history and his Franklin Hall residency provided the perfect opportunity to do so”, said Mr. Gianopoulos.2
A historical marker has been approved by Indiana University President Michael McRobbie for Steele’s role at Indiana University as Honorary professor of Painting. The marker should be installed later this year as part of Indiana University’s Bicentennial celebration during the 2019 – 2020 academic year.
1House of the Singing Winds. Steele, Selma N, Steele, Theodore, L, Peat, Wilbur D., Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1966, page 161.
2Interview with Mr. A.J. Gianopoulos, Exhibits Manager on September 15, 2020 at Monroe County History Center.