Indiana’s natural beauty has a richness recorded by painters, photographers, poets and songwriters. Wind into the hills of Brown County and you’ll find a true national treasure – the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.
Paintings on giant easels along the road announce you’re getting close. The delightful new Singing Winds Visitor Center welcomes you with coffee and comfort. Surrounded by art and nature, you’ll have a hard time leaving.
An Indiana National Treasure
Inspired by a visit to Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, France, Barbara and Bob Stevens returned to Indiana with a mission: elevate the T.C. Steele property to a new level. Singing Winds Visitor Center is the realization of their Giverny-inspired dream.
Bob says he and Barbara had a list: “plenty of bathrooms; a place to have a cup of coffee; a place to sit outside and contemplate the beauty of the earth and where you want to paint nature; and very accessible.”
“Just stand here,” Barbara suggests, meeting me in the parking lot. “Look how the roof lines tie together.” New and old are one, stretching across this hilltop sanctuary.
Singing Winds Visitor Center is exquisitely nestled into the historic site. Watch a short film about T.C. and Selma Steele’s legacy. Enjoy a cup of coffee inside or out on the deck. Take a class in the downstairs classroom. Visit one of the new restrooms. Sit on the porch and enjoy plein air painting. Immerse yourself in the natural surroundings.
The 4,600-square-foot building’s beauty reflects the inspiring calm and quiet of nature. Running water and bathrooms are now on-site. Sound-absorbing Tectum covers the ceiling in the meeting room. Wood surfaces from trees on the property add charm and warmth. The hand-carved limestone figures of T.C. and Selma were made by an artist-in-residence from old guest house foundation blocks. Microscopes, hand magnifiers and backpacks for exploring await children in the classroom. Visit the gift shop. Relax.
T.C. Steele and his wife Selma, an artist in her own right, purchased the property in 1907. They allowed nature to inspire them here – T.C. with his paintings and Selma with her gardening and design work. As T.C.’s fame grew, artists from around the country began visiting the Brown County couple. Adolph Shulz visited and in 1926 returned to open the Brown County Art Gallery. The Brown County Art Gallery Artists Association is still active, the oldest in the country.
Tours provide intimate details of the Steele’s home life, art and gardening. Take time to experience the ‘artist’s eye’ views along the way.
New interactives are spread throughout the property. Explore a modern recreation of Steele’s traveling studio wagon. Step into a painting. Create art. Be inspired by nature. Try plein air painting on the grounds. Experience framing a scene. Wander through Selma’s formal gardens. Picnic on the grounds. Find out about Selma’s stencil designs. Discover your inner artist!
Group rates and memberships are available. School groups are encouraged to visit. The property is accessible, with elevator access to the classroom in Singing Winds Visitor Center. The entrance fee is nominal.
Bloomington artist and art historian Taylor Zartman recently shared her perspective on the art and artists of the area:
“To this day, Nashville, Indiana and the surrounding area is a Haven for artists and artisans. That long-standing communal appreciation for art and the landscape is first seen in a big way with T.C. Steele and the Hoosier Group/Brown County School. That initial community of artists laid the groundwork for all of the studios and shops you see there today. The area remains a creative pocket for artists, especially landscape artists.”
Collaboration between the State of Indiana, the architect and the Stevens’ and their vision has brought renewed vibrancy to this inspiring and beloved property. This truly is a national treasure you don’t want to miss - or should revisit!
A Bit More Nature and Art
Hike one of the five trails on the T.C. Steele State Historic Site property. The 92-acre Selma N. Steele Nature Preserve is just across the road. Yellowwood State Forest is nearby. Visit Spencer artist Ken Bucklew’s studio across from the entrance to McCormick’s Creek State Park. Bucklew’s bird paintings are also on display at Oliver Winery – on wine bottle labels. The featured birds are all found on the Oliver Winery property. The winery’s labels also feature bird art by the late William Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s work and a recreation of his studio are on display at the Brown County Art Gallery.