This week’s daytrip destination is prompted by a recent visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), where visitors can see incredible examples of works by artists from the “Hoosier Group” like TC Steele and William Forsyth in the American collection. The IMA doesn’t charge admission for viewing the permanent collection and it is in and of itself a great rainy day destination for families looking to explore one of the greatest cultural destinations Indy has to offer. However, this day trip is inspired specifically by the works by Steele and Forsyth, who founded an artist’s colony in Brown County, Indiana towards the end of the 19th century. This “Hoosier Group” were impressionist artists who were enamored of the purity and beauty of Indiana’s great farmland and forests.
From these humble beginnings the town of Nashville has grown into a delightful cultural destination full of art galleries, gourmet restaurants, wineries, fudge shops, and quaint clothing boutiques. Nashville also offers historic sites such as TC Steele’s home (8 miles north of town near Belmont), and the original log cabins of the colony. Local accommodations range from historic homes and bed and breakfasts, to log cabins and campsites, all within a reasonable budget.
However, the most wondrous aspect of a visit to Brown County is not Nashville; it is the chance to witness the real life setting of Indiana’s internationally recognized artistic legacy. For a small fee, a family can enter into Brown County national forest and hike through the beautiful landscape, which is especially breath-taking during spring and fall. Within the park you can hike, bike, or ride horses on a variety of trails designed for beginner or experienced woodspersons. This time of year is considered peak season, but the state parks fees remain the same during the open season between May and November. For more information about the parks entry fees and camping fees, visit www.in.gov/dnr and explore the “Destinations” tab to find Brown County.
Brown County is reached by driving along the many winding two lane highways that crisscross the bottom half of this State. This meandering trek along various state routes and rural highways is an opportunity to explore the beauty of Indiana’s natural landscape. Approaching Brown County by taking the IN-37 south from Indianapolis, driving around Bloomington’s IN- 45/46 bypass, and traveling on IN-46 affords one of the best views of the surrounding forestland, including a truly breathtaking lookout at the top of a hill as you approach Nashville, the subject of several paintings from the aforementioned “Hoosier Group”. Alternate routes can be taken off of I-65 S through Columbus, Indiana, or IN-135 which takes a driver through several one stop light towns and lots of gorgeous farmland.
Regardless of how you choose to get to Brown County, it is well worth the trip to experience first-hand the landscape that inspired an entire generation of artists to create iconic images that hang on the walls of museums all over the world today. This fall embrace Indiana’s cultural heritage and get some fresh air with a great destination that is close to home. Have fun exploring Indiana’s Hills and Hollers and don’t forget to check out my previous blog here. Safe travels!