LOU'S VIEWS: Landmark event turns into celebration of Bill Cook

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

What was planned as a grand opening celebration quickly took on the added weight of being a memorial when benefactor Bill Cook died just a day before the April 16 rebirth of what is now known as the Indiana Landmarks Center.

To be sure, the event went on as scheduled. Speeches were made. Drinks were drunk. Dinner was served. A ribbon was cut. And oohs and aahs were shared over the remarkable restoration of the former Central Avenue Methodist Church—which now not only houses Indiana Landmarks, but also offers two handsome performance spaces and an art gallery.

A&E Indiana Landmarks Center (Photo Courtesy Indiana Landmarks)

Even with the monumental work done by restoration specialists, builders, generous donors, fundraisers and more, the reality is that the burden of saving such cultural treasures—and turning them into usable spaces—falls heavily on private citizens with great means. Simply put: The Indiana Landmarks Center would not exist without Bill Cook. And the same can be said of the West Baden Springs Hotel and French Lick Springs Hotel and significant chunks of Indiana University and the city of Bloomington.

While it’s sometimes fashionable among artistic types to scowl at the wealthy, it’s important to acknowledge what George Bernard Shaw’s title heroine wrote of such benefactors in “Major Barbara”: “If we turn from the churches they build, we must kneel on the stones of the streets they pave.”

A&E The Grand Hall of the Indiana Landmarks Center includes a renovation of its 1892 Sanborn Organ. The theater now seats 450.(Photo Courtesy Indiana Landmarks/Rob Banayote)

Cook, to be sure, went beyond just writing big checks. By all accounts, he was hands-on in the transformation of this new version of the Old Centrum Building—a transformation celebrated by an emotional John Mellencamp, who honored a commitment to Cook that he’d be there. Sen. Richard Lugar, who was baptized in the former sanctuary that is now the Grand Hall, was also on hand, along with former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon, who proved once again an Indiana treasure as a storyteller. Bring her back for her own evening.

Cook’s legacy, though, will be in what happens in this space long after the opening weekend cleanup. Indiana Landmarks Center is now available for rental by performance groups and for meetings, weddings and other life cycle events. The venue already has dates booked by the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, the Writers Center of Indianapolis (for its annual Gathering of Writers), the Indianapolis School of Ballet, and as a venue for the IndyFringe festival.

I’m looking forward to spending many hours there. Thank you, Mr. Cook.


I left in the midst of the Indiana Landmarks Center celebration to make it to the Athenaeum for the jazz finals of the American Pianists Association. It was actually part two of the finals, with all five finalists performing the night before at the Jazz Kitchen.

Even putting aside the who-will-win drama, it proved an outstanding evening of music, with world-class vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater providing a through line in the first act. What could have been a case of a star takeover instead showcased the give-and-take that makes jazz more than just a showcase for individual virtuoso musicians. With each pairing, Bridgewater and the pianists formed a different kind of bond, each taking great pleasure in the work of the other on such classics as “Love for Sale,” “Embraceable You” and “What is This Thing Called Love?”.

The second half paired each of the finalists with the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, blazing through work by Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis and more. Russ Davis, host of Voice of America’s Jazz America program, provided commentary (and a promise that 13.4 million jazz fans around the world will be hearing about this great Indianapolis event), and 2007 winner Dan Tepfer performed one of his own pieces while the judges made their decisions.

Not having seen all the steps in the judging process, I can’t say whether winner Aaron Diehl is the best of the best. But I can say that his performances here indicate a star-to-be—one who will be helped considerably by the cash and career support provided by this Indianapolis institution. Bravo to the APA for a great program—and a great night of music.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com. Twitter: IBJArts and follow Lou Harry’s A&E blog at www.ibj.com/arts.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Can your dog sign a marriage license or personally state that he wishes to join you in a legal union? If not then no, you cannot marry him. When you teach him to read, write, and speak a discernible language, then maybe you'll have a reasonable argument. Thanks for playing!

  2. Look no further than Mike Rowe, the former host of dirty jobs, who was also a classically trained singer.

  3. Current law states income taxes are paid to the county of residence not county of income source. The most likely scenario would be some alteration of the income tax distribution formula so money earned in Marion co. would go to Marion Co by residents of other counties would partially be distributed to Marion co. as opposed to now where the entirety is held by the resident's county.

  4. This is more same-old, same-old from a new generation of non-progressive 'progressives and fear mongers. One only needs to look at the economic havoc being experienced in California to understand the effect of drought on economies and people's lives. The same mindset in California turned a blind eye to the growth of population and water needs in California, defeating proposal after proposal to build reservoirs, improve water storage and delivery infrastructure...and the price now being paid for putting the demands of a raucous minority ahead of the needs of many. Some people never, never learn..

  5. I wonder if I can marry him too? Considering we are both males, wouldn't that be a same sex marriage as well? If they don't honor it, I'll scream discrimination just like all these people have....