UPDATE: Art museum names campus, with big changes on drawing board

The Newfields campus at 4000 Michigan Road.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art on Tuesday morning unveiled a unifying name for its somewhat segmented, 152-acre campus while officials contemplate significant changes to the institution and its physical plant that will require a fundraising campaign.

The name of the campus now is “Newfields, a Place for Nature and the Arts.”

The move further plays up the importance of the museum’s grounds, which have been an emphasis of CEO Charles Venable's tenure since his hiring five years ago. In addition to the museum proper, the grounds include the museum gardens, the Lilly House, and the 100 Acres art and nature park. Museum officials on Tuesday also promised new attractions were coming.

In addition, museum officials are examining a 30-year master land-use plan commissioned by IMA that proposes dozens of changes to the campus and its programs.

The name Newfields is a nod to Oldfields, the name of the Lilly family estate that was donated to the IMA in 1966 and now is the IMA’s home. In 1970, the museum relocated from its facility at 16th and Pennsylvania streets, then called the John Herron Art Institute, to the current property at the northwest corner of 38th Street and Michigan Road.

Indianapolis-based advertising firm Young & Laramore was hired two years ago to come up with a brand strategy and name for the grounds.

“Our diverse landscape is unlike any other in the Midwest, and now is the time that we fully embrace all that we have to offer the community as a one-of-a-kind destination.” Venable said in a written statement.

“We are embracing our natural resources, like never before, while staying true to our legacy as an art museum.”

Among the new attractions planned by the museum is "Winterlights," promoted as a seven-week holiday celebration that incorporates the "Christmas at Lilly House" decorating tradition and adds an outdoor pathway through museum gardens illuminated with a choreographed light show and dotted with food and drink stations.

"Winterlights" is scheduled to launch on Nov. 19. and run through Jan. 7. Tickets will be $25 at the door for the general public and $20 for members.

The museum said that Newfields would "serve as a community destination offering dynamic, relevant and social experiences with both art and nature."

Development of the Newfields identity began in the spring of 2015, when the IMA’s board of governors refocused the museum’s mission to emphasize “impacting lives through exceptional experiences with art and nature,” and approved a 10-year strategic plan.

The IMA in December 2015 received a $10 million gift from Lilly Endowment Inc. to create an endowed innovation fund. That set the stage for seven research studies and development of a 30-year master land-use plan, which was wrapped up this summer.

The 30-year plan, currently under review by the museum's board, proposes new opportunities for the campus, including increased parking, enhanced programming spaces and new pathways to provide easier navigation around campus. It also suggests creating clearer sight lines to the museum's grounds and facilities from Michigan Road and 38th Street by thinning trees on the boundary of the property.

Larger-scale suggestions include major additions to the gardens and a bridge from the upper campus to the 100 Acres park.

The master land-use plan includes 54 suggestions, some of which are speculative and need more study.

“There’s no reason for us to create a children’s garden unless we know there’s enough of a family audience,” Venable told IBJ.

While extra parking spaces are planned for 100 acres, Venable said, further discussions about parking needs might need to wait for a better sense of how car sharing services and self-driving cars affect traffic.

The museum's board will choose immediate priorities from the plan's suggestions at a meeting in October, Venable said. The museum then would launch a capital campaign based on those priorities either at the end of this year or early next year to fund improvements.

The museum on Tuesday also announced several upcoming exhibitions:

—"Director's Choice: Gifts of Art 2017," opening Sept. 29 and featuring many works of art from the museum collection on view for the first time.

—"City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s and 80s," opening Oct. 7 and essaying the origins and evolution of graffiti.

—"Portraits of Our City," opening Oct. 27 and featuring photography of Indianapolis residents and culture.

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