We all know that the Indianapolis Museum of Art houses some of the greatest works of art in the country. But did you know that the Gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, located on the IMA grounds, are another great example of Indianapolis art? Only in Indianapolis can you see man-made beauty and nature’s beauty all in the same place!
Located near Marian University and Butler University, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is at the corner of over 150 acres of cultivated gardens and wild woodlands, meadows, and marshland. There are two main areas to the Gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art: Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens and the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.
Oldfields, a National Historic Landmark, is on the grounds of the IMA. It features the Oldfields-Lilly House, a restored museum that was once the home of Josiah K. Lilly Jr, who was the fourth president of Eli Lilly and Company and brother of Eli Lilly. The Lilly House is the only remaining building from the set of wealthy estates that used to be in the area.
The building’s 22 rooms have all undergone restoration and feature mostly objects and decorations that were used by the original owners of the house. It is open to the public for free guided tours, and is a great slice of Indianapolis culture and Indianapolis history.
The crown jewel of the Oldfields estate, however, is the massive garden on its grounds. The garden, designed by the illustrious Olmsted Brothers, has many distinguishable features.
The Rapp Family Ravine Garden is one of the main attractions at the Oldfields gardens. It occupies an entire acre behind the Lilly House, and features a 40 foot incline, covered in almost 20,000 different trees, bushes, shrubs, and undergrowth, all watered by a flowing stream. The Ravine Garden also includes sculpture and decorative pools.
There is also the Formal Garden, a historical recreation of the original design by the Olmstead brothers, which features arbors covered in roses, a fountain, and a wanton variety of other colorful flowers. As if that weren’t enough, there are an orchard, a greenhouse, and a classic allee lined with trees in the remainder of the Oldfields gardens. It is truly a must-see Indianapolis attraction.
Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park
The second part of the Gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park is a work-in-progress. IMA broke ground on this project in 2008, and it is scheduled to be completed in 2010. The Art & Nature Park covers over 100 acres of wild landscape, and includes a lake that is over 30 acres.
The completed Art & Nature Park will be a seamless cohesion of Indianapolis art and the beauty of Indiana’s natural landscape. It will offer several pieces made especially for integration into the park’s grounds, as well as workshops and exhibitions that will showcase the inseparable bond of art and nature.
Partially funded by The Fairbanks Foundation (named for the founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park will be high on the list of things to do in Indianapolis, and will surely be an integral part of our city.
For more information on Oldfields, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, please visit the IMA homepage.
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