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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Sleepless in Indianapolis: Museums In and Around Circle City

Last week, our very own Hoosier at heart explored the famed Circle City in the first of her two-part series, “Sleepless in Indianapolis”, taking readers on a thorough walk through the city. In the conclusion, she reviews four different museums she had the opportunity to travel to in Indy and sums up a memorable summer experience.

The famous LOVE sculpture created by Robert Indiana sits on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

The famous LOVE sculpture created by Robert Indiana sits on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

They say if you set your heart on something with genuine admiration and are able to envision it, that the Universe makes things happen. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Indianapolis. Perhaps it goes back to a lost opportunity of attending IU; or maybe it goes back to an adventurous spirit or pure love, but things can happen when you least expect it. Just like the next person, I guess you could call me one of those eager hopefuls who enter a contest without expecting anything. When I entered one this past summer at Visit Indy’s website, I never dreamt I would be given one of the most unforgettable weeks of my life when I won the Arts Getaway!

A view of the Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art from West Washington Street in Indianapolis. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

The package included goodies such as, hotel accommodation and restaurants with the main attraction being, tickets to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I was completely blown away from excitement! I never thought I would be the lucky one, and to win a package that I would genuinely love was something out of a dream. As far as I recollect, I’ve always been enamored by museums! To me, they’ve always been these sorts of time capsules holding culture with objects that tell stories of the world and a time we can only dream about. Museums and all that they encompass offer a great sense of place and unquestionably play a vital role in the success of tourism for a state, attracting millions of international and domestic visitors while showcasing a nation’s history to the widest possible audiences.

As a history junkie, I’ve always been fascinated by getting up close to things we are usually accustomed to seeing through books, newspapers, or even on television. For example, seeing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a totally different experience to seeing it dozens of times on network television. The perception we gain from a second-hand source is most times entirely different to the one we get than when we first see it with our own eyes in person. That being said, there are as many museums in Indiana as there are personal interests. The state is home to hundreds of museums, providing tourists and residents with rich culture and history of all types. In every form, history is illustrative and time becomes abstract, but together these artifices are found in museums and are able to span everybody’s own perception.

While in Indy this past summer, I was fortunate enough to seize every moment of time to the best of my ability, by taking in more than what my package offered—took in the sights of the city by foot, and shopped to my heart’s content, while eating at the finest restaurants, and making time to visit four museums in a week! It was simply amazing and an unforgettable experience.

Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 North Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, IN

One of the first museum visits that I took found me driving thirteen minutes north of Monument Circle to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Colloquially known as the IMA, I can proudly say this is a remarkable museum and by far, one of my new favorites. Nestled away from the lights of the city, between forests and the Canal Greenway, the museum and its grounds feel like something out of a fairy-tale with its romantic and dreamy atmospheric beauty. A self-guided tour on four floors can literally take a while, but to see what the IMA has to offer with not just their galleries and exhibits inside the building, is an experience that is well worth the time; especially with the expansive grounds outside that are surrounded by gardens and historical properties, accompanied by various sculptures.

The Mother and Child sculpture in the gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

Walking the grounds is a culturally sophisticated experience in and by itself. One of the striking sculptures to grace the grounds is also one of the most famous ones found at the IMA, Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”, a pop-art masterpiece created in 1970. It was the first sculptural form of Indiana’s famous LOVE painting and has been on display at the IMA since its acquisition in 1975. In some forms, one might say the sculpture created by Indiana is a subtle representation of the scenery that can be found at the grounds, adding an amorous ambiance to everything around. Near the entrance of the museum sits “Mother and Child”, a public artwork created by Russian-British artist, Dora Gordine which is one of my favorites on the museum grounds. Located between the Oldfields and the main building, the cast bronze sculpture is a contemporary art piece depicting a mother and child, linked by their hands. It’s a rather adorable piece and in some ways, makes me think of Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion”.

It could literally take a whole day or more just to wander about the grounds, seeing the unique and remarkable works. As someone who will visit again very soon, I know next time around I would definitely set a day aside to just see the outside of the museum! Surrounding the IMA is Americana at its best with a gorgeous 152-acre complex that includes such sights as the Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens, a country estate that’s recognized as a National Historic Landmark; and the Virginia B. Fairbanks & Nature Park, located on 100 acres of an oasis that include wetlands, woodlands and meadows straight out of a daydream. It is one of the largest museum art parks in the country too.

At The End of the Porch: a painting by John Sharman in 1918, featured at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

During the summers, the IMA is known for something that excites the film fan in me: a Summer Nights film series that cleverly ties into exhibits. One of the films showcased this year was a personal favorite of mine–Hitchcock’s Rear Window, presented in conjunction with the opening of the IMA exhibit, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard. I was fortunate enough to attend the exclusive exhibit and found it most amusing and informative; quite eye-opening as well considering how we are living in the age of Instagram and pay no attention to the perception of art’s true evolution through the eye. It was interesting to take in and that’s just one of the many exhibits the IMA has to offer in these coming months as the new upcoming exhibits will feature Mola artwork from the San Blas Islands in Panama; and the arts of Islamic culture, drawing collections from across the United States, as well as overseas from France, Morocco, Kuwait; and much more in store for art lovers.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is one of the ten oldest general art museums in the United States, and there’s always something new with their ever-changing exhibits taking place, giving visitors something fresh and different each time. The best part for any traveler is that admission to the IMA and their grounds is free, which makes for easy going budget-conscious outings with families or on a dates, or even taking some time out for yourself to relax and explore some artistic culture. Since exhibits are exclusive and usually a one-time event, tickets can be bought at the IMA box office located inside of the museum.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
500 West Washington St., Indianapolis, IN

Another museum which is a pure delight and holds great character is the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Personally, as an outsider looking in, I found this museum to be a state treasure and a true gem. It’s situated within the White River State Park, and I recommend anyone who visits the city to positively take a look at this museum because it really seems like it’s the only museum of its kind in the Midwest. As a history aficionado and someone who’s appreciated the Wild West (and has seen almost every John Ford or Anthony Mann western), I was besotted by it. I can truly say from my experience, I have never seen a museum so grand and distinctively designed, and showcasing such exhibits that I believe is one the best Native American and Western art collections I’ve ever seen. There’s contemporary art, as well as traditional, and the artwork isn’t just the main attraction to this museum. The architecture on the outside is striking with its honey and plum colored stone, drawing inspiration from ancient Native Pueblo architecture and evoking geographical elements found in the Southwest.

The Greeter at the entrance of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

One of the first few pieces of art museum-goers will be acquainted with is the deer splashing in the fountain situated in the front of the building, as well as “The Greeter”, a monumental sculpture of an Indian chief by George Carlson. More artwork in some form is integrated around the vibrantly lush grounds and landscape, adorned with some of the state’s native plants and flowers. Beauty lies all around the museum, especially since it fronts downtown’s Central Canal.

Throughout the halls of the museum, there is contemporary artwork, adding a regal touch to the overall atmosphere. One of the most attention-grabbing sights in the museum besides the galleries and exhibits is seeing the museum’s staircase which is cleverly wrapped around the famous Indianapolis Totem Pole, standing three stories high. As well as displaying artwork, photographs, sculptures and artifacts with one-of-a-kind exhibits, there’s a gift shop as well as a children’s learning center which is highly beneficial for eager and inquisitive minds. The kid in me as well in others will certainly enjoy the appeal of it all, especially the Deadwood setting downstairs which was nothing like the HBO show but did have a contraption looking like a wooden horse (which I rode) and carriage (which I sat in). After you’ve visited the different galleries and exhibits at the museum and are near exhausted, perhaps even famished, you can take a break in exquisite al fresco dining at the Sky City Cafe, a casual restaurant and cafe featuring dishes inspired by Western and Native American culture and enjoy a rather scenic view of the canal.

Indiana State Museum
650 W Washington St., Indianapolis, IN

Right next to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, sits the Indiana State Museum on three stories and is also located on the Indiana Central Canal within the White River State Park. It’s a destination that celebrates science, culture, history and art through extensive information from prehistoric times to present day. What’s neat about the museum is you can go through all the collections and exhibits not just through reading and looking at artifacts from Indiana’s history and heritage, but take part in interactivities in context with the state’s personal impact made on our global society. There were a bunch of exhibits I had the opportunity to check out like, “REPRESENT: Celebrating Indiana’s African-American Artists”, which was a fantastic exhibit presenting paintings, photographs, sculptures, textiles and ceramics created by African-Americans who have lived and worked in Indiana; “Science on the Edge: Radical Innovation in New Harmony”, an exhibit focused on the pioneers of New Harmony who uncovered secrets and paved the way for Hoosiers today; and “Heartland Art”, an exhibit that gorgeously traces 140 years of Indiana art, featuring portraits to conceptual impressions of Indiana’s 21st century by Hoosiers.

The Indiana State Museum Steam Clock is 17 feet tall located on the sidewalk of the north side of the museum. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

Of the featured exhibits, my favorite had to have been the “Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn”, focused on the worldwide influence corn has in our history and in our daily lives. As corny as it sounds, I really was a-maized at the whole collection, exploring the relationship between corn and not just the cultivators, but the people. At one point I got to ride the combine harvest simulator and pretend I was a farmer harvesting crop. After going through this exhibit, you’ll see corn for more than its face value. It’s the most industrious domesticated plant that, through ages has influenced our scientific advancements, economy and culture. It was really eye-”popping” and I guess you could say I was all “ears” on the subject because I’m a fan of corn, corny jokes, and the ever-so yummy, Popcorn, Indiana popcorn product.

The Indiana State Museum is an attractive piece of an art-deco sort of architectural styling, stunning visitors before even entering. It’s a treasured storyteller for the state, with the works held inside the cherished edifice containing artwork from all the 92 Indiana counties, as well as being home to two restaurants and the state’s largest IMAX movie screen. Outside the Indiana State Museum and located on the northside’s sidewalk, stands a 17’ tall steam clock. It’s one of the most delightful things I’ve seen in a long time and as a fan of music from the 30s and 40s, I couldn’t help but admire the 19th century styled clock that plays a few notes of “Back Home Again in Indiana” every 15 minutes on its eight brass whistles. I was able to stick around and hear the complete rendition that plays at the top of every hour and bust a few Vaudeville and Ziegfeld Girl moves.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Hall of Fame Museum
4790 West 16th Street, Indianapolis, IN

What is it about car racing that excites most of us? My best friend, a former small town go-kart champ would probably say it’s the thrill of speed while playing cat and mouse as drivers zoom past each other to the finish line, or the pure adrenaline rush when those engines roar; but I think it’s the speed and concentration witnessed on the racetrack that makes one feel the excitement of the sport, or when fans sit in the stands and feel that warm Indiana weather kissing their skin. Whatever the case, it’s that great feeling of elation I would assume that gets us so revved up!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in Speedway, Indiana. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

One of the most “raciest” places I visited this summer (no pun intended) was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Hall of Fame Museum. I loved absolutely everything about it! It’s an in-depth, behind-the-scenes of what everyone is so accustomed to seeing on television every May with the Indy 500. Located in the town of Speedway—a complete enclave of Indianapolis—this museum is another amazing stop for anyone visiting the city and what it is in size, definitely makes up for the great character and charm it holds. The Hall of Fame Museum is a treasure trove of information showcasing not just a ton of trophies and cars, but how important the Motor Speedway has been to the progression of the global automobile industry. Without a doubt, the museum is home to one of the best and most gorgeous selections of winning cars from previous Indy 500 events and is definitely a sight for everyone, especially the car and racing buffs. The cars displayed are from 1911, all the way to present times with the winning cars on display. Though the museum rotates their 75 cars at specific interval schedules, there are always vehicles on display for viewers to see. While there was no winning car displaying my birth year, they did have a whole bunch of other cars like, Danica Patrick’s “Rookie” Car, Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America, and the first car to win the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911, the famed 6-cylinder, single-seat, streamlined Marmon “Wasp”.

A display of winning cars inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Hall of Fame. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

On top of paid admission, visitors can pay an extra $5 and tour the racetrack. The museum also offers ground tours which includes a narrated journey through the decades, visiting notable IMS landmarks normally open to officials, drivers and teams during events, as well as visiting the timing-and-scoring suite in the Pagoda, the media center, Victory Podium, Gasoline Alley’s garage area and the world-famous, Yard of Brick at the start/finish line for an additional $25.

I loved this museum and would absolutely go back. The gift shop museum is a pure delight, though it was one of the last places that exhausted my wallet on this trip—it was still well worth it, especially the IMS snow globe that sits on my book shelf now. The speedway is a great sight and it would be really awesome to check out in May when all the action takes place during the famed Indy 500!

The four museums I checked out were just a few but Indy has so much more to offer as there are still so many to check out! There are an array of museums in and around the city, like the President Benjamin Harrison Home, along with the homes of Morris-Butler and James Whitcomb Riley (author of Annie), the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Indiana Medical Museum, just to name a few; as well as the world’s largest and most popular children’s museum: the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, a destination I definitely scoped from the outside (because of my ‘Giganotosaurus’ love for dinosaurs). A personal favorite that I sadly missed out on due to scheduling was taking a tour of the famed, Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. Tours are open the public every Tuesday and Wednesday and are approximately 45 minutes to an hour in length. Fans and football enthusiasts would get a personal behind-the-scenes look at the state’s beloved stadium and everything it has to offer, such as the playing field, the NFL locker room, the press box, and numerous other areas on the stadium grounds. Just one of the many other sights I will surely take in the next time I visit Indy!

A dinosaur peaks inside the famous Childrens Museum of Indianapolis. Image Credit: Tania Hussain

Indianapolis is a great city and one that has many public parks and grounds that are developed around a rich heritage. This is a city where tourists can come and fully immerse themselves in encounters with art, culture and history in a really momentous manner.

Looking back I realize that the time I spent was not at all enough as I stayed in Indy for a solid sunny week. There’s so much more to see, but I was able to take in as many of the sights as possible and all thanks to the ever congenial ambassadors of the city at Visit Indy. The moment I got into Indiana, I had experienced such a surge of warmth and comfort from everyone I met—it’s something Hoosiers should be proud of. Hospitality is big on their part and is evidently innate. While I spent the week in the city, exploring, shopping, eating and most importantly interacting with others, I noticed something of Hoosier character. Each time I would say, “thank you” for simple things like handing me my change, or opening a door for me, their humility would shine through their modest smiles and they’d reply with a “Hmm-mm”.

Hmm-mm. Their wordless answers feel like courtesy and politeness come second nature to them, and instinctive on their part when showcasing modest manners. It’s like, Hoosiers are so naturally respectful to being helpful and gracious, that it’s just in their humble character. I’ve been blessed to see such hospitable nature and kind heartedness in my best friend who happens to be a lifelong Hoosier born and raised in the northern parts of Indiana. However, seeing it with everyone is such a humbling experience and generates a heartfelt warmth that you can’t help but feel great comfort in. Indiana’s known as “The Crossroads of America” and with a crossroad, you’d expect confusion and an apprehension, but with Indy there’s a great sense of belonging in the city and its people. Who would want to pass up on an opportunity like that? I’m not a Hoosier but I did feel like the city and the state itself felt like home—a second home, and a place that I miss right now but know I will see again very soon.

For more information on the city of Indianapolis and to plan your own getaway to the Circle City, be sure to check out Visit Indy for further details.

Connect with Tania Hussain on Twitter and Google+!

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