The lady in the pink dress has never looked better.
“The Rose Gown” by Louis Betts hangs in a prominent position in one of the newly refurbished galleries at Richmond Art Museum. The painting – a favorite among patrons, according to RAM Executive Director Shaun Dingwerth – is surrounded by other treasures from the museum’s permanent collection.
Richmond, Indiana, has a long art history.
Around the turn of the 20th century, artists from the Richmond Group were known throughout the nation for their impressionist landscapes and more. That meant not only a flourishing local art community (which, thanks in large part to Earlham College and more recently Indiana University East, continues to this day) but also strong connections with artists all over the county and opportunities to purchase their works.
RAM’s permanent collection includes such nationally known artists as William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Victor Higgins, and the Overbeck sisters.
The Richmond Group itself is well represented, as are works by local and regional artists through all the years since the group put Richmond on the national art map.
If that sounds a bit overwhelming, think again. The size of the museum – four gallery rooms and three corridors with display space – keep the collection digestible, says Kathy Cruz-Uribe, chancellor at IU East and an artist in her own right.
“You can enjoy it, get a lot out of it, and not be exhausted,” said Cruz-Uribe, who always brings her visitors to RAM. “I think the permanent collection is very, very high quality,” she said, “and we have a very forward-thinking director who’s always bringing in interesting shows.”
That’s also partly a function of size, says Dingwerth. Larger city art museums can bring in “blockbuster” special exhibits that tend to be long term and occupy a large amount of gallery space. RAM, with less space, can change things up more frequently.
That’s true for the permanent collection as well.
“A lot of permanent installations are just that – permanent,” said Dingwerth. “We circulate.”
Two of the gallery rooms will be dedicated to the RAM collection. One will feature national works, the other local and regional.
In fact, one of the reasons for the recent renovations was to be able to feature more of the museum’s treasures. Though the footprint is the same, display space has been increased because of the removal of doors and obsolete equipment. The renovation also provided an opportunity to update the cute but claustrophobic restrooms, and to brighten the atmosphere of the museum as a whole.
The single biggest impetus was climate control. A new heating and cooling system not only will protect the permanent collection, it also will make it possible for RAM to borrow works from other museums because it can protect them as well. That means that RAM – even more than in the past – will be an ever-changing experience.
“Every time visitors come, they’re going to see something different,” Dingwerth said.
Still, keep an eye out for the lady in the pink dress. She’s likely to be somewhere about, looking stunning in a grand new setting that befits her.
Explore for yourself:
Richmond Art Museum, 350 Hub Etchison Parkway, Richmond, Indiana
(765) 966-0256 / www.richmondartmuseum.org
Open 10 a.m. 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Find more things to do in Richmond and Wayne County at www.visitrichmond.org.