Did you know that Brown County is one of America’s original art colonies? Did you know it’s also home to one of the oldest art galleries in the country? That’s right, around here art is more than just something to admire, it’s a way of life…and it always has been!
Dubbed the “Art Colony of the Midwest,” Brown County has deep artistic roots, stretching all the way back to the late 1800s! A long-standing haven for the arts, it’s still living up to the title today!
In honor of the upcoming Art Colony Weekend (a fun-filled weekend celebrating Brown County’s art history and love for art, September 8-10), let’s take a look into Brown County’s past!
So how did it become the Art Colony of the Midwest anyways? Well, it all started over a century ago!
Back in the day, early artists were trained at the best art schools in Europe and the United States, inspired by the French Impressionists who painted out in the countryside. Drawn to Brown County’s breathtaking vistas, lush scenery, and interesting characters living in log cabins, artists migrated to the region in the late 1800s for the endless subjects and landscapes there were to paint. This tradition continues to this day with the many plein air competitions that take place in Brown County…Art Colony Weekend included!
The first major artist to make his home in Brown County was T.C. Steele. It was way back in 1907 that Steele, along with his wife Selma, bought property between Nashville and Bloomington, planting roots and building their beautiful House of the Singing Winds.
Steele attracted other artists to visit, including Adolph Shulz and his wife Ada. Trained in Paris and Chicago, Adolph and Ada were living in Wisconsin when they read about Brown County in a Chicago Newspaper. Soon after, they relocated to Brown County in 1917. It was the Shulzs and Steeles, along with many other artists who had followed suit and flocked to the area, who were instrumental in establishing an art colony in Nashville!
By 1925, artists of the area organized the Brown County Art Association and set up exhibit space in an old grocery store. The following year the Brown County Art Gallery was established, putting Nashville and Brown County on the road map as one of the most important regional art colonies in America! In fact, the Brown County Art Gallery is one of the oldest art galleries in the United States!
But the art didn’t stop there! Over the years, artists have continued to make their way to Brown County keeping the art colony alive. In addition to traditional art, artisans (such as potters, glass blowers, weavers, and more) have come to know and call Brown County home.
Now that you know how it all came to be…what about today? Where can you see art now?
Well the art colony is still thriving and can be seen all around! Let’s start in the downtown Village…
Recently undergoing a massive expansion that more than doubled its square footage, the Brown County Art Gallery is a sight to see. From permanent collections and ever-changing exhibits to workshops and fun events, the new and improved Art Gallery is one of Brown County’s prized possessions. Plus, it’s one of the oldest galleries around!
Another prime destination for admiring art in the Village is the Brown County Art Guild. Nestled in the heart of downtown Nashville on Van Buren Street, the Brown County Art Guild resides in the historic Minor House, which was built in 1857 and was purchased by the Guild in 1954. The Art Guild is the home to the Marie Goth Estate Collection, which includes major works by the Guild’s founding artists, such as V.J Cariani, Carl Graf, Genevieve Goth Graf, Marie Goth, and more. It also features and sells the artwork of over 50 regional member artists and hosts several special events throughout the year, including the upcoming Art Colony Weekend.
But that’s not all, there’s also the T.C. Steele State Historic Site (where T.C. Steele himself lived), co-op galleries, public art fixtures, back road studios, workshops and lessons, as well as tons of handmade items by local skilled artisans. From paintings, jewelry, and woven baskets to furniture, bath products, and craft cocktails, everything in Brown County is art!