by CARMEN SIERING
Summer visitors to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site will be greeted by a whole new experience. Singing Winds Visitor Center, a 4,600-square-foot structure, is the largest and most noticeable of the changes. It features indoor restrooms, programming space, a gift shop, and a video introduction to the site’s history, among other amenities.
Cost of the visitor center and other renovations and additions totaled approximately $2.6 million, says Cathy Ferree, president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
“We had a private donor who was willing to donate a significant portion of the funds because they felt strongly that we needed a visitor center at T.C. Steele,” Ferree says. “What’s interesting is when you are here, you are surrounded by woods and you can really get a feel for what T.C. Steele was seeing. But when you look at the budget, a lot of that was for sewer lines and septic tanks because, at any site where you want people to stay for any length of time, those things are going to make an incredible difference. We’re lucky someone had the vision to step up and make that happen.”
Other funding was provided by the state of Indiana, Friends of T.C. Steele, grant funds, and other private donors.
Ferree says visitors will find a new, enhanced experience. “We’ve really expanded how you can visit the site,” she says. “We have new trail signs; we’ve put back the gardens the way Selma [Steele’s second wife] had them, and worked to help guests look at it all through the eyes of a painter.”
Guests can explore locations that inspired specific Steele paintings, and the large studio at the site will feature a new rotation of Steele’s original work in an updated gallery space and includes opportunities to see how a plein air painting comes together.
More family activities are also in store, says Ferree. “We absolutely encourage families to visit,” she says. “We are always looking at how we can engage the next generation.”
The new visitor center will open to the public at 2 p.m. on June 15. For more information, visit tcsteele.org.