Wayne Manns

Susan Nowlin sits for her portrait. Photos by Natasha Komoda


Artist Wayne Manns, a Bloomington resident for over a decade, recently discovered that he had a lot to learn about his adopted hometown. In January he embarked on an ambitious project: to paint the portraits of Bloomington’s most influential women.

“The Women of Bloomington became an examination into my community,” he says. “I thought I knew the who’s who of Bloomington, but then I realized I didn’t know as many people as I thought.”

When he began the project, Manns assumed he would simply paint ten or so prominent women “from random but diverse professions—a judge, a professor, an opera singer, and so on.” But he ran into a problem. “Everyone I talked to about the project told me about three or four other women I should consider. The list snowballed.”

Manns has now completed more than two dozen portraits of Bloomington’s influential women, including Viola Taliaferro, former Monroe County Circuit Court judge; Peggy Welch, state representative of District 60; Vi Simpson, state senator of District 40; and Camilla Williams, the renowned opera singer. Still, Manns insists, “The list is not all-inclusive by any means. I should call it ‘Some Women of Bloomington,’ because there are so many great women in this city.”

Manns came up with the idea because he wanted “to meet the women who make Bloomington the great city that it is. I wanted to honor them by painting them.”