The Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities is located in Maxwell Hall. Photo by Rodney Margison


At the new Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities at Indiana University, exhibits by IU faculty and community artists and a regional artist-in-residence program are creating stronger links between the university and the Bloomington arts and cultural communities.

Opened in February, the Cook Center aims to enhance the value of the arts and humanities, says Director Ed Dallis-Comentale.

Elizabeth Claffey, IU assistant professor of photography at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, says the center helps develop a collective art experience.

“To have the opportunity to present work to the local community and fellow faculty is a rare opportunity and treat,” explains Claffey. “The community conversations we can create around artwork are really dynamic.”

Following a $2 million interior restoration of the historic Maxwell Hall building in IU’s Old Crescent, the center has an exhibition gallery for displaying faculty, student, and community art; a 130-seat grand hall for lectures, large exhibits, performances, and receptions for the community; and a conference wing for presentations, lectures, and academic exchanges related to arts and the humanities.

“It’s gorgeous here,” says Dallis-Comentale. “It was mostly restored so its historical bones could be shown off.”

A gift from historical preservationist and philanthropist Gayle Cook—co-founder of Cook Group and an IU alumna—and a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities funded the restoration. Floors, ceilings, and other features at Maxwell Hall, formerly an administrative center built in 1890, were restored.

Alongside the Arts and Humanities Council—which Dallis- Comentale directs— the Cook Center is home to IU’s most public- facing arts and humanities groups, including the Center for Rural Engagement and the College Arts and Humanities Institute. Beginning in September, the center will host a three-month Regional Artists in Residency program each semester, as well as the Indiana Arts Commission’s On-Ramp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator program, which provides a three-day business training seminar for artists. The center also takes part in the city’s mile-long Gallery Walk, held the first Friday of every month.

The Cook Center is open for tours and exhibits on weekdays, except Monday. Contact [email protected] for more information.