In the mid-1950’s a small group of artistically gifted men and women banded together as the Indian Hill Artists. Every autumn for twenty years they held a local show. Several attendees of art classes sparked the genesis of the group. They painted together on Thursdays, taking class from renowned painter Carl Zimmerman at his Loveland studio. Often they painted fresh flowers from the Zimmerman’s’ gardens. Four ladies attended a weekly sculpture class, with nationally prominent Charles Cutler as their instructor. That class met at the studio of one of the artists, in the basement of Cincinnati Country Day School, and also at Camp Stepping Stones. As the people in these classes became friends, and recognized the talent in their midst, they decided to hold a show.
A core of artists and their spouses enthusiastically planned, set up committees, produced artwork, publicized the show, and invited other Village residents. The minutes of their planning meetings, held during dinner parties at each others’ homes, reflect the sense of gaiety and friendship underlying the group: “Vance Clark proposed a toast to Henry Arnold on behalf of his labors in preparing postcards which were distributed for mailing;” and “The Chairman of the Punch Committee reported everything under control.” It is recalled that one member of the group had therapeutic talent, and walked on member’s backs after meetings to relieve tension. These couples combined the organization of an annual exhibition with promotion of each other’s creative endeavors and mutual camaraderie.
Some of the artists were self-taught, but most had some instruction or background in art. There was never any formal training for the entire group, but for several years there were weekly impromptu painting sessions at the Little Red Schoolhouse between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Painters brought 25 cents and spent the day depicting such objects as a box of strawberries, a fresh bouquet, or a local volunteer model.
Each artist worked on his own particular stylistic interpretation, without competition or criticism–bolstering each other’s growth. Indian Hill Bulletin articles encouraged Village residents to attend these casual work sessions, with prospective artists invited to bring their “own materials, easel, something to protect the floor, and lunch.”
The Indian Hill Artists (all Village residents) held their annual shows at the Little Red Schoolhouse on a weekend afternoon in November. Each artist was limited to three entries and paid a $2.00 entry fee. Hosts, chosen by committee, officiated at the punch bowl, serving “Witch’s Brew” or apple cider to prospective purchasers. All artists delivered their framed work on the morning of the event, and their spouses assisted in the assembly of peg boards and the hanging of the individual pieces. By late afternoon much of the art was sold to the crowds of Villagers who attended. In 1962 increased participation caused the show to be moved to Cincinnati Country Day School, and then to Livingston Lodge in 1972.
In 1963 the group created an Award of Art for a local student, an attempt to recognize artistic achievement at the high school level. A $25 cash prize was donated to the winner’s school, and many of the best artworks by students were exhibited at the annual autumn show.
As new artists joined the founding group over two decades the Indian Hill artists expanded and gained acclaim. A wide range of media was showcased at each show– oil and watercolor paintings, ceramic impressions, three dimensional collages, botanical illustrations, and photographs. The artists were working mostly for their own satisfaction, but several of the Indian Hill Artists became renowned in their fields, successfully exhibited beyond Village limits, and were featured at prominent galleries.
Though there no longer is an annual Indian Hill Artists Show, many artists who were associated with it have continued their artistic pursuits. Members of the original group fondly recall the great fun they had together, and the wonderful level of community support they received. The cooperation of the Village and the support of neighbors helped make every show a success, enriching the community with a celebration of local culture and individual achievement.