News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 27, 2010

USA Today beholds Swope as art to praise

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A Terre Haute treasure, the Swope Art Museum is now receiving national exposure as the result of an article in Friday’s USA Today.

The Swope was included in a Travel section article titled “10 great places to see art in smaller cities.”

 The Swope began receiving calls Friday in response to the article, said Rick Shagley, president of the Swope board of managers.

People have called from around the country wanting to know more about the museum. They also have requested information.

The Swope board is pleased and honored to be included in a list of such quality museums, Shagley said.

Swope officials aren’t sure how they were selected.

“We were contacted by USA Today,” Shagley said. “We sent information and pictures” for background.

The USA Today article states that malls aren’t the only places bustling this time of year. “The days after Thanksgiving are traditionally the busiest for art museums, too. But don’t think you have to visit a large city to find culture,” the short article says.

Michael Gormley, editorial director of the American Artist magazine group, was the source for the article and provided a list of some of his favorite smaller-city museums.

 In the article, Gormley states, “You go to big museums and you often see the same things.” Regional museums, by contrast, often feature gifted artists little known outside their area, the article says. Or, they may specialize in a genre that major institutions just touch on. 

In a brief description of the Swope, the article states, “You’ll find an impressive array of American works from the 19th and 20th centuries, along with artists with a connection to the state, like the Hoosier Group of Indiana impressionists.”

Gormley is quoted as saying, “Regionalism goes in and out of favor, and it’s again resurfacing … That’s very good.”

The Swope’s collection includes works by such renowned artists as Grant Wood, Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol, Shagley said.

 He anticipates the USA Today article will bring more visitors to the Swope and “it will certainly improve our image in the art community.”

The Swope has about 13,000 visitors a year, said Brian Lee Whisenhunt, museum executive director.

Whisenhunt was contacted by the author of the USA Today article, but no one knew for sure until Friday whether the Swope would be included.

“It was very exciting that the Swope was listed,” he said.

When Whisenhunt first interviewed for the job as Swope executive director, people would say the museum had “a great collection for Terre Haute.”

But his response was that it’s a great collection for any city. “Any museum in any city in the country would love to have that collection of art,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s really something special and I think a lot of people in our community don’t realize how special it is and what kind of resource we have in our own backyard.”

He hopes the article and national exposure will bring more visitors.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or