November 19th, 2017

The John Herron Art Institute

by Emma Hall


With both Herron School of Art and the Herron Morton Neighborhood carrying his name, one would assume that John Herron was some kind of famous politician, architect, or artist. That, however, was not the case. John Herron was a real estate investor who owned a great deal of land. Beyond that, there wasn’t much to his name.

He decided that upon his death, he would leave his fortune–an estimated $7 million dollars in today’s currency–to the Art Association of Indianapolis to establish a museum and art school. In 1902, the John Herron Art Institute was born, largely due to the efforts of May Wright Sewall. The famous artist T.C. Steele and many other impressionist artists were the first faculty members. It was the second school in the country to be designed especially for art education.

Today, students attending Herron can earn degrees in anything from printmaking, to furniture design, to visual communication. While the school resided on the corner of 16th and Pennsylvania Street for many years, it has now found a place on the IUPUI campus in a building three times the size of its previous facility. The old Herron Art School building now houses Herron High School, a liberal arts charter school.

Were it not for John Herron’s generosity, May Wright Sewall and many others would not have been able to lay the foundation for Indianapolis’s arts community. Educating and supporting young artists is key to helping the city develop and thrive. Artists help to make this city great.