Courtesy of Indiana University-Kokomo
Courtesy of Indiana University-Kokomo

There’s a lot of talent inside Indiana University Kokomo’s art programs.

And to give students more opportunities to showcase that talent, the local university opened the IUK Union Street Art Gallery in downtown Kokomo in April 2016.

In addition to the art gallery in the campus’ Kelley Student Center, this new gallery would allow students to connect with the downtown community as well gain valuable experience and a chance to sell their artwork.

“IU Kokomo is trying to become leader in experiential learning, and this gallery gives students real-life experience,” said Mark Canada, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.

That experience can come as curating an exhibit, running a gallery or being an exhibiting artist, he said.

But, the location of the downtown gallery wasn’t ideal, Canada said.

Nearly two years after opening, the art gallery finds itself the sole tenant of the Firestone Building at 209 N. Union St. and missing the heavy foot traffic it desires, said Jan Halperin, vice chancellor for the Office for University Advancement. 

“The space was terrific, but the location was not ideal for what we’re looking to do,” Halperin said. “We want the gallery to be more visible and accessible to a larger amount of foot traffic.” 

So, the gallery is moving. And its new home at 102 N. Main St. -- right on the Courthouse Square -- seems just about perfect. 

“Moving the gallery to the new location will put it in the heart of the downtown activity,” she said. “You can go downtown for dinner and then go over and take a look at the gallery.”

Not only is it in a more visible location, the new gallery has huge windows all across the front of the building, she said.

“You can look in and see the art,” she said. “You can see people having a glass of wine and chatting. It’s very big city.”

No longer located on Union Street, the gallery will have to undergo a name change. Though a new name has yet to been chosen, the new space will have its grand opening during the April First Friday event on April 6.

And though it has a new space, much will stay the same for the gallery. Student artwork will continue to be at the heart of the gallery, with students displaying their own pieces as well as curating exhibits featuring other artists’ work.

The opening exhibit in the gallery’s new home will “Nefelibata,” which is a curated exhibit by Lizzy Lewis, a student intern from IUK’s New Media, Art, and Technology Program. Nefelibata can be defined as “cloud walker,” or one who lives in the clouds of their own imagination or one who doesn’t follow societal norms.

The exhibit will feature many examples of imaginative, dreamy concepts and fantasy worlds.

The new gallery space will continue to house a digital design studio where IUK students create brochures, logos and other materials at no charge for local non-profit organizations.

Also, it will continue to receive the support of Dr. Charles and Alice Simons, who have supported the gallery since its opening in 2016.

A longtime orthodontist in Kokomo with an extensive history in vocal music, Dr. Simons has a passion for the arts. He served two governors as Indiana Arts Commissioner.

“Simons is passionate about the arts so this project is a perfect fit for him,” said Halperin, whose role at IUK allows her to match individuals with projects they might find interesting. 

Simons said he supports the downtown art gallery initiative because he knows how important the arts are to our society. 

“Almost every aspect of life and almost every occupation includes art in some way,” he said. “Art is critical to all of our endeavors.”

Simons said increasing the public’s consumption of art is important, and he’s hopeful the gallery’s new home will help accomplish that. 

“By bringing the public to the world of visual art, the hope is that more people will learn to enjoy it and embrace it.”

The public’s first chance to embrace art at the gallery’s new home will be 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 6.