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The Muncie Artists Guild (MAG) owes its humble beginnings to local artist, Donald C. Browning who, in the fall of 1952, initiated an art club named, the Amateur Artists Association together with 12 other local artists. The Association met in the old William Spencer home. Their first organized meeting took place in January 1952 when the Association's first president was elected. The third floor of the home was used as a studio where members would typically paint a still life.

Within six months, the membership grew to 18, and held their first exhibit at the Ball Stores Blue Room on June 9, 1952. However, members felt the group was unique because painting and working together meant more to them than simply having a chance to exhibit their work.

Summer brought painting excursions to favorite places, such as the Matthews Covered Bridge and the old gravel pit at Cornbread Road. Several plein air painting sessions were continued later in the year during cold or rainy weather. The following is an excerpt from notes written by Gwen McCoy, a former association member.

“…with the long daylight-saving time starting last of April we met at interesting places about 5:30 PM with a sandwich and painted till darkness made us stop. One of our favorite places for many years was the old stone quarry on Cornbread Road, just west of Hoyt Avenue. One could imagine the Grand Canyon or Colorado Rockies, once we saw a den of baby foxes playing halfway up the rock wall.

Shively woods and the ponds about 3 miles north of New Castle were other favorite places for members to spend entire days painting plein air.

Often, members took bacon and eggs and cooked brunch before starting to paint. Once members planned for six weeks to find a date agreeable to all to meet. But it was a rainy spring and despite the weather, all decided to go anyway. The day was wet, raw, and cold but they improvised and built a huge campfire (before the days of EPA) and placed a huge granite coffee pot on the fire while they painted away in rain suits and gloves. One painter looked very colorful in purple rayon gloves. 

We created some of our best paintings that day and some great memories. One reason this particular day remains etched on my memory is because I spent the whole next day scouring and cleaning the burnt coffee pot inside and out!”

Former Ball State University Art Gallery Director, Dr. Alice Nichols encouraged Guild members by going often to the studio to give critiques of the members’ work before an exhibit and encouraged members to exhibit at the Ball State Art Gallery, currently known as the David Owsley Museum of Art. In November 1956, the exhibit was held at the Ball State Art Gallery and continued to exhibit at the university for several years. Dr. Nichols and other art professors judged the members’ paintings at the exhibit.

In the early 1960s, the Guild established a small yearly scholarship for Ball State art students and continued to award it through 1987. The scholarship program was reestablished in 2015 by former MAG President Karen Fisher to support, encourage, and give our annual scholarship to an upperclassman, a junior or senior high school student artist who resides in East Central Indiana.

In the fall of 1994, the group became associated with the Minnetrista Cultural Center and held sidewalk sales at the Northwest Plaza among other Guild activities. The group’s name was officially changed to, Muncie Artists Guild in 2009.

Today, MAG membership is 35 strong and participates in the Artist of the Month, displaying their artworks at five sponsored businesses. Additionally, members may participate in quarterly displays with other merchants. Members also exhibit in art shows throughout the county, state, and country, participate in philanthropic works and hold their annual juried show in August at the Minnetrista Cultural Center.

Please visit our events page for details.

Image by Anna Kolosyuk
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