John Mellencamp and The Southern Indiana Center for the Arts
The house, in which the Art Center is quartered, is owned by John and is leased to The Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, Inc. The law requires $1.00 for a two-year lease. We think that is reasonable. The house is a beautiful 1851 brick mansion sitting upon a hill overlooking the White river. Built before the beginning of the Civil War, and before Seymour was established, the house stands as a tribute to the craftsmanship of the day.
The house was owned by the Dr. Ripley family during John’s youth. John spent much time at the house as a friend of Mark Ripley, the son. (He has some wild stories about those days). When the house was put up for sale, John could not let it go to just anybody. He purchased it and shortly after, used the house as the headquarters during the filming of the movie, “Falling from Grace.”
When the movie was completed, John’s idea of an art center evolved. John had taken up painting as an outlet and felt that the area needed an art center. John’s parents also felt the need for such a center since there was nothing in the surrounding area in which they could have taken their children. Through them, a proposal was made and a committee was formed. The final agreement came about in 1991.
It is John’s desire that the Art Center not be a Mellencamp thing. He furnishes the house and property with the philosophy that if the region wants an art center, it will support it. He acts as the landlord and will finance major repairs to the house. He does, whenever asked, autograph posters and pamphlets for the people who visit the Center. He also allows the Center to have one room reserved for his paintings. He lets the Center keep around six of his works. In the past, the Center has sold some of John’s originals and received 30%. This has brought in several thousands of dollars. At the present time sales has been stopped until new paintings can be acquired.
The Center had a full exhibit of John’s paintings in 1993, one of the few exhibits which John has allowed. One of the paintings in this exhibit, “John with Puppet,” was printed as a poster and is sold either signed by John or unsigned. These have brought in several thousands of dollars over the years. A second painting, “Band with No Name,” was reproduced in 2004, and a third, “Man in Red Shirt” was added in 2011. Both are also sold signed or unsigned. The Art Center is the only outlet for these prints.
John’s fans, usually known as the “Mellenheads,” regard the Art Center as a Mecca. They have gathered here on occasions by the hundreds to socialize among themselves and enjoy entertainment. Since many have been here and realize what all the Art Center does, they have taken on areas to finance and support. They have financed electrical upgrades and purchased pottery wheels. They have purchased the light fixtures in the Antique Print Shop Museum and are presently financing the Minutes to Memories Garden. Through them, several thousands of dollars has been raised and continues to be donated by the fans.
The main contact with the fans is on the Internet through John’s fan club. Through this outlet, the Art Center is known throughout the world. Fans from as far away as Australia, Europe and South Africa have visited.