The South Bend Art Center opened in 1947, realizing a longtime dream of Carlotta Banta, who served as a kindergarten teacher at Perley School in South Bend for 35 years. In her last will and testament, Banta bequeathed her life savings towards the creation of an art center where “beautiful pictures would hang and where little children would come to look and to adorn the galleries with their own precious living images.” Through the vision of Banta and the efforts of countless civic leaders, the origin of what would eventually become the South Bend Museum of Art was born.
A permanent collection of artworks has lived at the core of the museum’s mission since its beginning. In March 1948, Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Morris sponsored the creation of the Indiana Room, an intimate gallery designed to exhibit works by Hoosier artists. This contribution was made to “encourage the art and artists of Indiana.” Along with the gallery, Mr. and Mrs. Morris donated their collection of works by Indiana artists, which became the first 5 artworks acquired by the Art Center.
For 75 years the collection has grown and changed along with the city it serves, sustained by gifts from collectors and artists, and acquisitions supported by the museum’s Zisla Acquisition Fund, Art League, and individual contributions. Consisting of over 1,100 works of art, the collection reflects our vibrant arts community while exploring genres, mediums, and artistic practices from across the nation.This exhibition features artwork acquired for each of the museum’s first 75 years. The collection is an eclectic and dynamic representation of our art center roots and support for artists, both regionally and nationally. Each artwork’s individual story weaves together a unique tapestry of the museum’s past, present, and future.