The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Proudly Presents: The Paintings of N.A. Noel
The Indiana art community lost a world-renowned and iconic artist last year when Zionsville resident Nancy Noel succumbed to her illness and passed away on Aug. 16, 2020. Those who are familiar with her art, along with those who have never been exposed to her whimsical and emotion-evoking work, will have a chance to pay tribute to her life and several pieces from her collections at a brand-new exhibition coming to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: The Paintings of N.A. Noel. The exhibition officially opens on Nov. 13, 2021, and runs through January 2022.
Experiencing the Magic That Noel Created
I spoke with Monica Humphrey, director of exhibits at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and one of Noel’s sons, Alex Kosene, about the genesis of this exhibition and what families and children will experience once the exhibition officially opens to the public. The exhibition, The Paintings of N.A. Noel, will consist of a minimum of 40 original works of Noel’s that were thoughtfully curated by Kosene and the museum staff.
“I thought the museum would be the appropriate place to celebrate my mother, Nancy, because of her long history with The Children’s Museum and also because of her focus on children throughout her life and career,” Kosene shared. “I thought it would be exciting for families and children to rediscover Nancy or newly discover Nancy.”
Kosene explained in more detail why he and his brother Michael Kosene thought The Children’s Museum would be better suited to exhibit Noel’s art in a style that other museums could not.
“My mother painted children and animals; she never painted adults,” Kosene said. “I felt like The Children’s Museum would celebrate her and the messages of innocence that you experience in her art as children often do. Other museums would focus on her work from an intellectual or analytical perspective, and my mother was all about the emotion in her work. The Children’s Museum knows how to present her story in a way that is not only appropriate but will be exciting and interactive for kids, and I know that is what my mother would really want.”
An Emotional and Interactive Exhibition
The Kosenes would like to thank the Herb Simon Foundation and members of the Simon family for their support of this exhibition and of Noel’s work over the decades.
Kosene added, “There’s going to be a lot of original paintings that represent Nancy’s history, and the museum is creating a narrative that presents both her career, her different styles and her process. There will be programming that examines the use of color and her process so that kids have a little better understanding about the ‘artistic’ process and then they will get to participate in the ‘process’ themselves with tools that will be part of the exhibit.”
When asked how difficult it was to choose the pieces that will be displayed in this exhibition, Kosene replied, “I wanted to show my mother’s versatility and track her evolution as an artist. I went back chronologically and discovered things that I didn’t even know about. For instance, I discovered her early oil or mixed media paintings—some of which were once in the Hoosier Salon [Patrons Association]. I never knew that she competed in the Hoosier Salon.”
Kosene continued, “Then we selected some iconic pieces like ‘Cat on a Quilt’ and ‘Sarah,’ which is her all-time bestselling piece for reproductions. It was a tough process because we have hundreds and hundreds of images to choose from.”
A View Inside the Noel’s Most Sacred Space
The exhibition will also feature a small re-creation of Noel’s studio featuring some of her art tools and effects from her personal space in which she created beauty and whimsy on canvas.
“There’s going to be some pieces from her studio and maybe some of the canvases that were works-in-progress hanging in her studio,” Kosene shared. “It will be kind of like going inside of her head. Her studio was a sacred space for sure, and hopefully, it will bring a little bit of that to the museum experience.”
Additionally, Humphrey shared that there will be three areas of engagement in this exhibition, all of which apply to the museum’s educational framework and family-learning initiatives.
“Everything we do is to create conversations and prompt kids and adults to collaborate and explore together,” Humphrey stated. “There will be three different types of self-guided activities that we’ve put together that visitors can come and participate in. The programming that we’ve developed for this exhibition allows us to dive into Nancy’s story a little more and talk about the nuances of creating art in different ways. This exhibit will be part of our general admission, which is really important to us. We want to make sure that everything we have to offer is available for everyone who comes to the museum.”
The Future of N.A. Noel Studio
When asked if Kosene and his brother have any other immediate plans for exhibiting their mother’s work, Kosene said, “My brother, Michael, and I are committed to upholding her legacy and to bring her art to more people. We are also committed to giving her the place she deserves in Indiana’s art history. We are re-envisioning the N.A. Noel brand and are figuring out what we want to do, what will be best for her legacy and are exploring different things. And yes, we are planning more exhibitions and still offering high-quality reproductions, but we really want to share her originals with people, and this exhibition at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the first opportunity to do that, so we are thrilled to see how it goes.”
For more information on this extraordinary upcoming exhibition, visit childrensmuseum.org.