The institution that is the present Art Museum of Greater Lafayette began on April 14, 1909, when twenty-five citizens came together to found the Lafayette Art Association in response to the “general awakening of art interests all over (the) country and state.” The purpose was to “stimulate and encourage interest in art and to give annual exhibitions, and also to establish and maintain permanent collections of works of art,” and by May 1909, there were 386 members each paying $1.00 in annual dues.
The Association began collecting works of art and held its first exhibition in 1911. Among the early acquisitions, often purchased directly from the artist, were The Cruise of the Ellida by F. Luis Mora, Winter in the Ravine by T.C. Steele, Entrance to the Kasbah by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Snow Covered Banks by Clifton Wheeler, The Lariat Maker by Eanger Irving Couse, and The Red Parasol by Frederick Milton Grant. As the permanent collection continued to grow under the guidance of Judge Henry Vinton and founding member Laura Anne Fry, the Association utilized members' homes, local schools, the YMCA, and the Tippecanoe County Courthouse for classes, meetings, exhibitions, and programs until, in 1928 David Linn Ross, founder of Ross Gear Tool, offered a building at 628 Main Street rent free to both the Association and the Tippecanoe Historical Society. This site served as the home for Lafayette Art Association for the next thirty-two years. It provided gallery space for an ongoing exhibitions program.
The Greater Lafayette Museum of Art was awarded re-accreditation by the AAM in 1995. In 2000 the Board of Directors ratified a new name and mission for the Museum, and it became the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, in order to “celebrate the power of art to inspire, challenge, and instruct our community through collections, exhibitions, and programs”.
Over the years the collection has expanded to over 800 works of art as a result of donations and purchases. Major donations, including the Prisker Pottery Collection, the Alice Baber Memorial Collection, the Akeley Collection, and the Robert and Ellie Haan donations of work by important Indiana artists, have helped to enhance the quality of the collection.
The mission of the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette is to celebrate the power of art to inspire, challenge, and instruct our community through collections, exhibitions, and programs.