Education: Herron School of Art + Design

The Herron School or Art and Design is an important educational institution for the state of Indiana as the only accredited, professional art and design school in the state.

Indiana Minority Business Magazine caught up with Dean Valerie Eickmeier to talk about the school’s history, role in developing arts and artists and more.

IMBM: Tell us a little bit about the history of Herron and what the school offers.

Eickmeier: Throughout our 115-year history, Herron has been Indiana’s only professional school of art and design. That means we’re training students to be professional-level thinkers, creators and innovators. Our curriculum prepares graduates to be leaders in a world that requires a unique combination of creativity, conceptual skills and technical abilities. The school’s origin began with a $200,000 bequest to the Art Association of Indianapolis by Indianapolis businessman John Herron, who recognized the value of arts for the city.

As a result, the John Herron Art Institute was established in 1902 housing both a museum and professional art school. The museum’s art collection formed the nucleus of what would become the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The educational side became known as the Herron School of Art, but we added “Design” to the name in 2004 to better represent our focus. In 2005, we moved from our original location at 16th and Pennsylvania streets to Eskenazi Hall on the main IUPUI campus. This move — in addition to opening the Eskenazi Fine Arts Center in 2000 — allowed us to invest in incredible facilities, equipment and technologies to meet the needs of our students and faculty. We’re also equipped to better serve the community. 

Another important part of our history is that Herron became a school within Indiana University in the late 1960s. Herron was part of the original collection of professional schools that comprised IUPUI. The benefit is that our students get the quality education and personal attention they could expect at a private school, but with the extensive resources and tuition affordability of one of the finest public universities on the planet. This structure presents unique opportunities for cross-disciplinary investigations within Herron and with other IUPUI schools and departments.

IMBM: How does Herron serve the community?

Today, Herron has refined its emphasis on thinking and making and recognizes the importance of collaboration and an entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st century. Our commitment to collaborative learning and community engagement helps prepare students for many professional pathways and enhances our state’s reputation as a place where innovation and creative thinking are valued.

For example, the Basile Center for Art Design and Public Life is a transformational learning initiative that provides students with professional practice experiences. Students have opportunities to collaborate on projects with local businesses, nonprofit organizations, health care facilities, communities and government agencies that provide professional-level engagement and enhanced experiential learning.

We also offer a wide variety of community learning programs that help shape the imaginations and develop the skills of central Indiana’s aspiring artists, from young children to lifelong learners.

Our location adjacent to popular destinations such as Indianapolis Cultural Trail, White River State Park and the Downtown Canal provides access to the arts including five galleries exhibiting contemporary works of art by internationally renowned artists and designers.

IMBM: What’s next for Herron?

Herron aspires to be a national leader in art and design education in both theory and practice by merging new technologies with traditional creative processes. A growing number of businesses are emerging around new technologies, and there is a scarcity of creative people with hands-on experience.

The “Think It Make It Lab” at Herron provides students with access to digital technologies that will help them become experts in broad applications of design, production and fabrication for a variety of fields.

Art and design paired with other disciplines, for instance health and life sciences, will generate new and cutting-edge approaches to how we define areas of research and how they interconnect and relate to the professional world on a global scale.

We’re also expanding our graduate programs, especially in the field of visual communication design. Students are immersed in methods and processes that enable examination of human contexts and interactions in order to identify opportunities for improving people’s lives. Students learn to work with diverse groups of stakeholders in order to lead processes for change and innovation.

To be successful, we need partners and collaborators. We’re eager to work with leaders who can enhance the Herron experience and help prepare our students for the contemporary workforce. I


Ragnar Kjartansson and The National, A Lot of Sorrow Exhibition | June 21–Sept. 2

A Lot of Sorrow is a six-hour video by Ragnar Kjartansson of a performance by the indie-rock band The National. For this video, Kjartansson asked The National to play their 3 minute, 25 second hit song “Sorrow” live on stage, repeatedly and continuously, for more than six hours. As hours pass and fatigue sets in, the band members subtly change the song, experimenting and improvising while always keeping the original track recognizable. By stretching a single pop song into an hours-long experience, Kjartansson continues his explorations into the creative potential of repetitive performances to yield unexpected outcomes and meanings.

Also on view this summer:

Marsh Gallery: New paintings and a site-specific installation by Jaqueline Cedar

Basile Gallery: Art of the Zine (June–July); new work by Samuel Levi-Jones (Herron BFA ’09)

Cynthia Daignault: Light Atlas Exhibition | Sept. 13–Nov. 11

In 2014, artist Cynthia Daignault embarked on a yearlong exploration of America. This road trip and the resulting paintings form her most ambitious and epic work to date, Light Atlas. Consisting of 360 paintings, Light Atlas chronicles the view every 25 miles around the country. As a grand portrait of America, Light Atlas, with its 360 sequential 8-by-10-inch paintings, reads as an odyssey whose protagonist is America itself. Born of the American desire to go west and understand the meaning of the country through the meaning of its land, Daignault’s work explores the changing role and significance of American identity and landscape. This exhibition marks the first time that Light Atlas will be shown in its entirety.

Also on view this fall:

Marsh Gallery: Cat Head Press (September–November)

Basile Gallery: Manufactured Abstraction — work by Denver-based artist Derrick Velasquez (September–November); new work by Robert Horvath (November–December)


800 art and design students

47 full-time faculty members

115 years of art and design history

14 degree programs

70+ studio spaces

10,000+ square feet of exhibition space