I first visited Newfields in Indianapolis, IN (which is the campus’ new name as of 2017) in 2014 with my husband when it was just the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and again earlier this year for my cousin’s wedding, where they were married in a quaint outdoor ceremony amongst beautiful flowers and plants. Home of an extensive art collection featuring the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Picasso, Rembrandt, Georgia O’Keefe, and many others, as well as an extensive 152 acre park, Newfields is now more of a public garden and event venue than art museum. We returned once more to try to photograph and write about this once revered haven for art, but left feeling exceedingly disappointed.
Name: Newfields, formerly Indianapolis Museum of Art
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Address: 4000 N Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46208
Parking: Free parking
While Newfields itself is quite beautiful, be warned that if you visited the campus back when it was “just” the Indianapolis Museum of Art as we did, you may be as disappointed as we were that the focus has shifted away from the arts and much more towards entertainment, and newer staff are very unfriendly and standoffish, perhaps because Newfields is more than $80 million in debt after recent changes. My husband remarked that some of the gimmicky events that happen here make it feel more like a kids carnival than an actual museum, and I tend to agree with him.
Perhaps most disappointingly, their photography policy is by far the strictest of anywhere we’ve ever visited, so don’t bother brining a “professional” camera, or you will be cursed out or tossed out. What this policy actually means to the staff of Newfields is evidently anything that isn’t an iPhone camera, regardless of your skill level or intentions, makes you a “professional photographer” and therefor you will be barred from entering any of the buildings and most of the premises.
We had arranged to get media passes and permission to photograph the grounds on our most recent visit to create this piece, and even with those permissions and passes, we were followed around by staff and harassed, insulted, and threatened despite having obtained previous permission to photograph the grounds and that we were following all of the posted rules. We weren’t asking for any special treatment, taking photos with people in them, or causing any trouble, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Sadly, we weren’t the only guests who were mistreated or harassed by the staff of Newfields. When a security guard came to chastise us for photographing the fountain pictured above with “professional filming equipment” (which is not at all what we were using), another set of visitors approached us afterwards and told us they’d been yelled at by the same person for taking a selfie with a statue in the garden, and that they wouldn’t be returning because they were so embarrassed to have been yelled at in public by an angry employee. It’s extremely disappointing that people who were following all of the rules, not disturbing others, not using a flash, and not being noisy at all were treated so poorly. After talking to my friends and family who have visited Newfields, they agreed that it’s a definite “pass” on their lists as well.
Overall, Newfields is pretty enough for a public garden, but I can’t recommend wasting your time here if you want to do anything other than wander the park-like campus aimlessly seeking out hidden art. I wish I could recommend this place, because they do have an expansive garden filled with gorgeous and fascinating plants, as well as an impressive classic art collection, but I can’t in good conscience tell my readers to waste their money here, or put themselves at risk of being accosted when there are so many other gorgeous public gardens and museums that are so much more welcoming.
If you do decide to visit, don’t even think about daring to bring “professional” camera equipment, like the medium format film camera or Canon Mark IV I use, or anything that isn’t a cell phone camera, because you’ll be stalked and harassed by the employees, barred from entering any of the buildings you paid to see, and essentially treated like criminals.
Skip Newfields and check out the dozens of other gardens, museums, and midwest flower festivals that are welcoming, engaging, and worth visiting.
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