in LaPorte County’s Vibrant Art Scene
Art in numerous forms seems to be just about everywhere in Northern Indiana’s LaPorte County. Visitors enjoy many of these mesmerizing options in the great outdoors – from a giant mural hand-painted with a community’s dynamic history to intriguing sculptures to huge musical instruments where you can strike up your own tune.
Art shops and studios throughout the county overflow with one-of-a-kind finds from talented and ingenious artists who live and work in this sunny region along Lake Michigan. And who would dream of going home from a trip to the area without a creation that recalls time spent along the big lake and inland lakes too? So come for the getaway – the swimming, fishing, and fresh-air fun – but take time to discover LaPorte County’s artsy side as well. It’s mesmerizing, soul-soothing, thought-provoking, and simply enjoyable.
People, Places, and the Past – All on the Plaza
That fabulous 108-foot-long mural painted on the side of a building in downtown LaPorte’s Plaza 618 shows the culmination of the community’s dedication to making outdoor art come alive. In colorful, intricate detail, this hand-painted creation chronicles the town’s history… the Pottawattamie tribe, round barns, draft horses, and a host of products that have been made here, including Crown bicycles, Jiffy popcorn, furniture, and woolens used to make Navy pea coats in World War I. Renowned Indiana artist Tom Torluemke created wonderful detail as he and fellow artist Bill Pozzo added lakes, boats, sandcastles, baseball, the drive-in, log cabins and local characters to the mural.
To add to the pleasure of viewing this unique artwork, Plaza 618 features benches, a splash pad, colorful umbrellas, and a Joyful Noise instrument (see below). The mural, located at Lincolnway and Monroe streets, is an amazing ode to LaPorte, but will stir memories of your own hometown at the same time.
Make a Joyful Noise
Think of the calming, relaxing reverberation of wind chimes wafting through the air and you’ll have an idea of the sounds you can make with giant musical instruments installed around the community of LaPorte. This town loves musical art every bit as much as visual art, and the Joyful Noise Project is a testament to that passion. Visitors find the large musical instruments, each with a unique sound, in unexpected places throughout LaPorte and can stop to play them anytime. There are chimes, xylophone-like instruments, and drum creations in parks, on the Plaza, and next to city buildings. Some stand six-feet tall or more. It’s your chance to make your own kind of music and let it float on the breeze.
Strictly Uptown in Michigan City
Visitors looking for treasures – from jewels and gems to vintage goods, fancy to funky to just plain fun – hit the mark in Michigan City’s Uptown Arts District. This area in the heart of downtown is home to an array of shops, including Patina Vintage Goods for true finds from both past and present; Nest Number 4 for home décor and unique metalscript wall hangings; and Hoity Toity for furnishings and home goods from high-end to reclaimed and recycled. Don’t miss Chef Bizarro Millinery for all kinds of distinctive hats plus an ever-changing array of face masks.
For a true vacation remembrance, stop by Beach Bum Jewels for necklaces, bracelets and more made from Lake Michigan beach glass – those smooth, colorful stones created when lake water tosses and tumbles glass over time. These are just a few of the stores in this nifty area of town. Is all that shopping making you hungry? You’re in luck because there’s plenty of great dining here, too, with everything from delicious muffins and java at Lakeshore Coffee and Specialties to primo beef at Galveston Steakhouse to Japanese specialties at Hokkaido to tacos and ice cream at Cabo’s.
Out and About for Even More Art
Fawn Run Farm Primitives, Rolling Prairie – Open the first weekend of each month and other times by appointment, this is the place for all kinds of primitive folk dolls and animals handcrafted by the owner. Her creations are loaded with personality, and the barn itself is filled with other artsy treasures, including dried flowers, scented candles, and early wares.
Hook Pottery Paper, LaPorte – These two artists incorporate materials indigenous to the area for their two types of art. Jon Hook creates stunning ceramics uniquely fired with wood, creating glazed flashes of color in the finished designs. Andrea Petersen makes delicate, unusual paper and stationery that reflect the environment, often from reclaimed fibers.
Thaddeus C. Gallery, LaPorte – You’ll find the works of both new and established artists in one of the top-rated galleries in Northern Indiana. The gallery showcases painting, printmaking, sculpture, glass, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and other functional art from the local region and around the globe.
Strolling Past Sculptural Wonders in Westville
The Purdue University Northwest Campus Sculpture Garden in the community of Westville is food for the art lover’s soul. The garden features more than 40 public works of art. You can tour on your own or schedule a curator-guided excursion. You’ll see creations such as giant yellow birds created in blown glass – a tribute to nature. A steel-and-copper sculpture pays homage to the immense power of weather and climate change. A steel creation painted in vibrant colors resembles Japanese origami, and another sculpture in steel and concrete suggests the elaborate movements of dancers.
It’s all part of the university’s Art Collections Odyssey Program. The name derives from the name of a beautiful piece of sculpture which depicts Greek storyteller Homer’s great legend about Odysseus (Ulysses) as he maneuvers his raft across vast waters on his way home from the Trojan War to Ithaca, a journey that took some 20 years.
More Monumental Creations in Michigan City
Michigan City takes pride in the unique outdoor sculpture on display around town. Several years ago, an initiative called SculptFusion (download Otocast App/Michigan City for tour) was born in Michigan City’s Uptown District, featuring a rotating outdoor display along the streets of sculptures created by top artists. Now, you’ll find them at other locations around the city too. In addition, the Lubeznik Center for the Arts features an Outdoor Sculpture Garden on its grounds, where one-of-a-kind works are set on the shady property near Lake Michigan.
Insider Tip: All of these LaPorte County artistic pleasures inspire visitors to snap a photo nearly everywhere they go, with camera or Smartphone. Take the opportunity to take home memories of artsy finds when you snap a shot at one of these fabulous outdoor venues. And while you’re at it, don’t miss one of the most photographed and painted icons of the area – The pristine Michigan City Lighthouse, commanding the Lake Michigan shore.