When Anna Seim White moved to Indianapolis with her husband, Jim, in 1966, she reached out to the Marian University music department looking for a teaching position. At the University of North Dakota, Anna had taught music and voice, talents she developed as a child growing up on a farm in Willow Lake, South Dakota.
Marian had no position to offer at the time. So Anna decided to volunteer at the art museum, then known as the John Herron Art Institute at 16th and Pennsylvania streets, and give piano lessons at home. It was a humble start for a woman who, over several decades, would help shape Newfields’ evolution and jump-start the city’s cultural scene. She led, founded, managed, or supported more than 25 major organizations, while also finding the time to garden, visit museums worldwide, and make cheese soufflés or English summer pudding for the guests she and Jim entertained in their home. Sometimes she treated them to a post-dinner piano concert.
Anna, who passed away on November 18, 2018, at age 84, was a founding member of Dance Kaleidoscope and the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana. She served on the IMA Board of Governors from 1983 to 1994, becoming the first woman chair. It was one of her proudest accomplishments, Jim said, along with the 27 years she spent as the executive director of Young Audiences of Indiana (now Arts for Learning). She insisted that artists be paid for their time and talents, oncetelling a local news reporter, “You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix your sink for the ‘exposure.’”
Anna dedicated 30 years of service to Newfields and was a Life Trustee. She and Jim, a professor emeritus of law at Indiana University, contributed works to the IMA including Ann Hamilton’s Wreathe and photographer Mark Tansey's Land & Water. They also helped fund the acquisition of Michael Graves’s Tea & Coffee Piazza Service and Kanō Eitoku’s Birds and Pine Tree. Their donation during the Campaign for the New IMA supported the Anna S. and James P. White Gallery of Contemporary Art. “She always had an interest in art,” Jim said. “The first gift she gave me, before we were married, was an abstract expressionist painting.”
Her legacy will continue with the establishment of the Anna S. White Endowed Fund for Contemporary Art, created in partnership with her husband and the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation. Visitors to Newfields will be able to enjoy lectures, conversations, and exhibitions, and curators will benefit from research, travel, and scholarship. •