|Great Places | Brown County, Indiana|
Peaceful allure, an artsy spirit and unspoiled natural beauty collide in a southern Indiana gem.
Charm Town | Brown County, IN:
Brown County is one of those places we wish the whole world could be like—beautiful hills rolling into valleys (no flat plains here, thanks to an abrupt stop of glacial movement to the north thousands of years ago), winding roads that lead to quiet lanes, and charming towns that go by names like Bean Blossom, Story and Gnaw Bone.
And while the meandering landscape is surprising in a state known more for being flat, it’s the art and culture of this county—population 15,000—that astonishes. Ever since impressionist painter T.C. Steele moved in 100 years ago, “The Art Colony of the Midwest” has been a destination for more than 250 artists, painters, weavers, woodworkers and potters, according to Debbie Dunbar, director of marketing and communications for the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Chris Gustin is one of those creative types in love with her natural surroundings and devoted to finding ways of incorporating nature in her work as a weaver. “I had only been here once, but the people of Indiana talk about Brown County with such awe and reverence, I knew it’s where I could find happiness,” she says.
Although the visual arts certainly have been the driving factor in the area’s creative spirit, it doesn’t end there. On virtually every corner in downtown Nashville (the county seat), you’ll find someone who has found a way to pursue their creative passion, whether it’s Pete Sebert, a minister turned storyteller who gives colorful tours through the town’s history under the alias Jacob Brown, or Kristine Stout, a handbell soloist who opened the Joybell Theater seven years ago as a permanent showcase for her music.
“I just loved this little town,” says Kristine, a former banker who made the move from Michigan after passing through Brown County on a tour. “It has everything—art, music, theater.”
But it’s those secluded wide-open spaces that are the real draw—especially for log home lovers. Some estimates suggest that there are more than 1,500 log structures in the county. “Log cabins are our most popular lodging—we have everything from primitive cabins that were built hundreds of years ago to 6,000-sqaure-foot modern retreats,” says Debbie.
Because of the hilly terrain, much of the land is undeveloped, and this is what allows nature to take center stage, in life as well as in art—after all, nothing provides inspiration for a blank canvas like riding your horse along miles of trails in the 16,000-acre Brown County State Park while watching the fall leaves burn golden, or spotting a bald eagle as you paddle your canoe down Salt Creek to the Lake Monroe Reservoir on a dewy May morning. With nary a cell phone tower in sight, it’s easy to see how Brown County long ago earned the nickname “Peaceful Valley.”