Indiana museum receives Getty ‘Keeping It Modern’ grant

Keeping It Modern

The Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. Image courtesy of Newfields

INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this week, the Getty Foundation announced that Newfields is one of the recipients of its grant initiative, Keeping It Modern, and has received $170,000 to support architectural conservation at Newfields’ own Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana.

For 2019, the Getty Foundation awarded more than $1.6 million to support 10 historically significant buildings built in the 20th century as part of the initiative. The grants extend internationally and include buildings in Argentina, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Lithuania, Spain, Uganda and the United States.

“We are extremely excited by the Getty Foundation’s investment in the iconic Miller House and Garden. The grant will enable us to create a preservation plan that will allow Newfields to maintain this mid-century masterpiece at the highest level possible,” said Kathryn Haigh, chief operating officer at Newfields. “We are honored to be included in this important group of architectural landmarks from around the world.”

The Miller House and Garden is acclaimed worldwide as a key masterpiece of modernist architecture and landscape design. It was built in 1953 as the home to industrialist J. Irwin and Xenia Simmons Miller and their children. The house was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, with interiors by Alexander Girard and landscape design by Dan Kiley. The iconic home was constructed as a year-round residence and features an open layout, glass and steel walls and blocks of gridded skylights. The home and garden were generously donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in 2009 by Irwin’s children and is still owned and operated by Newfields. Public and private tours are offered year-round.

After more than 65 years since its construction, the Miller House and Garden’s need for significant maintenance is growing. The grant from the Getty Foundation will help Newfields prioritize and plan for how best to address these conservation challenges going forward.

Newfields has partnered with PennPraxis, a group from the University of Pennsylvania, to identify the most critical structural concerns and issues and will establish protocols for assessment, monitoring and preservation management. The combined expertise of Newfields and PennPraxis will guarantee holistic studies of the technical, design, maintenance, programming and institutional aspects of preservation, resulting in a comprehensive conservation management plan. This plan will enable Newfields to develop an overarching maintenance plan for the house, interior and grounds that moves beyond short-term maintenance projects.

J. Irwin Miller and his wife Xenia Simmons Miller were key patrons in Columbus and supported much of its iconic mid-century architecture. The North Christian Church in Columbus is another one of the city’s National Historic Landmarks, and was also designed by Eero Saarinen in 1964. The church features a distinctive hexagonal rooftop that rises into a needle-like spire at the top. The North Christian Church was also a recipient of a Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern grant and received $150,000 to help support the church’s long-term upkeep.

Since its inception in 2014, Keeping It Modern has supported 64 national and international model conservation projects that emphasize research and planning. The initiative has also created new networks of professionals involved in the conservation of modern buildings. To solidify this impact, the Getty Foundation will offer one more year of direct project support in 2020 and fund a series of workshops that build capacity in regions with large concentrations of modern heritage.