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Indianapolis 101: Arts and Culture

Highlights some Indianapolis activities, neighborhoods, and resources for new Butler students and their families


Take a Video Tour of the City from Visit Indy and see what you're in the mood for.   

The Indianapolis Fun City Finder's "365 fun things to do in Indianapolis" starts with 18 categories, then drills down, noting "there are way too many attractions to keep track of." So its list helps, whether your interest is arts, parks, racing, history, music, or something else. Do Indy Right , part of the Do Stuff Network, lists events and concerts, things to do, and featured venues.

Bloggers enjoy the range of "things people from Indianapolis love" and "things you learn while living in Indianapolis."  

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider a smaller list, such as 10 Things to Do and See in Indianapolis, or narrow down your options by researching comedy clubs or theatre

Or start with the Indiana History Center to get some "Indiana's StorytellerTM" perspective on the past and how it's influenced our present. Whether you like auto racing or history, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway provides a lot of ground to cover - 1,025 acres - and a fine venue for various types of auto racing, concerts, and more.  

The Benjamin Harrison home and James Whitcomb Riley home are architectural and historic gems with well-informed tour guides.  For several years following his death, Harrison's home served as a dormitory for the Arthur Jordan Foundation's music school. When the school moved to Butler University in 1951, the foundation restored the house and opened it to the public.  The home at 1230 N. Delaware St. is now a national historic landmark. Riley's home at 528 Lockerbie St. is also a National Historic Landmark.


Indianapolis Museums

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

  • World's largest Children's Museum

  • Features five floors of interactive learning in the arts, world cultures, sciences, and humanities; Hosts different exhibits and galleries, so there is often something new to see with each visit

  • Rankings and accolades include voted No. 1 family museum in the country by USA Today readers; No. 1 children's museum by the Early Childhood Education Zone; listed among Parents' magazine's top childrens museums.

Indiana State Museum

  • Three floors of Core Galleries (permanent exhibits) about the history of Indiana
  • Located in White River State Park, the building itself is made only of materials from Indiana
  • Features a year-long calendar of exhibits that dive deeper into Indiana art, science, and culture
  • Brings in traveling exhibits 

NCAA Hall of Champions

  • The museum includes two floors of interactive exhibits
  • Covers all 24 of the NCAA sports in both women's and men's categories
  • It features history about the NCAA itself and up-to-date information about current teams
  • Some of the interactive features are a retro-style gym and a skiing simulator

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

  • The mission: "inspire appreciation and understanding of the art, history, and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America."
  • There are three permanent collections plus different traveling exhibits
  • The museum has both art and artifacts of the West and indigenous peoples
  • This is the only museum of its kind in the Midwest, and only one of two east of the Mississippi River to explore both Native America and the American West.

Monument Circle

  • Located in the center of downtown Indianapolis

  • Surrounded by shops and restaurants

  • The well-known Soldiers and Sailors Monument is located in the middle of Monument Circle.  
  • Visitors can climb to the top of the monument, or opt to take the elevator.  
  • Fun fact! Under the Monument is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum! 

Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art

  • The museum shows and develops ONLY contemporary art, including traveling exhibitions 
  • Before having designated locations, the IMOCA was "a museum without walls," hosting exhibitions around Indy
  • Two locations, Cityway and Fountain Square
  • FREE admission
  • The museum also promotes and supports developing artists

Indiana War Memorial Museum

  • The museum is part of the Indiana War Memorial Historic District, which includes seven different sites (including the Soldiers and Sailors Monument)
  • The building, along with others in the District, are designed in the Neoclassical style
  • There are three stories with exhibition space, administrative offices, and the Shrine Room, which symbolizes peace and unity and made of materials from worldwide to demonstrate the global nature of World War I ("The Great War")
  • The lower level is a FREE museum portraying the history of Indiana in war


Music in Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performs in the historic Hilbert Circle Theatre on Monument Circle, presenting classical, pops, family, and holiday concerts, plus a popular summer series outdoors. Student tickets for any age with a valid student ID are great budget option, with tickets as low as $10 available online or from the box office for many of the performances. 

Indianapolis Opera Indianapolis Opera is a regional professional opera company. It's considered regional because the company does performances in Michigan, Illinois, and Kentucky as well as Indianapolis. They perform at the Basile Opera Center, 4011 N. Pennsylvania St.

International Violin Competition of Indianapolis This is a competition held in Indianapolis every four years to both "discover major violin talent" as well as "nurture the careers of those identified." It is a highly regarded competition in the music industry and draws performers and audiences from around the world. The headquarters are at 32 E. Washington Street, downtown.

The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, located at the Schrott Center for the Performing Arts at Butler University, performs and holds educational programs.

The Murat Theatre at Old National Centre, 502 N. New Jersey, hosts musicians, comedians, musicals, ballet, and other shows. 

Jazz, rock, and just about any other kind of music are highlighted in Nuvo's article about the Indianapolis music scene.  VisitIndy highlights some popular Indoor and outdoor venues


Theater in Indianapolis

Like other major cities, Indianapolis has a thriving theater life. On Broadway or off, Indianapolis has shows to offer every kind of theater-goer. In addition to Clowes Hall on the Butler University Campus, check out some other theater places below!

Phoenix Theatre Inc. The Phoenix prides itself on "having the hipster mentality before it was cool." They focus on contemporary theater and do not perform any shows that have been done in Indianapolis before their production.

Indiana Repertory Theatre The Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) is a classic theater that shows all sorts of productions, and offers a student diiscount. IRT also sponsors youth writing competitions.

The historic Athenaeum includes a theatre, restaurant, and fitness facilities.

IndyFringe Festival and Theatre "IndyFringe exists to encourage, support, and assist independent artists by providing an accessible, affordable outlet." Both the two theaters that IndyFringe hosts events in and the 11 day festival on Mass Ave both work to produce shows by up-and-coming artists who just need help getting their foot in the door of the theater world. 

The Cabaret at the Columbia Club presents musical and storytelling cabaret artists with food and drinks available in a beautifully preserved building on Monument Circle downtown.

Footlite Musicals Footlite Musicals produces seven shows per season, and they are almost always some of Broadway's most popular musicals (go figure!). Fun fact, the theater also uses one of the few remaining two-manual, eleven rank Page Theatre pipe organs in the U.S. 

Young Actors Theatre Young Actors Theatre is a program that produces shows cast by young people, often those who participate in one of their many programs. The theatre is the pioneer of "self-empowerment theatre," in which they work on building the actors' self-esteem while also encouraging their growth in the profession.

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre Beef & Boards is a professional dinner-theater experience. Attendees begin with a buffet-style meal followed by live programming such as Broadway shows, plays, and children's theater.

Spotlight: Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, entered from the corner of Michigan Rd and 38th Street, is close enough to walk to! Butler students may receive free annual membership. The museum is home to art from all over the world from ancient to contemporary.

The grounds also are home to the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, the Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens, additional Gardens and Greenhouse, and Tobias Theater (The Toby). Admission to the Art & Nature Park comes with admission to the museum. 


Clowes Memorial Hall, on Butler's campus, is a performing arts venue for Butler dancers, actors, and musicians, and local, regional, and national speakers and performers.


Dance Kaleidoscope is a professional contemporary dance company in Indianapolis since 1972. Inspiring, educating, and entertaining are part of its mission. 

Indianapolis Ballet, Inc., home of the Indianapolis School of Ballet (ISB), 502 N. Capitol Ave., includes classes, performance, and community outreach. 

The Indianapolis City Ballet offers master classes, Evening With the Stars, promotes the Indianapolis International Ballet Competition, and has been featured on PBS. 


The Indianapolis Ballet Conservatory  is a pre-professional ballet school that trains students from around the country and stages two major performances a year.

Madam Walker Theatre Center

The Madam Walker Theatre Centre at 617 Indiana Ave., is on the National Historic Landmarks registry.  The former headquarters and manufacturing plant of Madam CJ Walker Hair Care and Beauty Products now houses educational, music, outreach, and theater programs.

The Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel

The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, north of Indianapolis, hosts theater, dance, music, lectures, and speakers in the Palladium, Studio Theater and the Tarkington. The center hosts six resident music, dance and theater companies and the foundation and archives dedicated to preserving the Great American Songbook


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937

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