John Mellencamp cements Hoosier legacy with donation of archives to Indiana University
Acclaimed musician, artist and activist John Mellencamp will donate an archived collection of his life and work to Indiana University, IU President Pamela Whitten announced at the Mellencamp Symposium held March 3 on the IU Bloomington campus. The collection will include items related to his iconic artistry, social activism and philanthropy, and it holds original creative works, photographs, instruments and other significant memorabilia.
“John’s impact on music and American culture is immense,” Whitten said. “On behalf of Hoosiers everywhere, I am exceptionally proud of John’s lifelong association with IU and deeply grateful to him for selecting the university as the permanent home for his archives.
“His collection will be an incredible resource for arts scholars and a clear source of inspiration to our students. We are thrilled to honor him and celebrate his many contributions to music, art and IU.”
The archives will be a focal point for IU’s efforts to inspire and equip students for successful arts and entertainment careers across creative arts disciplines.
The donation of his archives was one of several announcements made at the one-of-a-kind symposium that brought academic scholars, music industry leaders, journalists and more to campus for a deep dive into the cultural and social impact of Mellencamp’s vast oeuvre. The day included interactive talks, panel discussions and a live interview with the Hoosier singer.
During the symposium luncheon, Whitten also announced that a sculpture honoring Mellencamp's artistic legacy will be commissioned for the Bloomington campus. The sculpture — funded by a group of donors, including John and Michelle Vickery, Randy Hoffman, Allen Grubman, and others who wish to remain anonymous — will rest near the Fine Arts Plaza on the IU Bloomington campus and will symbolize the strong connection Mellencamp has to his southern Indiana roots.
Whitten also announced that the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University will partner with Mellencamp to launch an exhibition in the 2023-24 academic year. The exhibition will showcase Mellencamp’s visual artistic expression and pay tribute to his accomplishments as a contemporary artist. It will serve as a gateway for students to experience and engage with Mellencamp’s original works of art.
“The IU Eskenazi Museum of Art is pleased to present this exhibition of artwork by John Mellencamp,” said David A. Brenneman, the Wilma E. Kelley Director of the Eskenazi Museum of Art. “We look forward to celebrating his work as a visual artist, and we are thrilled to host an exhibition of work by a Hoosier native who has contributed so much to our community. This exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for our teaching museum to connect IU students and our community with contemporary art.”
Mellencamp began to paint earnestly in 1980, drawing inspiration for his artwork from the German Expressionism movement of the 20th century. His works of art have been featured in gallery exhibitions across the nation, and he recently released a coffee table art book featuring 170 original works. John Mellencamp: American Paintings and Assemblages is out now via Rizzoli New York.
“Although we may primarily know Mellencamp as a rock star, one of the highest-selling of all time and a Hall of Famer, he is also a great painter, as this book shows,” said Bob Guccione Jr., publisher of Mellencamp’s art book. "Not a musician who also paints. ... No, John legitimately belongs in the modern art pantheon."
More information about the exhibition will be released through the Eskenazi Museum of Art website as plans develop.
"Mellencamp has created an important body of work that has earned him both critical regard and an enormous audience," said Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine. "His songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music."
Mellencamp, a Bloomington resident whose music career spans more than four decades, kicked off his extensive Live and In Person 2023 North American tour at Indiana University Auditorium. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member has garnered a Grammy Award, the Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck awards, and the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting.
His critically acclaimed studio album, Strictly a One-Eyed Jack, was released last year and received praise from The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and more, also reaching the No. 1 Best Selling Album upon release week. A deluxe-edition reissue of his beloved seminal album Scarecrow followed, featuring a large collection of bonus tracks, rarities and more never previously shared material.
"Legends of Rock: John Mellencamp," a new permanent exhibition, opened last year at the storied Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.