Melissa Merli: It's time to head east for some fun

Melissa Merli: It's time to head east for some fun

One of the events I really want to check out this summer is the exhibition "Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886—1904" at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

It was co-curated by Jane Block, who recently retired as the head of the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art at the University of Illinois.

Who's not intrigued by the human face? And, "Face to Face," according to the museum, is the first exhibition to explore neo-Impressionist portraits, featuring 30 oil paintings and 20 drawings.

But there's a lot more happening in Indy. This past week, I had lunch here in Champaign with Morgan Greenlee, senior communications manager at Visit Indy, the convention and visitors bureau.

She visited C-U to pitch Indy to me and to a TV station. The 29-year-old is an excellent pitchperson, I can tell you.

I picked her mind about farm-to-table restaurants, art and other culture in Indiana's capital city, just a two-hour drive from C-U and 90 minutes from Danville.

I don't get over to Indy that often, even though my two nephews and their families live there. Actually, there is so much to do in C-U that I can get to by walking, bicycling or by a short drive. But sometimes you have to get out of Dodge. And Greenlee perked my interest.

Here's a summation of some of the things we discussed:

— The Cultural Trail, an 8-mile trail that connects eight cultural districts including Fountain Square, Indiana Avenue, Mass Avenue, The Canal & White River State Park and the Wholesale District. It links to the Monon Trail, allowing for easy access from downtown to Broad Ripple Village and Carmel. Along the trail are 5 acres of new landscaping, 86 bike racks, 25,500 square feet of stormwater planters and best of all, public art projects.

— The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres is located next to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I've been wanting to check this out. It includes woodlands, wetlands, meadows and a 35-acre lake. It's billed as one of the largest museum art parks in the country and one of only a few with temporary, site-specific artworks.

100 Acres is open daily from dawn until dusk.

— If I had to stay overnight, I would pick The Alexander in downtown Indy because its decor was curated by staff members at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

— Fountain Square is an eclectic artists' district. Artist Kyle Ragsdale and his wife live there, having built in an empty lot a mid-century modern home. I do know there's a decent bead shop in Fountain Square.

— Greenlee recently toured Hotel Tango Whiskey, a distillery that opened last year on Fletcher Place, off Virginia Avenue. It's billed as Indiana's first disabled veteran-owned, -operated artisan distillery, making liquor from Midwestern raw materials. It offers tastings and sells bottles as well.

— Greenlee said Indy also has a "ridiculous number" of micro-breweries. And she talked up the Sun King CANvitational, a huge block party Sept. 20 on Georgia Street. It will feature canned beer from more than 30 breweries nationwide. Hmmm...I've recently tasted canned beers at The Iron Post that were quite good.

— Following the booze trail, the Indiana State Museum will present the exhibition "American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition," Sept. 19 through Jan. 15, 2015. I grew up in Westville, where the immigrants ignored Prohibition by making their own beer and wine (and by bootlegging too).

— Greenlee raved about the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo.

She said the eight orangutans are human-like, with distinct personalities. One likes to press its nose against the noses of humans who press their noses against their enclosure. Another is fascinated by the tattoos on human visitors.

"It's mind-blowing, and to be honest, almost creepy-eerie," she said.

Through Sept. 1, zoo members can see the apes awake in the morning, an hour before the zoo opens to the general public.

— I asked Greenlee about farm-to-table restaurants. One I'd heard of is Zest! Exciting Food Creations at 1134 E. 54th St. Zest also opened the Twist Lounge craft cocktail room next door. Another she recommends is Goose the Market on Delaware Street; it's chef-owned and -operated.

She also talked up the Public Greens: Urban Kitchen, Greens & Grill off Monon Trail in Broad Ripple. It's a non-profit, with proceeds going toward feeding less fortunate kids in Indy.

— I asked about the old Union Station. She said Crown Plaza has a hotel there, with rooms and 26 Pullman train cars that you can stay in.

— Tinker Flats, which will open in 2015, will be in a huge old warehouse on 16th Street and will serve as sort of an incubator for new restaurateurs, chocolatiers and mixologists.

Greenlee and I chatted about a lot of other places and happenings in Indy but these should get you started.

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or Her blog is at

Topics (4):Art, Food, Music, Restaurants

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