Mathers Museum to host limestone exhibit created by Traditional Arts Indiana

Traditional Arts Indiana, a partnership between Indiana University and the Indiana Arts Commission, will join in regional celebrations of Indiana limestone throughout June with an exhibit and several programs.

Limestone Traditions: Stoneworking in South-Central Indiana,” a traveling exhibit from Traditional Arts Indiana, will be on display at various locations in Monroe, Owen and Lawrence counties in celebration of Limestone Month. The exhibit takes a cultural approach to the region’s building stone industry, featuring craftspeople, local quarries and mills, and the experiences and stories of career stone workers.


Scott Todd, a stone cutter at Architectural Stone Sales in Bedford, uses a pneumatic hammer and chisel to carve an ornamental relief panel. Photo by William Winchester Claytor, Traditional Arts Indiana

The exhibit opens June 1 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures on the Bloomington campus. It also travels to weekend events at McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer on June 15; at Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell on June 22 and 23; and on Bedford’s town square on June 29, where several stone craftspeople will be on hand to demonstrate and discuss their work. A detailed schedule of events is available online.

The exhibit, based on a research project TAI launched in 2012, explores present-day Indiana limestone work in towns along the Salem Oolitic Limestone Belt. TAI researcher Joseph O’Connell interviewed people involved in the industry, covering topics such as turning a stone baluster and running a fifth-generation family business. The exhibit features excerpts from those conversations with accompanying documentary photography, and presents a range of individuals involved in limestone work, including carvers, toolmakers and other tradespeople.

“Very few people have the opportunity to have a job that’s also their passion; that they can make a living off of, and have the hands-on feeling of it, and can look back at the final product of it and see the steps that went into it, and know what you did — the small part that you played in completing the total job for the building,” Bybee Stone Co. sawyer Jim Matthews told O’Connell.

Presented in partnership with Indiana Parks and Reservoirs, the exhibit is funded in part by the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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