Guest post by Tim Miller, writer and co-producer of The Indiana Murals of Thomas Hart Benton: Visions of the Past, Lessons for the Present, and Treasures for the Future (2001).
My career has spanned thirty years. I’ve been blessed when it has dovetailed in wonderful moments of serendipity. Such was the opportunity to produce this documentary on the Thomas Hart Benton murals at Indiana University.
Shortly after I arrived at IU in January 2000, my supervisor and the program’s executive producer, Ralph Zuzolo, told me the Media Production office had shot footage documenting preservation work on the murals a few years before. The videos sat in the office tape library, but there were no plans for how to make it available for anyone to see. Ralph and I agreed that an educational and lasting document of the great conservation work should be produced. We decided to go further and make a program that encompassed the whole history of the murals—from their creation in the 1930s to preservation work in the 1990s.
I was excited because I grew up in the Kansas City area where Benton had lived much of his life and was revered. I hadn’t heard of his Indiana Murals before, but was immediately captivated by them and the story of how they came to be. To produce this documentary was also special in that Indiana was the home state of both my parents. Having recently moved here, I was determined to create something that would be a tribute to their Hoosier background. I dug right in!
Months of research—recording interviews, creating the production design, acquiring archival materials, and editing—led me to some of the most rewarding times of my career. I was honored that I could assemble experts in conservation work, state history, Indiana University history, and the man himself, Thomas Hart Benton. I’m thankful to my then-colleagues in the IU Media Production office, the IU Art Museum (now the Eskenazi Museum of Art), IU faculty, and Benton’s friend Sidney Larson who participated. I was honored yet again when the program won a CINE Golden Eagle Award in the instructional documentary category.
Many thanks to Nan Brewer for inviting Ralph and me to this new public showing of the program. Though shot in standard definition video, just on the cusp of HD TV, I hope you enjoy this work and learn more about the Indiana Murals of Thomas Hart Benton. I hope you see the murals as I always will—visions of the past, lessons for the present, and treasures for the future.
Join us on April 8 as IU Cinema screens a documentary double feature that consists of Thomas Hart Benton and The Indiana Murals of Thomas Hart Benton: Visions of the Past, Lessons for the Present, and Treasures for the Future. The co-producers of The Indiana Murals of Thomas Hart Benton, Tim Miller and Ralph Zuzolo, will be present. This event is part of the Art and a Movie series, a partnership between the Eskenazi Museum of Art and IU Cinema that is sponsored by Marsha R. Bradford and Harold A. Dumes.
Before the films, you can also attend a pre-screening talk entitled “Benton’s Indiana Murals in Focus,” which will contextualize the murals and explore the history and controversies of Benton’s Indiana work. The talk will take place at 2 pm at the Hall of Murals in the IU Auditorium and will be led by Nan Brewer, the Eskenazi Museum’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper. We thank the IU Auditorium’s staff for their assistance with this program.
Tim Miller is a producer of media production at Indiana University in Bloomington.