This spring, we unveiled a new item in the Special Collections that preserves and celebrates the LGBTQ+ history in our local Bloomington community: the Bullwinkle’s mural.
This mural graced the walls of Bullwinkle’s, a Bloomington nightclub opened by owner Phil Rhoades in the late 1970s in the former Loyal Order of the Moose Hall at the corner of South College Avenue and East 4th Street. Although Bullwinkle’s was frequented primarily by Bloomington’s LGBTQ+ community, its regular drag shows, illuminated dance floor, and live DJ made it a popular destination in Bloomington’s entertainment scene. In 1981, the upstairs space was opened as Second Story, a separate bar and live-music venue which became one of the early venues of the Lotus World Music Festival in the 1990s.
Both Bullwinkle’s and Second Story closed their doors in November 2006, and the building was sold. Local architect Russ Herndon was overseeing renovations of the building when he discovered the Bullwinkle’s mural slated for disposal and rescued it, later selling it to local antiques dealer Jeff Scofield. Scofield displayed the mural for years in his store, refusing to sell it, until it was noticed by IU professor Bernice Pescosolido. She convinced Scofield to donate it to the Kinsey Institute Special Collections where it could be preserved and shared with the wider community.
Commissioned in 1994 and painted by artist Jim Andrews on plywood, the artwork showcases abstract male figures participating in a variety of iconic Bloomington events and activities. These include swimming in the local limestone quarries, the Indiana University Little 500 bicycle race, a DJ overlooking dancing patrons at Bullwinkle’s nightclub, and the Lotus World Music Festival. The right side of the mural also includes the distinctive Monroe County Courthouse fish weathervane and the torch from the Indiana state flag which represents liberty and enlightenment.
Andrews’ selection of these social activities and bright vibrant colors conveys a sense of community, celebration, and joy. Over the years, Bullwinkle patrons added their own contributions to the artwork through assorted graffiti – most evident on the right-hand side of the panel.
We are proud to be chosen as stewards of this iconic piece of Bloomington LGBTQ+ history and to share it with our local community as a permanent installation in the Kinsey Institute’s Innovation Lounge – a space dedicated to collaboration and community.
We thank Jeff Scofield for trusting us with his treasure, artist Jim Andrews for his creative energy, and Dr. Bernice Pescosolido, Russ Herndon, and Phil Rhoades for their part in preserving the mural for future generations to study and enjoy.