New exhibit at Children’s Museum celebrates work of famous Zionsville artist

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INDIANAPOLIS — A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will transport visitors to the studio and work of famous Zionsville artist, Nancy Noël.

During her lifetime, Nancy Noël painted more than 1,000 original works, selling millions of prints around the world. Some of her work was even made for the Children’s Museum.

“She actually created a couple of posters for us a few decades ago and has been a creative force in the community and we’ve had lots of lovely conversations with her over the years,” said Monica Humphrey, director of exhibits and interactive media for the Children’s Museum. “We have one of her works in our Carousel exhibit that’s been on display for a few years.”

Early on in Nancy’s career, she signed her work N.A. Noël, choosing to disguise her gender by using initials.

“Early on in her career because she didn’t want people to know that she was not a man because women artists were not taken as seriously,” said Alex Noël-Kosene, one of Nancy’s sons. So you know, for to have the confidence to be an artist, especially in her time, it really took a lot more, maybe than it does now.”

Eventually, she started using her own name, and her work blossomed. Now, Noël brothers say they hear from people whose children report on their mother in school.

“A school-age kid would go into school and do a report on a famous Hoosier and they would choose Nancy Noel. That just beat out everything for me,” Alex said.

The museum had been working for a while to get an exhibit about Nancy’s work, even talking with her about it before she died in August 2020. Alex and his brother Michael picked the conversation back up, wanting a place for people to learn more about their mother and her art.

“Of all the museums that would be good for this, The Children’s Museum was the appropriate place to celebrate Nancy,” Alex said. “Not only because of her long history that she has with the museum, but also because of her focus on children.”

More than 40 of Noël’s works are on display. Her sons and The Children’s Museum selected pieces both huge and small to show her evolution as an artist, her diversity of styles and processes, her famous works, and her lesser-known newer pieces and pieces that provoke family discussions and engagement.

“This exhibition is our first step in figuring out what is the best way to contribute to the world with this vast library of images that we have from this great artist,” Alex said.

The museum plans to incorporate programming that helps engage visitors with her art. There are already interactive elements including a drawing station and an area for visitors to sit together and create portraits of one another.

Other programs will include an art studio that visitors can come in and sit for 15 or 20 minutes with our interpreters to create their own art inspired by farm animals and informal conversations about what colors mean to us and how they can help us express our moods and our feelings.

“Our mother was very courageous and to have the success that she did in the art business,” Michael said. “I hope that people come here and become inspired by somebody who took a leap of faith and succeeded in this industry. And I hope that motivates others who might have a talent to go out and follow their dream.”

The Paintings of N. A. Noël exhibit opens at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis on November 13, 2021, and runs through January 9, 2022. People can visit the Children’s Museum website to see the times of when programs will be offered along with specific information about the programs. To see more work from Nancy Noël, visit the N.A. Noël website.

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