INDIANAPOLIS – A landmark of Indiana music opened Indiana Landmarks’ new home. Taking a quick break from a concert tour, Hoosier John Mellencamp returned to Indiana to perform at the grand opening of the Indiana Landmarks Center on April 16.

Dubbed the Wondrous Opening Weekend (WOW), the festivities on April 16 and 17 celebrated Indiana Landmarks’ restoration and adaptation of the 120-year-old building most recently known as Central Avenue United Methodist Church at 12th Street and Central Avenue on Indianapolis’s Old Northside.

Mellencamp – a longtime friend of Bill and Gayle Cook, who are contributing more than $10 million of the $13 million project – gave a 30-minute acoustic performance Saturday afternoon, April 16, during the Landmark Premiere at Indiana Landmarks Center.

The Landmark Premiere was the first in a series of events to unveil the former home of the Central Avenue Church complex. The restored building now includes two theaters, reception halls and meeting spaces in addition to the headquarters of Indiana Landmarks.

The Landmark Premiere included a reception, dinner, a tribute to the Cook family and presentation of the Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration, an annual award given by Indiana Landmarks. The event also featured other musicians, including Dr. Charles Webb, Dean Emeritus of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, who inaugurated the 1892 organ, restored with gilded and stenciled pipes.

On Sunday, April 17, Indiana Landmarks invited the public to tour the complex during a free open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All welcome

“This is a place where everyone is welcome,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, “so, we’ve planned a variety of events to appeal to a broad range of audiences.”

The Classical Bash on Sunday afternoon featured two-time Grammy Award winning vocalist Sylvia McNair, renowned for her opera and cabaret performances. She was joined by The Landmark Trio –violinist Zach DePue, cellist Geoffrey Lapin and pianist Marianne Williams Tobias – in their debut performance as artists in residence at the Indiana Landmarks Center. The trio was joined by bassist Ju-Fang Liu, harpist Wendy Munson, organist Martin Ellis (of North UMC) and soprano Sheila Murphy, performing selections ranging from a Bach sonata to Hoagy Carmichael standards.

Showcased renovation

The weekend showcased the renovation of the Romanesque Revival structure, built in 1891 and 1900 as the Central Avenue Episcopal Methodist Church and known in recent years as Central Avenue United Methodist Church and the Old Centrum. Indiana Landmarks is installing its headquarters in the 1922 office wing of the complex, along with the main lobby for the interconnected nineteenth-century sections.

The 50-year-old nonprofit organization adapted the older sections – including the original sanctuary, Sunday school and banquet hall – as venues for expanded preservation programs, as well as, musical performances, corporate and cultural events and weddings. The 450-seat former sanctuary, called the Grand Hall, has become an elegant theater with stenciled walls, a domed ceiling and high-tech lighting effects. In Cook Theater – the former Sunday school wing – rooms on two levels overlook the main space, which has a proscenium stage.

Indiana Landmarks will move from its current headquarters in a historic building on the downtown canal following the April grand opening.

“We need a larger and more inspiring venue to accommodate more people and new programs,” Davis said. “Thanks to the Cook family and other generous donors, we’ll have several wonderful venues that suit different purposes.”

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Together photo

Former Central Ave. UMC reopened April 16 as Indiana Landmarks Center.

Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks Center.

Renovated sancutary of the former Central Ave. UMC will be used for concerts, lectures.