The accomplishments and history of a small Eastern Indiana group of artists have been overshadowed by the fame accorded to the Hoosier Group and Brown County art colony artists. Nevertheless, in the late 19th century, a group of primarily self-taught, plein-air artists in Wayne County produced works that are the equals of their fellow Hoosier artists. The Richmond Group art colony is the earliest of the two art colonies established in Indiana, with its origins dating back to 1870, and was primarily comprised of ‘home people’ from East Central Indiana. The Richmond Group was working in earnest ten years before Hoosier Group artists Theodore Clement Steele (1847-1926) and John Ottis Adams (1851-1927) departed for Munich in 1880 and nearly forty years prior to Theodore Clement Steele’s arrival in Brown County in 1907.
The number of artists considered to be among those includfed in the Richmond Group art colony has varied over time and in various publications. Mary Burnet, author of Art and Artists of Indiana, which is considered the first comprehensive publication about Indiana art, lists the Richmond Group movement of having consisted of the following artists; John Elwood Bundy, Charles S. Conner, Maude Kaufman Eggemeyer, Anna Mary Newman, Charles Howard Clawson, Jr., Albert W. Gregg, George Herbert Baker, Edgar Forkner, Frank J. Girardin, William Arnold Eyden Sr., William Arnold Eyden, Jr., William A. Holly, Micajah T. Nordyke and William Alden Mote. Ella Bond Johnston in her publication, The Art Movement in Richmond, Indiana: A History listed the same artists but expanded the list to include Florence Chandlee, Ellwood Morris, Mrs. Joe A. Hodgin, Mrs. Elmer Lebo [Mary Hodgin Lebo], M. Ella Lacey, Fred Pearce, and Florence J. Fox. Ella Bond Johnston also mentioned John Albert Seaford of Spiceland, Henry County as having worked at the same time.
The establishment of an art association whose mission was “to interest the public in art, encourage those who do art work and to arrange for an annual exhibit of works of art produced by home people,” created an ideal environment for the arts to flourish. Established in 1898, the Richmond Art Association partnered with the local community school to establish an annual exhibition. The Richmond Art Association was the second oldest art association in Indiana. The Art Association of Indianapolis formed in 1883, fifteen years prior to the Richmond Art Association, and later changed its name to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1969.
Richmond Group artists John Elwood Bundy, Charles Conner, Ellwood Morris and Micajah T. Nordyke attended the first organizational meeting and played an integral role in its development. For thirteen years, the Annual Exhibition was held in the Garfield School building, formerly located at the northeast corner of Twelfth and South A Streets. The school classrooms were transformed into galleries; the desks were whisked away, additional lighting was added, temporary walls were built and the blackboards and walls were covered in fabric to create a suitable environment to hang art. The earliest exhibitions were comprised of artwork loaned by the local citizens. Prominent residents including William Dudley Foulke, lawyer and author; James E. Reeves, banker; John F. Miller, railroad superintendent, and John B. Dougan, banker, all lent art in this non-juried show which featured artwork from a variety of periods, and styles, and of various quality.