After years of showcasing her art in an ordinary Broad Ripple distribution center, Zionsville painter Nancy Noel has opened one of Indiana’s most distinctive new art galleries, the Sanctuary — and the journey was nothing like she, or anyone, might have imagined.
“People would come there [a distribution center on 73rd Street] and buy the art, which I never expected that they would do,” Noel comments. Spurred on by the idea that people would make the effort to come to her for her particular style of art — a mix of bright, emotionally charged oil paintings of angels, individuals and animals that have sold hundreds of thousands of reprints worldwide — Noel decided to look into a full gallery of her own.
“I was looking for a beautiful place. I was thinking about renovating a barn … I just trusted the universe to bring me what I need when I needed it,” she asserts.
She soon found herself presented with a golden, if unanticipated, opportunity. An aged Victorian-era Methodist church on Zionsville’s elegant Main Street had recently become available, but Noel knew she must address funding issues, as well as her personal beliefs. Identifying herself as “spiritual,” Noel has reservations about organized religion.
“Religion is a place, I believe, that keeps you from knowing your own spirituality … You’re listening to someone else tell you what to do and what to think,” she affirms. However, when she stepped into the Zionsville church, she states that “I saw a vision for it. I knew it was right.”
Aptly named the Sanctuary in keeping with the location’s spiritual ties, Noel’s 10-month renovation features both classic and modern elements. The original stained-glass windows figure prominently in the open rooms, while a modern grand staircase and catwalk overlook the main gallery. Running through the center is an impressive 25-foot fireplace and a vast wrought-iron chandelier graces the main hall. A Victorian porch wraps around the front, designed for relaxing with coffee or snacks from the Sanctuary’s café.
However, for all the beauty of the gallery, Noel hopes that it is her artwork that will leave patrons feeling most moved.
“I’m hoping that they might feel something that they have not felt before, or that they have not understood before,” Noel states.
While she made her name painting the simplistic beauty of Amish life, angels and animals, Noel’s gallery highlights her range. She makes a bold statement with “Secrets and Lies,” a large work featuring a flowing angel followed by skeletal pursuers. Her work in Africa, which she has visited regularly for 20 years and has a 125-student school, is represented by a collection of stark images, including the emotive “Two Masai Women.”
But overall, she knows that she has only begun to break the surface of what lies ahead.
“You know, I’m usually hanging out around the Amish, the animals, angels and Africa, and I’m thinking, ‘OK, if I’m just on the A’s now, I’ve got to live an awful long time before I get off the A’s and into the B’s.’”
Nancy Noel’s gallery is located at 75 N. Main St., Zionsville, Ind. More information is available online at www.nanoel.com.