It is unusual for a small rural school to house its own private art gallery (currently 28 oil, watercolor, and pastel paintings) of someone who is not only part of the community's heritage but also someone of Mr. Turman's talent and notoriety. The Turman Center houses the William Turman Art Gallery throughout the building. Private tours may be arranged by calling (812) 382-4500 during the school day, or (812) 382-4501 in the evening.
William Thomas Turman
Well-known artist, head of the Indiana State Normal School Art Department (now Indiana State University) for 40 years, and President of the Swope Art Gallery for the same longevity, William T. Turman (WTT), was born near Graysville, Sullivan County, Indiana in 1867. He was the son of Return Jonathan and Perlina Ann Wible Turman and the great-grandson of Benjamin and Sarah Turman, 1810 pioneers, for whom Turman Township, Turman Creek, Turman Prairie and Fort Turman were named.
As a child, Mr. Turman was a student at Big Spring School, formerly located two miles west of Graysville. He also was a player in the Big Spring band, and taught at one of the one-room schoolhouses during the winter months in 1889-90. WTT graduated from Union Christian College in Merom, Indiana in 1894. In his personal written and audio notes, he disclosed there was not a high school diploma offered at the one-room schoolhouses, and those who did not have a diploma had to take high school preparatory courses while at UCC. WTT taught penmanship while he was a student at UCC. After graduation, WTT became the Head of the Department of Penmanship and Drawing at Indiana State Normal School in Terre Haute. That same year he married Margaret Fisher of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, who had been director of music at UCC since 1891.
Mr. Turman retired from Indiana State Teachers College in 1934. He had taught penmanship to over 15,000 students, sometimes with more than 200 students in his class. He also published a series of books on the teaching of penmanship, "The New Outlook Writing System" that was adopted in Indiana and Texas. Early in his career, WTT also drew political cartoons for the local newspapers. In 1940 the new exhibition hall in the Fine Arts Building was named the Turman Gallery to honor WTT. After retirement, he became the President of the Board of the Swope Art Gallery from its opening in 1941 to 1957.
WTT was a student in art at Zanerian Art School in Columbus, Ohio; the Art Academy and the Art Institute, both of Chicago; Summer School in Michigan and in New York City; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania. He traveled and painted extensively, especially in the west, but the Indiana landscape, mostly painted in oils, was his favored subject for 55 years. For 29 years, WTT faithfully attended and exhibited at the Hoosier Salons held annually at the Marshall Field Galleries in Chicago. In 1932, WTT was awarded the Rector Memorial Prize for the best landscape by a native-born artist still living in Indiana.
In 1944, he presented the Turman Township School at Graysville with 25 paintings of historical and local interest. Those paintings are now owned by the Turman Township Youth Foundation and are currently being restored. These paintings are used to supplement the curriculum of the Rural Community Academy. WTT often visited the Graysville area and was active in local history and genealogy along with his nephew Robert Turman.
Mr. Turman had a full life, having two children, Arthur and Ruth. After the death of his first wife, Margaret, in 1943, he married Hazel Dodge who was the curator of the Swope Gallery for eight years. His paintings are widely distributed in the United States and many are at ISU and other prestigious institutions such as the Hoosier Salon, the Indiana Art Club, the John Herron Art Institute, and the Swope Art Museum as well as in schools, libraries and homes. In 1957, WTT moved to California to live with his daughter. He was "still painting and hoped that some day he would enjoy the distinction of being worthy of being considered one of Indiana's worth while Painters." He passed in 1960 at 92 and is buried in Terre Haute at Roselawn Cemetery, beside his first wife, Margaret, and his second wife, Hazel.