The Portfolio, founded in 1890 with Hilton U. Brown as the first president, came about because Mrs. T. C. (Mary) Steele wanted to form a club with a group of congenial spirits and practitioners of the various arts who had been meeting informally for a long time. The purpose was to discuss the life and direction of the arts in Indianapolis. Membership in The Portfolio was to include men and women on an equal basis, with each member (or at least one member of a couple) being a professional in some facet of the arts and all members having an active interest in fostering the arts.
Traditionally, The Portfolio meetings are held once a month, October to May. Meetings include supper and a program dealing with some aspect of the arts. In the early years there was music at each meeting and a member read a "paper" which was followed with discussion. At times, members gave a play – often prepared, sometimes extemporaneous. For many years the members held an annual bowling contest at the Das Deutsche Hause, a Christmas Party, and summer picnic.
While changes have come about over the years, The Portfolio continues to devote itself to the original premise of active participation in and support of the arts in all its forms. The Portfolio remains a congenial group of folks who meet for supper and an enjoyable presentation pertaining to the arts.
The Portfolio’s archive and art collections are on loan to the Irvington Historical Society and housed at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center in the Indianapolis eastside neighborhood of Irvington. The collection can be viewed by appointment (call 317-353-2662).
Among the archive are the club’s programs/yearbooks and club minutes and treasurer reports dating from 1890 to the present. The archive further consists of photographs of Portfolians from all decades, scrapbooks containing news clippings about Portfolians and miscellaneous copies of the programs that were given at meetings over the years.
The art collection consists of paintings, drawings and lithographs by Portfolian artists William Forsyth, Wayman Adams, Clifton Wheeler, Simon Baus, Frederick Polley, Constance Forsyth, Charles Yeager and Hilah Wheeler.
In developing an arts community outreach program, The Portfolio has lent works from its art collection to various exhibitions, including the statewide traveling show, “Creating History: Indiana’s Historic Women Artists.” Furthermore, a duplicate set of the club’s program yearbooks and selected duplicate vintage photographs are now in the library of the Indiana Historical Society for research purposes.