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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Robert Indiana’s home, studio to be transformed into museum

Fans gather outside “Star of Hope” the residence of artist Robert Indiana, Sept. 13, 2014, on Vinalhaven Island, Maine. Indiana died on May 19, 2018. His will calls for his home and studio to be transformed into a museum and for his collection to be preserved and open to the public. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)
By David Sharp Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine – Reclusive pop artist Robert Indiana didn’t open his island home to many strangers. That’s going to change with his death.

Indiana’s will calls for his Main Street home and studio, which he dubbed the “Star of Hope,” to be transformed into a museum and for his entire art collection to be preserved and open to the public.

Indiana, whose “LOVE” series is instantly recognizable around the world, died on May 19 at his Vinalhaven Island home 15 miles off the mainland.

His attorney, James Brannan, filed the will in probate court on Friday in Rockland. The will, dated in 2016, stipulates the creation of a nonprofit organization that will receive royalties from his artwork.

Brannan declined to place a figure on the artist’s estate but acknowledged most of the value is in the artist’s collection. Based on the court filing fee, the value of the estate is estimated to be upward of $28 million.

The attorney said it will take time and money to accomplish the late artist’s goal because the Victorian-style building has fallen into disrepair. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also complicating the late artist’s plans is a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York City. The lawsuit accuses two men of insinuating themselves into Indiana’s life and taking advantage of him in the final years of his life.

One of those men, Jamie Thomas, has served as Indiana’s power of attorney for two years, and was tapped to be director of the museum, Brannan said.

The Morgan Art Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on May 18, plans to contest the will and Thomas’ appointment to direct the museum. The foundation holds a copyright for the LOVE series and accuses Thomas in the lawsuit of mistreating Indiana.

“We will fight to protect Indiana’s legacy and will be vigorously challenging this appointment with the Maine attorney general and in court,” Luke Nikas, the foundation’s attorney.

Thomas couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Kathleen Rogers, a friend and former publicist, said she agrees that Thomas, a former studio assistant, isn’t qualified to be in charge of Indiana’s legacy. But she said she loves the idea of a museum.

“That’s what we’ve been hoping for – that the studio would be preserved and turned into a museum,” she said.