Lydia Brown Finkelstein (née Lydia Van Trees Brown), 89, of Bloomington, Indiana passed away peacefully on September 28, 2021.
Born in Washington, Indiana to Eleanor and Clem W. Brown, Lydia’s family were among the city’s earliest settlers. A gifted artist and writer from an early age, she graduated with honors from Washington High School in 1950 and attended Indiana University, where she was mentored by the renown artist-designer Alma Eikerman. At IU, Lydia was a member of Mortar Board, Delta Gamma Sorority, IU Foundation Committee, and the local chapter of Psi Iota Xi.
Shortly after her graduation in 1954, Lydia moved to New York to pursue a career as a visual artist. Living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she exhibited at and was a member of Area Gallery, one of the many “Tenth Street Scene” artists’ co-ops that became the avant-garde alternative to the established fine art galleries further uptown. During that time, Lydia also worked in the exhibits department of the American Federation of the Arts and lectured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before moving with her then husband, Michael Finkelstein, to Washington, DC.
Seeking an integrated, economically diverse community for her family, Lydia moved to DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in the early nineteen sixties. There, Lydia raised her two daughters, Alix and Leslie, plus a rotating roster of pets, in a small townhouse just a few blocks from the US Capitol building. She filled her home with friends, art, music, and design; displaying her paintings, prints, and collages, listening to a beloved collection of jazz records, throwing frequent dinner parties, and cultivating a beautiful backyard flower garden. Lydia was very active in the early development of many of the neighborhood’s community organizations, such Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, and Friendship House. She also was a dedicated congregant of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where she led bible study classes and served on several committees.
For more than a decade, Lydia led the advertising and marketing team for SCAN, the cooperative furniture chain that imported and sold affordable quality Scandinavian design in the greater DC and Chicago area. Following her departure from SCAN, Lydia served as the director of communications for the US Catholic Conference of Bishops.
After her children were grown, Lydia made the decision to leave DC and semi-retire in Bloomington, returning to her beloved alma mater and the close circle of friends from early childhood through college who also lived in the area. In Bloomington, Lydia worked or consulted for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Fourth Street Festival of Arts and Crafts, and Planned Parenthood—Bloomington.
With her characteristic energy and passion, Lydia wholeheartedly engaged in Bloomington’s vibrant arts community. She was a keen historian of Indiana’s art history and champion of the state’s cultural richness; writing an arts column for The Herald Times, delivering lectures and talks, designing and directing exhibitions, and generally conveying her nearly encyclopedic knowledge of art in a voice that was both warm and authoritative. Her dry humor, incisive intellect, and limitless curiosity will be greatly missed.
Lydia is survived by her daughters, Leslie Finkelstein, of West Hartford, CT, and Alix Finkelstein of Brooklyn, NY, and her grandchildren, Henry and Margaret Riordan. She is also survived by her sister, Jane Brown Templeton, her brother, Nicholas Brown, and their families.
Funeral services celebrating Lydia’s life will be held on April 30 at 11 am at Trinity Church at Kirkwood and Grant Streets.