Fans of Robert Indiana gather outside his “Star of Hope” on Vinalhaven Island in 2014. Indiana, who died May 19, said in his will that his home and studio are to be transformed into a museum where his collection will be preserved and open to the public. Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

VINALHAVEN — Robert Indiana’s home on Vinalhaven island will become a museum housing his art and archive, and one of the men accused in a federal lawsuit of exploiting the renowned artist and his work will run a nonprofit organization that will manage it.

Artist Robert Indiana spends time in one of his studios on Vinalhaven in 2002. Staff photo by John Ewing

That arrangement is outlined in the artist’s will, which was filed Friday morning in Knox County Probate Court. Indiana’s home, a former Odd Fellows Hall dating to the 1800s that is known as the Star of Hope, is on the National Register of Historic Places but has fallen into disrepair in recent years as Indiana’s heath declined. The will expresses Indiana’s hope that his house will “be restored to museum quality for use as an art environment open to the public” for visits and other activities.

Indiana died May 19 at his home on the Penobscot Bay island. He was 89. The Maine medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy Tuesday, and a cause of death is not expected to be released until after Memorial Day. Indiana’s lawyer, James Brannan of Rockland, had said Indiana died of respiratory failure.

A day before he died, a federal lawsuit filed in New York accused his island caretaker and New York art publisher of isolating and exploiting him, forging his art and exhibiting some of it in museums.

A few hours after the will was filed Friday, a lawyer representing the art foundation that filed the lawsuit said it would “vigorously challenge” the will on the grounds that the person tabbed to run the foundation, Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie L. Thomas, isn’t qualified.

“The same person we reported to law enforcement and brought serious action against for exploiting and grossly mistreating Robert Indiana in his lifetime has now been appointed to manage his foundation,” said Luke Nikas, who represents the Morgan Art Foundation, which claims it has owned rights to certain pieces of Indiana artwork since the 1990s. “The Morgan Art Foundation has always operated with the purpose of protecting Robert Indiana’s legacy. We will vigorously challenge the appointment of someone we don’t believe has those same interests.”

Thomas, art publisher Michael McKenzie and Indiana were named in the suit, which alleges trademark and copyright infringement, and contends that several pieces of art made under Indiana’s name were fakes.

Flowers adorn the base of the Robert Indiana sculpture “Seven” outside the Portland Museum of Art on Friday. Indiana, who died on May 19 at the age of 89, said in his will that he wants his house on Vinalhaven to be turned into a museum. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The will, dated May 7, 2016, leaves nearly all of Indiana’s estate to support the nonprofit organization, Star of Hope Inc., that will run the museum. Indiana’s estate includes Star of Hope, two other properties on Vinalhaven, his art collection and other assets including future royalties. The value of the estate is not a matter of public record, but the filing fee indicates that the value is between $27.5 million and $28 million.

The fate of the Star of Hope has long been one of the great mysteries of the Maine art world. Museum directors and curators courted Indiana for years, angling either for the chance to take over the house or control its contents. In the end, Indiana rebuffed them all and left everything to his caretaker.

David Troup, a spokesman for the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, said museum administrators respect Indiana’s decision.

“The Farnsworth has had a long and fruitful relationship with Robert Indiana,” Troup said. “We look forward to working with this newly founded nonprofit organization when the time comes to continue promoting the work of an artist of global importance.”

Thomas did not return a phone call Friday.

Indiana moved to Vinalhaven in 1978, converting the former Victorian-style building that had previously served as the Odd Fellows Lodge into his home and studio.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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