Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art in Indianapolis

The Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis has the unique distinction of being one of only two museums east of the Mississippi having both Native American and Western art. With funding assistance from Lilly Endowment, the Museum was founded by Harrison Eiteljorg, an Indianapolis philanthropist, businessman, and art collector. Eiteljorg was inspired to portray the history of the West from his many coal-mining ventures, his travels to art exhibitions and galleries, and his personal encouragement of aspiring artists. His romantic vision of the West and respect for the Native American culture and love of nature is well represented in the Museum collections of pottery, clothing, bead and quillwork, weaving, artifacts, and art from the 19th century to the present. He spent a great deal of time in New Mexico with the Taos Society of Artists and other notable artists such as Nicholai Fechin and Leon Gaspard. From the Museum’s opening in 1989 until his death in 1997, Eiteljorg played an important part in its development, serving as Chairman of the Board and visiting the Museum on many occasions.

Architect Jonathan Hess spent considerable time traveling through the Southwest with Harrison Eiteljorg, where he studied the features that are incorporated in the Museum’s adobe pueblo design. The building consists of 118,000 square feet of stone, approximately 12,000 individual blocks of Minnesota dolomite, set within a circular base of plum colored sandstone. The path to the Museum takes you past the Richard and Billie Lou Wood Deer Fountain and George Carlson’s The Greeter to the mahogany entrance doors and portico. In contrast to the stark exterior, the outdoor canopy, supported by columns made from Pacific Northwest cedar, is one of wood and zinc. The floors of the interior are made of sandstone or stained oak, and the walls are painted with the vivid colors of the Southwest. A staircase, with the Indianapolis Totem Pole in the center, links the Grand Hall to the Gathering Place on the lower Canal level.

Over 3,400 objects of art and artwork within the Eiteljorg Museum include important works by Joseph Sharp, Victor Higgins, and Ernest Blumenschein, and the Wedding by E. I. Couse. The Museum’s Contemporary Collection houses paintings by James Lavadour, T. C. Cannon, and Bernard Williams. The American Western Gallery features art from Taos, Frederick Remington’s The Outlaw, and Charles Russell’s Crippled But Still Coming. The Native American collection consists of pottery, basketry, sculpture, jewelry, Kachina dolls, and other artifacts from the Southeast to the Artic, but its primary focus is on the tribes of the Southwest and the Plains. From tribal masks to totem, tipi, and feathered headdress, this exhibit represents the diversity and art of 10 different cultures.

The Mel and Joan Perelman Wing, dedicated In September 2005, added 45,000 square feet of galleries, classrooms, a library, a technology lab, three acres of gardens and terraces, and the Sky City Café. The gardens contain sculpture by Houser, Lowe, and Hyde, plants and trees native to Indiana, and the Randy Deer and Wayne Zink architectural symbols of the Universe, reflecting the Native American’s relationship with North, South, East, and West. The Gund collection, a gift of historic Western art from George Gund and family, features Gund’s interest in artists who could capture and paint the horses of the West, from wild broncos and Indian ponies to horses for cowboys, sheriffs’ posses, and cavalrymen. The collection, begun by his children in 1970, traveled to more than 80 locations, where it was viewed by two million people before becoming a permanent part of the Eiteljorg Museum. Noted Western artists and sculptors include Alfred Miller, Thomas Moran, George Cooke, and Edward Borein.

Three special events have been scheduled to date at the Eiteljorg Museum for 2007. The first of these, Pop Goes the West, features two exhibitions by Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters and Andy Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians. Paintings, drawings, prints, and wooden sculptures are among the items in the collection. These items from the artist’s pop art of 1979 — 1981 and his earlier works from the 1950’s are relatively unfamiliar to the public. Lichtenstein depicts the history of the American Indian and its relationship to European modernism. Warhol’s 1986 artwork, an exhibit borrowed from the Rockwell Museum, depicts the heroes and entertainers of the American West such as Custer, Geronimo, Annie Oakley, and John Wayne. Sid and Rosalyn Wiener’s exhibit in the Gerard and Dorit Paul Gallery is a 30-year collection of 91 pieces of art and 968 publications that includes many of the best American illustrators such as Bjorklund, Hurd, Schoonover, and Lea. In March of 2007, the entire first floor of the Museum is devoted to Women’s History Month with displays of basketry, painting, and weaving.

The annual Museum Indian market, one of the largest in the Midwest, features food, entertainment, stories, and displays from over 150 Native American tribes. The event, featuring some of the best pottery and artwork made today, is attended by over 10,000 visitors each year. Ongoing and special workshops, interactive demonstrations, daily tours, and educational programs are presented for the enjoyment of the public, as well. In addition, the Eiteljorg Museum sponsors a fellowship program that has awarded over $500,000 in grants and added 125 pieces of art from Native American artists to its collections in the last eight years. Every two years, five fellows are awarded $20,000 each to continue their art studies, along with publication of a catalog of the chosen artwork, and a symposium for artists, historians, and visitors.

Through its collection and preservation of Native American and Western art, the Eiteljorg Museum provides us with inspiration, education, and awareness of these cultures, their traditions, and their impressive contributions to our nation’s history.

Hours: Monday & Wednesday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday — 10:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m. Sunday, 12 Noon — 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.
Admission: Adults – $8.00, Seniors 65+ – $7.00, Children 5-17 & full-time students – $5.00. Ages 4 & under, and members — Free.
Parking: White River State Park underground garage and the Museum grounds.
(Handicap accessible and wheelchairs available at the admissions desk.)

Dining: The Sky City Café offers casual dining and a varied menu of Southwestern and Native American food. With free parking at the Museum, visitors can enjoy the outdoor DeHaan Family Terrace overlooking the Central Canal, or dine inside.
Rental facilities: The Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court has a circular ballroom, a private dining area for 300 to 1,000 guests, and an outdoor terrace. The Ruth Lilly Auditorium and the Thompson Boardroom offer the latest in audio-visual technology and views of the gardens and the Canal.

(Note: The White River Trader, Museum gift shop onsite)

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