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The Reel West exhibit at the Eiteljorg explores cultural impact of Western films

by | Dec 05, 2017
New exhibit of film costumes, props and interactives examines Hollywood’s portrayals of the West

INDIANAPOLIS – Generations of Americans enjoy and have been influenced by Westerns they watch at the movies and on TV. A new exhibition at the Eiteljorg Museum takes an in-depth look at the historic, artistic and cultural significance of Western films and television shows. Opening March 3, 2018, The Reel West explores morality, diversity and American identity as depicted in the Western film genre and how Hollywood and Westerns shape our understanding of the world around us.

The Reel West includes film costumes, props, art and images from a century of Westerns, from the early silent films to the classic era of popular movies and TV shows to the genre-bending films of recent years. The yearlong exhibit will appeal to casual movie fans, serious film buffs, those who remember iconic Westerns and those new to the genre.

Highlights of The Reel West include:

  • A mask, hat, costume, gun belt and scarf worn by “The Lone Ranger,” actor Clayton Moore
  • A full costume worn by Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit
  • Two hats worn by Clint Eastwood, on his early 1960s TV show Rawhide and years later in his 1985 film Pale Rider
  • Western hats or other costume items worn on camera by decades of Western performers, including John Wayne, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, James Arness, the cast members of Bonanza, plus Sam Elliott, Anjelica Huston, Jamie Foxx and many others
  • Interactive exhibits including a touchscreen that will help museum-goers understand the themes of morality, diversity and identity that Westerns portray
  • A  small recreation of a  movie theater playing clips from film trailers of well-known Western movies.

The Reel West candidly examines how early Westerns romanticized life in the American West and how they overlooked or distorted the roles of women and Native Americans, Latino and LGBTQ communities. The exhibit also looks at important historical and recent Western films that convey the diversity of the West, some more realistically, some satirically or ironically. Through its key themes, The Reel West explores how Westerns have shaped Americans’ perceptions of their own national identity and how those themes portrayed in Westerns have evolved over time.

“Not only will The Reel West spur memories of going to the movies to see your favorite heroes and villains, it will spark conversations between generations about what Westerns say and portray about our country and where the onscreen myths differed from reality,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “We are excited to present this featured exhibition at the Eiteljorg and to share these fascinating objects, stories and related programs with our visitors.”

In addition to the art exhibit, The Reel West includes special program events such as:

  • Presentations by renown costume designer Cathy Smith, Emmy award-winning writer Kirk Ellis, Western film scholar Sue Matheson and others
  • A silent film double feature accompanied by a performance of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
  • A Western movie-themed trivia night
  • An outdoor chuckwagon dinner and movie screening.

For details on programming events and activities that continue throughout 2018, visit The Reel West runs from March 3, 2018, to Feb. 3, 2019, in the Eiteljorg’s special exhibit gallery.

Developed by Johanna M. Blume, the Eiteljorg’s associate curator of Western art, history and culture, The Reel West includes objects on loan from other museums such as the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, costumes and props loaned from major Hollywood film studios and art works from the Eiteljorg’s permanent collections.

About the Eiteljorg:
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America. Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg Museum recently was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions.

Image Caption:
Attached is the Eiteljorg Museum’s sample movie poster graphic about The Reel West exhibit.

Media Contacts:
Bryan Corbin                                        
Public Relations Manager                       

Bert Beiswanger
Director of Marketing and Communications

Hyacinth Rucker
Communications Coordinator

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