Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • 25 years later | How the Eiteljorg came to be

    by Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art | Jan 25, 2014

    Harrison Eiteljorg inside his Indianapolis office surrounded by Western art, 1980. Photographer unknown.

    This year, the Eiteljorg celebrates 25 years as a cultural institution in Indianapolis. The following excerpt was taken from Frontiers and Beyond, Visions and Collections from the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, (Indianapolis: Eiteljorg Museum, 2005). 

      The history of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art starts far earlier than the day it opened its mahogany doors in 1989. It begins with a young man who went West to invest in coal and found a soul-affirming beauty in the raw, wild landscape and the people who carved out lives there.

    It’s impossible to separate Eiteljorg the man from the art collection he so lovingly built up during his life.

    The Eiteljorg story – whether one is speaking of the man or the museum – is one of grit and contradictions, of humor and determination, of the courageous cowboy intensely gripping the bucking bronco’s reins and then bouncing off the horse, beaming with good nature.

    Hold on and enjoy the ride.

    An American Dream
    Harrison Eiteljorg personified the American Dream. He was a self-made Hoosier who “had neither the advantages of privilege nor an extensive formal education” (Jeanette Vanausdall), but who recognized an opportunity when he saw one and tenaciously, charmingly, fought to make it his own.

    “I had $15 in my pocket when the Depression hit,” Eiteljorg liked to tell people when he reminisced. Twenty years and several opportunities after this devastating national event, Eiteljorg became president and manager of a coal strip-mining concern in Indiana and began leasing coal deposits from Colorado. On his reconnaissance trips, he also began falling in love with the landscape, architecture, people and art of the American West, “a passion that would become an obsession” (Jeanette Vanausdall) and one that would influence the course not only of his own life, but of the life of his hometown, Indianapolis, as well.

    By the time Eiteljorg married his second wife, Sonja Tarsey Sims, in 1958, he had been collecting art – not just Western art – for several years, though in a rather unfocused manner. At this time, while there were many collectors, there were fewer museums focused on Western art and less acceptance of the work within the broader range of American art.

    Throughout 2014, we will share stories about how the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art came to be, the people who make the institution what it is, the artists whose work add to our world renown collection, and what's ahead for the Eiteljorg's future.

    These two paintings on Harrison Eiteljorg's office wall were later donated to the Eiteljorg Museum: 

    Frederic Sackrider Remington, American, 1861 – 1909, Baffled Chiefs Leaving the Fort, ca. 1897, oil on fabric support

    William Robinson Leigh, American, 1866 – 1955, The Scout, oil on canvas, 1913, 16 x 24 in.

    You can find both of these paintings inside the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

    Go comment!

  • In Memoriam | Eiteljorg Museum remembers volunteer Jack Van Atta Skillman

    by Cathy Burton, Eiteljorg Beeler Family director of education | Jan 24, 2014


    Retired engineer Jack Van Atta Skillman served for many years as a volunteer at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. He died Jan. 21 at the age of 91. Eiteljorg Director of Education Cathy Burton took some time today to reflect on what Jack brought to the Eiteljorg each time he entered the building.
    Jack and his wife Ruth participated in many Eiteljorg museum events. You will see his name in the Mihtohseenionki Gallery. During the Eiteljorg's building of that gallery and the later expansion, Jack and Ruth were solid supporters, as well as cheering on the staff.

    Jack was an enthusiastic guide and worked also on the hands-on carts. I wish I could show you how he used his wonderful smile and expressive manner to capture the interest of school children and the public visitors. He had a special style and drew people into the stories and interpretation he used in our galleries.  We have missed him, but every time I see a sparkle in the eye of a volunteer, a little of Jack will be here.

    - Cathy Burton, Eiteljorg Beeler Family director of education

    Click here to read Jack Van Atta Skillman's full obituary.

    Go comment!

  • Don't Miss Josefina Day this Saturday | Games, performances to cure cabin fever

    by Alisa Nordholt-Dean, Eiteljorg Public Programs Coordinator | Jan 22, 2014

    It’s Indiana and Old Man Winter has been rearing his ugly head again. Schools were cancelled or delayed again this week, which means yet another day at home with the kids bouncing off the walls. If you’re itching to get out of the house with your family this weekend and looking for something fun and unique to do, plan an adventure to the Eiteljorg Museum for Josefina Day – a day of games, performances and art-making activities inspired by the New Mexican culture of the American Girl, Josefina. 

    On Saturday, Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., young guests can create paper flowers, try colcha embroidery, play lotería (a Mexican game similar to bingo) and so much more! At 1:30 p.m. Anderson Ballet Folkorico will take the stage for a lively performance. Watch as the Folklorico dancers twirl across the stage in brightly colored dresses while performing traditional Mexican folk dances from various regions in Mexico.

    At 3:30 p.m. eager young visitors and their grown-ups will gather in the Clowes Ballroom, anxiously awaiting the highly anticipated Josefina Doll giveaway. One lucky child will win his/her very own Josefina, American Girl Doll to take home and love forever. You need not be present to win.

    But alas, if your name is not drawn out of the big red American Girl prize box, do not despair…there are no losers at the Eiteljorg Museum! A sturdy stack of consolation prizes will be given out following the doll drawing. And besides…the real winners are those who came out on a cold winter afternoon and experienced Josefina Day at the Eiteljorg and all it had to offer.

    Josefina Day events and activities are included with regular museum admission.

    Go comment!

  • Eiteljorg Insider | 5 Questions with Photographer Blake Little

    by Johanna Blume, Eiteljorg Assistant Curator of Western Art | Jan 17, 2014

    Blake Little is a sought-after commercial and celebrity photographer in Los Angeles, and his client list includes publications such as Time and Entertainment Weekly, and celebrities Steve Carell, Colin Powell, and Jane Fonda. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he competed in the gay rodeo. On Saturday, Feb. 1, the Eiteljorg will open Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo. It showcases photos taken by Blake during that time.

    Johanna Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator of western art, asked the renowned photographer five questions to help you learn about how he works, his favorite people and his dream project.

     1. If you had to spend a day not using any technology, what would you do? 
     If I was in LA, I would hike in the hills near my home and make a trip to Los Angeles County Museum of Art or MOCA downtown and stop in a local neighborhood restaurant for a great lunch. 

     2. What do you listen to while you work?
    KCRW Radio (NPR's Local Station). It has the best music, news, and commentary. It’s one of the great things about LA.

     3. If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
     I would be a landscape architect, I love architecture and gardens. My mother taught me to garden and to appreciate the benefits of the earth.  

     4. If you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be and why? BONUS POINTS: What would you serve? 
     Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Nadav Kander; three incredible photographers I respect so much.  I would serve homemade pasta, fresh salad, dessert, and a great red wine.

     5. What’s your dream project?
    In June of 2012, I received an art grant to photograph cowboys in and around Calgary, Alberta. For 10 days we photographed cowboys and western culture; everyone from professional cowboys at the Calgary Stampede to feed lot workers in rural Nanton, AB.  I would love to do another grant project like this in Europe, Australia, or another part of the world.  It was so rewarding and creative to do an intense extended period of shooting on the subject of my choice with a full crew and production team…my dream project. 

     Here's a look at some of the photos you'll see in Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo.
    Gordon Fiedor
    Blake Little
    Gordon Fiedor Close Up, Los Angeles, California, 1989
    Image courtesy of Blake Little

    Blake Little
    Roping Practice, Scott Terry, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989
    Image courtesy of Blake Little

    Blake Little
    Chute Dogging, Phoenix, Arizona, 1989
    Image courtesy of Blake Little

    The Eiteljorg plans to travel Blake Little nationally after the exhibit closes on July 13, 2014. The timeline and venues for the traveling exhibit are to be determined.

    Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo and associated public programs, at the Eiteljorg are a part of the museum’s Out West series. The series, created and produced by independent curator Gregory Hinton, illuminate the many contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities of the American West, and celebrate the diversity of the region.

    Meet Blake Little Friday, Jan. 31, at the opening party for his exhibit.

    Opening night preview party
    Friday, Jan. 31
    $20 per person for members
    $30 per person for nonmembers
    6:00 p.m.        Complimentary wine and food pairing course
    6:45 p.m.        Performance by the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus
    7:15 p.m.        Tour the exhibit with the artist

    Opening day
    Saturday, Feb. 1
    Included with general admission
    12:30 p.m.      Indy Men’s Chorus performs
    1:30 p.m.        Blake Little special program featuring Little, curators and gay rodeo participants
    3:00 p.m.        Informal gallery talks with visitors

     Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is proudly sponsored by the Eiteljorg Museum with additional support provided by William L. Fortune, Jr. and Joe Blakely.

    Go comment!

  • Jingle Rails, Trickster Tales and FREE ADMISSION Jan. 20

    by DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg public relations manager | Jan 10, 2014

    January Events at the Eiteljorg Museum
    Jump aboard Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure through Sunday, Jan. 19! Each year, Jingle Rails offers guests an amazing adventure through a locomotive wonderland, filled with imaginative landscapes created from natural materials. Features include: Eight ultra-sized G-scale/gauge model trains, nearly 1,200 feet of track, 13 overhead walk-under bridges, working waterfall feature and more than 30 structures including: N.K. Hurst Bean Company and Aspen ski scenes (NEW THIS YEAR), Indianapolis’ Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Lucas Oil Stadium, The Indiana State Fair, OneAmerica Tower, Chase Tower, Mt. Rushmore, The Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and more! *Pictured: WTHR Crimebeat reporter Steve Jefferson checks out the Indianapolis scene in Jingle Rails.

    “Coyote This and Rabbit That”

    Native Trickster Tales by storyteller Tim Tingle
    Saturday, Jan. 18
    1p.m. – 2p.m.
    Tim will perform a story titled, “Coyote This and Rabbit That, Native Trickster Tales.” The definition of a trickster is a person who is either a mischievous messenger or menacing enemy. A trickster can also help mankind by giving us the sun and fire or cause death and destruction. Tim’s story will teach how tricksters have influenced our world, including what they’ve given us and what they’ve taken from us. Tim is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. His great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and memories of this family epic fuel his writing and telling.

    Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    FREE ADMISSION with canned food donation
    Monday, Jan. 20
    10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    In honor of the life of civil rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Eiteljorg Museum offers FREE admission with the donation of a non-perishable food item to Gleaners Food Bank. Drop off your donation at the Eiteljorg or any WRSP institution and experience all the park has to offer.

    American Girl Josefina® Day
    Saturday, Jan. 25
    10 a.m. – 5p.m.
    Guests will enjoy games and activities inspired by the New Mexican culture of the American Girl doll, Josefina. Activities include creation of paper roses, colcha embroidery, playing loteria (a Mexican game of chance) and  a performance by the Anderson Ballet Folklorico.

    Rodeo_Partners_Gene_Hubert_Rick_Ferreira-SunValleyBlake Little: Photographs from the Gay RodeoExhibit Preview
    Opening Night Party
    Friday, Jan. 31
    6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
    $20 per person for members
    $30 per person for nonmembers
    * Event features tour of the exhibit with the artist, wine and Hors d'oeuvres and a performance by the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus

    The Blake Little exhibitwill feature 41 black-and-white images of cowboys and cowgirls from the gay rodeo circuit, taken by award-winning, Los Angeles-based photographer, Blake Little. The Seattle native became captivated by the gay rodeo scene in 1988 and began documenting the lives of its contenders, victors and their devoted fans. The exhibit opens to the public, Saturday, Mar. 1. Please visit for details.

    Storytelling Saturdays throughout the month
    Stories of the West
    1, 2, 3 & 4 p.m.
    Hear the amazing true stories of two prominent African Americans in the West, Stagecoach Mary Fields and mountain man, Jim Beckwourth, as told by actress and storyteller, Joanna Winston.

    1p.m. – 3p.m.
    Meet Teresa Webb (Anishinaabe) and hear about Native American cultures through stories and songs, accompanied by flute, drum and rattle.

    Go comment!
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