Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • The best of the West head to Indy for Quest Art Show and Sale

    by James H. Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer | Aug 26, 2013

    Walks in Beauty, 2013
    John Coleman, Walks in Beauty, 2013
    Bronze, 24x19x12 inches

    High-end paintings and sculptures, spirited discussions about Western art, plus the chance to meet artists and collectors in the comfort of a Hoosier home – three reasons you won’t want to miss the eighth annual Quest for the West® art show and sale! Quest begins Friday, Sept. 6 with several events. Then it’s game on Saturday, Sept. 7 with the thrilling sale.  The exhibit opens to the public Sunday, Sept. 8, and will run through Oct., 6.  Excitement is building, registration is up and there’s a palpable buzz in the world of Western art.
    Robert Griffing, Family, 2013
    Oil, 46x42 inches
    On sale during Quest

    Scott Tallman Powers, Hidden Melodies, 2013
    Oil, 20x18 inches
    On sale during Quest

    Daniel Smith, The Suitor, 2013
    Acrylic, 24x36 inches
    On sale during Quest
    Quest has grown in stature as one of the top shows of its kind in the nation, based upon the reputations of the participating artists, their work  and our delivery of first-class hospitality. Another Quest is the presentation of the Artist of Distinction award. This year’s honoree is John Coleman.  

    Best known for his sculptural portrayal of the American story through depictions of 19th century Native people, Coleman will be honored with a solo exhibit in the museum’s Paul Gallery, through Nov. 17. The Coleman exhibit acknowledges the quality of his work submitted to Quest and celebrates his long-term achievements. Coleman’s show will feature his best known sculptures including a major series of ten figures inspired by the 1830s work of painters George Catlin and Karl Bodmer. They traveled separately up the Missouri River to record members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and other tribes.  Also included in the show are paintings and drawings for which the artist is increasingly well known. 

    On Saturday afternoon of the opening weekend, guests of the event will be able to enjoy a special panel presentation featuring three artists and their spouses. We expect it to be a rousing discussion about how couples work together during the creation, promotion, and marketing of the art.

    Most of the nearly 50 Quest artists wil be in attendance and five new artists are included: John Moyers, Mike Desatnick, C. Michael Dudash, Logan Maxwell Hagege, and Blair Buswell.  Museum staff and our collaborators in the museum’s support group, the Western Art Society, think you will find this presentation of Quest even better than last year! Visit Quest pages on the museum’s website to see work by all the artists.

     John Coleman, Artist of Distinction (pictured)

    Since receiving the Artist of Distinction Award in 2012, John Coleman has graciously worked with the Eiteljorg as we planned his special exhibition that opens to the public Sept.  8. Coleman devoted himself to art after a career in contracting and construction.  He became a member of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America in 2001, joined Quest in 2006 and is a frequent winner of major awards for works shown at these and other shows.  He speaks with ease and enthusiasm about art and his subjects. 

    “[I tell] a story that is deeper than what you see on the surface, and that conveys an underlying emotion or mood. . . .I find Native American culture has so many stories that lend themselves to being told visually and in
    ways people understand.”

    Coleman draws inspiration from the art of others and surrounds himself with paintings, sculptures, and examples of Plains Indian clothing, weapons, and accessories.  A large library of art and history books makes the accomplishments of others accessible to him. His bronze sculptures, drawings, and paintings that will go on exhibit at the Eiteljorg are usually featured in private collections across the country.

    “I want to draw you in, to convey a story about life and to share something about the lives of others,” he said.

    Coleman says he holds the idea of art at a high plane.

    Visitors to his exhibition, Honored Life, The Art of John Coleman will be able to enjoy what he has learned from art and history. 

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  • A sneak peek of TWO SPIRITS | Documentary about murdered transgender Navajo teen

    by User Not Found | Aug 23, 2013
    On Sep. 28, the Eiteljorg will screen Two Spirits - the powerful documentary about the brief life and murder of 16-year-old transgender Navajo Fred Martinez. To help the museum fund this project, please make a donation to Power2Give.  

    Here is a preview of Two Spirits: 
     Click for Video

    Fred Martinez
    explained to his family that he didn’t want to have to choose between being a boy or a girl–that he wanted to be both. Fred self-identified as a gay male and commonly used the name Fred, as well as “F.C.” He also expressed a wonderfully feminine aspect of his truest self in the way he dressed and presented himself, and sometimes wanted to be called Beyoncé, in honor of his favorite singer. Since the Navajo concept of nádleehí transcends limited categorization, it is likely that had Fred lived, he would have continued to describe himself as nádleehí—a spiritual, sexual, and gender identity that would have continued to provide him with a dignified sense of his history and a hopeful view of his future. Fred was drawn to the spiritual traditions of his own culture as well as the spirituality of the Native American Church. He loved the beauties of Monument Valley, and wanted to collect eagle feathers with which to make ceremonial fans. Fred felt he was destined for great things and told his friends he was sure he would appear in Teen People magazine one day, a hope that became sadly prophetic when an article about his murder did appear.

    From the website,


    12:30 p.m. Welcome by Gregory Hinton, Out West founder
    12:45 p.m. "Two Spirits" film screening
    1:45 – 3:30 p.m. Panel discussion
    3:30 p.m. DVD/book signing Eiteljorg Museum Store


     - Moderator: Jodi A. Byrd, Ph.D. (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), associate professor of American Indian Studies and English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    - Lydia Nibley, director, Two Spirits

    - Brian Joseph Gilley, Ph.D. (Cherokee of Oklahoma), associate professor of anthropology and director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, Indiana University Bloomington; author of Becoming Two-Spirit

    - Wesley K. Thomas, Ph.D. (Diné), chair/professor, School of Diné Studies, Education & Leadership, Navajo Technical College (Crownpoint, NM)

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  • Happy trails to 100 iconic guitars | How we packed them, where they're going

    by Christa Barleben, Eiteljorg registrar | Aug 20, 2013
    The Eiteljorg enjoyed having over 100 historic guitars here at the museum for our Guitars! Roundups to Rockers exhibition this spring and summer -- and we were sad to see them go. As the registrar at the museum, it was my job to help pack the instruments up and organize their safe journey back to their owners and lending institutions.
    christa packs up buddy holly's guitar
    Christa Barleben, and Brandi Naish, collections intern, packing up Buddy Holly’s leather tooled Gibson J-45 guitar, on loan from Mike Malone.

    So how does a guitar travel?
    When the museum ships objects we use fine art shippers that are trained in art handling and moving to make sure that the guitars get a very comfortable and safe ride. Also, all of the guitars were packed in some type of hard guitar case, hard flight case, or wooden crate which protects the guitar during travel.

    Empty guitar cases and boxes waiting to be packed by museum staff. It took staff 4 days to pack all the guitars, averaging about 25 guitars a day.
    amy mckune with george harrison's guitar
    Amy McKune, Director of Collections, packing up George Harrison’s Gibson SG Electric guitar, ca. 1962, on loan from Jim Irsay.

    Where did they go?
    The guitars left the museum on three different trucks, traveling a total of 6,921 miles to 15 cities in 8 states to be returned to 26 private and museum lenders.  

    Amy McKune and Christa Barleben packing up a guitar on loan from the EMP Museum. The EMP was one of 4 museum lenders to the exhibit.  

    Museum Exhibition, Collections, and Facilities staff breaking down exhibit components. In total, it took staff a little over a week to deinstall the entire exhibit.

    Guitars! Roundups to Rockers was the museum’s best-attended show in its 24-year history. The exhibit, which featured more than 100 instruments – many played by American icons,  attracted more than 63,000 people from Mar. 9 through Aug. 4.

    The Eiteljorg’s next spring/summer exhibit, featuring the work of famed photographer, Ansel Adams, will open Mar. 1, 2014, in celebration of the museum’s 25th anniversary. The show will feature nearly 100 classic images, including 75 photographs Adams chose and printed as the best representations of the range and quality of his life’s work.


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  • Unlock the mystery of the totem pole

    by Cathy Burton, Eiteljorg Director of Education | Aug 19, 2013

    Marmon Family Totem Pole 

    Author Richard Feldman, M.D. will be in Indy Tuesday, Aug. 19, talking about his new book, Home before the Raven Caws: The Mystery of a Totem Pole

    In 1903, a collection of totem poles were removed from Sitka National Historical Park. The 15 poles were sent to the 1904 World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition, in Saint Louis. One pole was damaged and moved to another part of the fair. At the end of the fair 13 poles were sent back to Alaska, as promised to the Native Alaskans.  One pole went to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The repaired pole was sold and people lost track of it and thought it was missing. Dr. Feldman discovered that the missing pole was given to David Parry of Indianapolis  and it was placed in the Golden Hill neighborhood in 1905. The pole was the namesake for “Totem Lane” and eventually rotted and fell, in 1939. Dr. Feldman continued the Totem Pole Project research and raised community interest in bringing a new pole to Indianapolis. One of the delightful chapters in the story was to find out that the carver for the new pole, Lee Wallace, was the great-grandson of the original carver.  

    While visiting R.B. Annis Western Family Experience on the Canal level of the Eiteljorg Museum, young people can see a totem pole and build their own using various symbols.

    The Native Haida family who owned the right to tell their ancestral story, the Yeltatsie Family, allowed their story to be carved on the new pole. While not an exact replica, the totem pole, inside at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, carries the same story as the original, the story of Wasgo the sea monster, or what the Haida people would call a sea wolf.

    Dr. Feldman will speak about the tale of the missing pole and how it ended up in Indiana. His talk will be  in the Multipurpose Room at the Indiana Historical Society tomorrow from Noon to 1 p.m. The Historical Society is located at 450 West. Ohio, downtown Indianapolis.

    You’re encouraged to buy or bring in your lunch to enjoy during their Author Series.

    Cathy Burton
    Director of education

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  • Create experiences for our visitors | Train to become an Eiteljorg Guide

    by Amy Baum Goodwin, Eiteljorg guide | Aug 14, 2013


    After wanting to volunteer at the Eiteljorg for a long time, this past year I signed up to become a guide, not knowing exactly what to expect.  Soon I was learning about the art and artifacts that Harrison Eiteljorg carefully collected on his trips to New Mexico and Colorado.  Because of his tremendous collection and the continued work of the museum, anyone who visits the Eiteljorg is transported to the American West or to another time, immersed in the architecture, the painted and sculpted images of the West and the artifacts created by people who mastered the possibilities of resources available to them.

    The guide course, led by Cathy Burton,the museum’s director of education, explores many aspects of the collection, such as the variety of materials used to create the art and artifacts on display, how those works were made, and the history surrounding them. We discovered the multitude of uses for a bison and a whale, the way that porcupine quills are collected and prepared to make intricate, detailed work on baskets or on leather, and the variety of grasses available in different regions of North America to create baskets or hats or to build homes.

    male guide

    Guides create their own tours, selecting the works that most interest them and that they think visitors might want to know more about. After the course concludes, guides continue meeting each month to discuss new exhibits and events at the museum and listen to speakers on various relevant topics.

     Taking on this challenge has been exciting because I get the chance to step out of my routine and frequently talk with people of different ages about topics that truly interest me. Giving a tour initiates a conversation with visitors, and that brings the West and the history of American Indians to life for them and for me as well.

    On one of my first tours, I discussed the “three sisters”, the agricultural process of growing corn, beans and squash together in a mound. The three plants benefit each other when grown this way. After showing the sixth-grade group I was guiding an illustration of the three plants growing together, one student responded, “I had read about that, but I never understood it before.”That is what makes being a guide so rewarding.

    Guide training is held just once a year. For more information on how to become a museum guide please contact Deborah Kish at or (317)275-1325. 
    Amy Baum Goodwin

    Guides pictured above:
                   Linda Maguire
                   Herma Compton
                   Dr. Paul Schneider

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