Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Sneak Preview into Out West™

    by Jaq Nigg | Aug 16, 2012
    [Editor’s note: On Saturday, Aug. 18, the Eiteljorg will host Out West, the first of several programs and exhibitions exploring the contributions of the GLBTQ community in the American West.]

    Alfred Jacob Miller and the life of William Drummond Stewart
    By Jim Wilke, independent curator and historian

    In the spring of 1837, a young artist named Alfred Jacob Miller accepted the surprising commission to accompany that year’s Rocky Mountain Fur Company caravan from the Missouri River westward to the base of the Rockies. That summer spent traveling out and back permanently changed Miller’s career, and has left us with works of art that capture far more than the ferocious grace of a Western way of life.  

    The caravan, laden with trade goods, company officials, account books and supplies, was bound for the annual rendezvous, a summer gathering of just about everyone for hundreds of miles around, where the goods were bartered for fur pelts trapped over the previous fall and spring.   

    His host and patron was William Drummond Stewart, a captain of the British army and the second son of a minor Scottish baronet biding his time through extended hunting trips following a military career. His trips through North America’s western frontier could be considered the best years of his life, spent with the pleasures of a wilderness society far removed from the social constraints of society in Great Britain. The relish of this life was the genuine and present danger that met anyone wandering in the West, within a natural setting grand beyond compare. It was immediate, sharp, and added ginger to daily life in a way that had long passed from the polite aristocracies and traditions of the European hunting preserve.  

    Stewart conducted his hunting trips as a gentleman, with the capacity of adopting regional habits when comfortable or necessary, in effect paralleling the adaptability of mountain men to the requirements of wilderness and its society. This duality of order and versatility was shared by other gentlemen traveling abroad, a habit that demonstrated taste as well the ability to retain one’s own sense of self while adapting to the fecundity of nature. “Going native” did not necessarily mean adopting the style of the locals – although some did - or becoming one of them – which some did too - but it did mean that gentlemen could adopt such habits as practical for intercourse and good relations, along with a few momentary and situational freedoms socially impossible in Great Britain. The process inevitably brought new ideas about what defined a gentleman, which seem to have been central to Stewart’s rediscovery of self during his years in America and the West. 

    Miller’s drawings, rendered in quick light strokes reflecting a kind of ease and grace inherent to mountain society in the midst of summer, present Stewart as an aristocratic sportsman, entirely at home in the wilderness. Investments in the New Orleans cotton trade had provided enough revenue to increase the size and trappings of his retinue with each season, and he became known for a perfectly tailored hunting coat of white buckskin, a buff hat with a sharply cocked feather, and a severe discipline he imposed as easily as generosity. Miller seems to have been both impressed and disconcerted at the same time, writing that Stewart could be imperious, at times frosty and hard to deal with, a “military martinet” in terms of discipline, and a man who wore grandiosity somewhat thinly on his sleeve.

    During the annual trips west Stewart dallied with Indian women at rendezvous, became fascinated by the “berdache tradition” of Two Spirit men and had a series of male relationships interspersed with women, initially with a handsome young packer the caravan men called “Beauty” and later with a German sport Stewart met while wintering in Cuba before heading West, taking a tent – for the first time in his travels - to offer them privacy. 

    By the time Miller joined the party, Stewart was traveling extensively with Antoine Michel Clement, a young Métis, or half French and half Indian man he first met at the 1833 rendezvous. An expert shot and respected hunter, Clement seems to have been the closest to matching him on something akin to equal terms and it was probably in hunting that the two men paired up most closely, where all focus was upon their prey; the two men acting instinctively as one in pursuit of their goal. Yet Miller’s drawings were careful to show Clement and all others secondary to Stewart as the center of attention, and Stewart’s social prejudices regarding civilized and savage held sway even here. It created a deeply complex and ultimately unsuccessful relationship that Stewart idealized long after they last parted, in 1845.  

    Over time, Stewart’s travels became less of an extended hunting trip and more of a way of life. Miller’s works from that summer offer a view of Stewart’s journey through that life. The leveling effect of plains life obliged Stewart to rise by his own efforts in the esteem of the men he traveled with, establish by his own efforts his rank, and ultimately enjoy his newly invented self. Time spent among the Indian aristocracy, trappers and traders established a comfortable setting that allowed him to define himself freely within the forthright society of the men he engaged with. 

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  • SkillSurvey Enjoys the Eiteljorg

    by User Not Found | Aug 15, 2012

    It’s been a dry, hot American summer, which has really put a damper on outdoor events. Yet the excruciating heat doesn’t stop the Eiteljorg from hosting a spectacular event. On Tuesday, July 24, a group from SkillSurvey, Inc., based out of Philadelphia, had planned on hosting a corporate cocktail reception that was to be in the beautiful lower gardens of the Eiteljorg along the canal. But on Monday the 23rd, the temperature was expected to be over 97 degrees on the day of the event, which makes for a miserable 5 hours outside. Thanks to the Eiteljorg policy that a client can decide by noon the day of the event whether they want it to be indoors or outdoors, the members of SkillSurvey were more than ready to alter the plans and move everything inside. By 6pm on Tuesday everything was in place for the event. The large SkillSurvey logo was shining down in lights on the floor of the entrance, beautiful blue up lights were placed around the ballroom, and Sinatra was flowing from the DJ’s speakers. All the guests were grateful for the air conditioning and extremely pleased with the beautiful ballroom that was utilized for their event.  With cocktails in Eagle Commons Hall followed by a delicious array of food stations provided by Kahn’s Catering in the ballroom, the guests were extremely satisfied with the reception.

    The Eiteljorg is a wonderful venue to hold corporate events, such as the one SkillSurvey had, and not only because the JW Marriott is conveniently located just across the road. With so many different areas of the museum to utilize, it creates a unique and memorable atmosphere to host an event. One of the aspects of the event the SkillSurvey guests greatly enjoyed was the guided tours through the museum exhibits. Since the majority of guests were from Pennsylvania, they were unfamiliar with the Eiteljorg and the type of museum it is. Thanks to three very kind volunteers at the museum, the guests of SkillSurvey were offered tours through the exhibits. They loved this portion of the event and were impressed with the array of exhibits. After a few hours of eating, drinking, touring the museum, and listening to the great music provided by Jeremy from DJ’s Direct, the guests of SkillSurvey walked back across the street to the JW Marriott filled with new knowledge of American Indians and Western Art, as well as delicious Kahn’s Catering food.

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  • Deinstalling Motorcycles

    by User Not Found | Aug 14, 2012

    Big changes are underway at the Eiteljorg!  August 5 was the last day for Steel Ponies.  The special exhibits gallery will be closed for a few weeks as we prepare for the 7th annual edition of Quest for the West. 


    Last week all 23 motorcycles left the gallery to travel back to their homes.  You might be wondering how they are making the trip. 


    First, we used specially built ramps to roll the motorcycles down off the display platforms.



    Several came from museums and were packed into gigantic crates like this one:


    This high-tech crate came complete with a ramp to roll the motorcycle into place.  Here is a view of the inside before it was packed:


    Museum Registrar Kelly Carter looks over packing instructions for the Evel Knievel motorcycle on loan from the Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of American History


    Some of the motorcycles came from local lenders such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson.  These lenders came to pick up their motorcycles themselves and loaded them onto trailers.


    Senior Exhibit Specialist Belinda Cozzy helps the Harley-Davidson guys push their 1929 bike with double-wide sidecar onto their trailer.


    Most of the remaining motorcycles were shipped with a specialized motorcycle shipper.  They have a customized shipping platform that keeps the motorcycles safe and secure during transport.  I forgot to take a picture of the motorcycles all lined up on the truck strapped to their platforms, but I promise you it was quite a sight.  You can read all about the platforms and learn how to ship your own motorcycle here.

    By Kelly Rushing Carter, registrar

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  • A unique offering for young pros

    by Guest User | Aug 06, 2012

    Indianapolis has a lot to offer young professionals—and thanks to Agave at the Eiteljorg Museum—it has something extra unique! I joined Agave a couple of years ago because I love the Eiteljorg Museum and wanted a way to explore all that the Museum had to offer with a group of my peers. Agave turned out to be the perfect solution. Agave is geared towards an emerging audience of young professionals, grad students and future leaders. We come from all sorts of career backgrounds, live in different parts of the city and vary in age. What we have in common is a love of sharing cultural experiences. The Eiteljorg has a packed annual calendar of exhibitions, events and learning opportunities. Agave offers busy folks like me the chance to enjoy all of those great events in a convenient, fun context—the events are after-work, low key and super accessible. I’d love for you to be my guest at our next event. Join Agave’s mailing list for updates on all the events we having coming up. I’ve seen the calendar and I can tell you the next few months are going to be great!

    By Ashleigh Graves-Roesler, Agave board member

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  • Steel Ponies and Racing: “Easy Rider” Meets “Easy Hayden”

    by Guest User | Aug 03, 2012

    One thing I do to mentally and physically get away from day-to-day work every now and then is to spend time at the “Racing Capital of the World,” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, one of the cool things I have the privilege to do during race events at the Speedway is work for the public relations department. Yes, it’s hard work, but it allows me to get very close to something I’m deeply passionate about: racing.

    Since this past weekend was NASCAR weekend at the Brickyard, racing was heavy on my mind. If I wasn’t at the track, I was recording other racing series on the DVR (MotoGP and Formula One) and watching those races in the evening. With all of this diversion (a pseudo vacation of sorts for me), I still found a way to mentally steer back to the Eiteljorg and Steel Ponies.

    Steel Ponies is definitely in the local consciousness. And if the locals aren’t taking time to see the exhibit, they’re busy recommending it to visitors of our fine city. Over the weekend NASCAR’s Miss Sprint Cup 2012 tweeted about the Eiteljorg and Steel Ponies. Through Twitter, we also learned that a crew member for Columbus, IN native Tony Stewart (“Smoke”) came to see Steel Ponies. Clearly there’s a connection between the racing folks and motorcycles.

    More specifically, there was a direct connection between MotoGP and Steel Ponies this past weekend. One of the most popular and well-known bikes in the exhibit is “Captain America” from the cult classic film “Easy Rider.” With the international series MotoGP making it’s first of two consecutive United States stops last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, Owensboro, Kentucky’s Nicky Hayden sported a special helmet themed after Henry Fonda’s “Easy Rider” helmet.

    The helmet was painted like Fonda’s and featured a couple of tweaks. The back included a logo with the words 'Easy Hayden' and the lower front was painted to appear as an open-face, chopper style helmet just like Fonda’s.

    Although Steel Ponies will be gone by the time MotoGP makes its second U.S. stop in Indianapolis August 17-19, I’m hoping the “Kentucky Kid” will don the “Easy Rider” livery one more time…representing freedom, man.

     Bert Beiswanger is the marketing manager

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