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  • James Nottage retires after 50 years in Western museums

    by Bryan Corbin, Storyteller magazine editor | Jun 14, 2018

    James Nottage, Chief Curator
    James Nottage

    The curator who led the Eiteljorg Museum’s curatorial and collections efforts for the past 17 years is an authentic son of the West. James Nottage grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, and remembers as a small child meeting a turn-of-the-last-century Old West train robber, long since paroled and a larger than life character. “He had these extraordinary stories about robbing trains and going to prison; and that motivated my young imagination,” James said.

    That spark lit the fire of James’ love of the history and heritage of the West, which led ultimately to his 50-year career in museums. Since 2001, James has served as the Eiteljorg’s vice president and chief curatorial officer and as the Gund curator of Western art, history and culture. His management and creative vision led to important acquisitions such as the Helen Cox Kersting and Kenneth “Bud” Adams collections, and to exhibitions such as Guitars and Red/Black. He has authored and edited many Eiteljorg art publications and closely worked with artists, collectors, donors and scholars.

    As he retires from the Eiteljorg in June, James said what has been most motivating throughout his career was the opportunity to work on major projects involving the expansion or creation of museums: at the Kansas Museum of History early on, at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles at its founding, and then at the Eiteljorg during its 2005 expansion that doubled the size of the museum.

    “Being a curator is an opportunity to have some really important privileges,” James said, such as the responsibility to work with important objects and artworks and help people understand them. “It’s the kind of job where you have the opportunity to work with a range of people who can share your passions,” including artists, colleagues and also patrons who support the museum financially or with donations of art. “Of all the places that I’ve worked, the Eiteljorg is rather profoundly successful in relating to all sorts of people,” he said.

    Early museum years
    Knowing from a young age in Laramie that he would be a museum curator, James discovered the untapped scholarly potential of studying the West professionally. “As I went through early jobs, early college, it was clear that an emphasis on the study of America was always heavily weighted on the East Coast, and there is plenty of room to do things besides Pilgrims,” he said.

    He served in state historical institutions in Wyoming and Kansas, earning two master’s degrees along the way. In 1985, James and his wife Mary Ellen were the first employees hired by the new Autry Museum — where he was vice president and founding chief curator, she the vice president of collections. The museum was founded by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, movie and TV star and baseball team owner.

    “He loved a good joke and a good meal and was very personable,” James said of Gene Autry in his later years. “The challenge anything, it was difficult for some people -- including myself -- to separate this well-known and regarded personality from just being an everyday person.  It was hard to have a restaurant meal (with him) and him not be interrupted all the time” by Autry’s fans.

    Eiteljorg.Museum.The Reel West.Exhibit
    Eiteljorg Museum exhibit The Reel West, with "Lone Ranger" costume items of Clayton Moore.

    Through the Autry Museum, James got to know many well-known entertainers — not only Gene Autry, but Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger. “He was hugely personable and very kind. (Moore) always astounded me: I met him the first time and it would have been maybe a year later when I saw him again, and he greeted me by name and asked about my wife by name. He was an extraordinary individual in a lot of ways, so he kind of justified my childhood perceptions of the heroic Lone Ranger,” James recalled.

    West in the Midwest
    The opportunity for James to work on the Eiteljorg’s expansion drew the Nottages from L.A. to Indianapolis in 2001. Among the many exhibitions whose curation he led and managed, James cited Red/Black in 2011 that explored shared histories of Native Americans and African-Americans, focusing on their touching connections. “I think that’s the value of any museum. It’s not just that you might say, ‘We have a great painting or an object,’ but you can see for yourself and tell the public about how something connects with people’s real lives, whether it’s part of someone’s creativity, or an object that’s very telling about events in people’s lives.”

    Retiring as chief curator, James will continue to consult on the Eiteljorg’s Western gallery reinstallation and on a future exhibit. His wife Mary Ellen is retired executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum. A music buff and collector, James is learning to play steel guitar, and retirement might afford more time for music and to finish personal book projects. The Nottages plan to remain in the area and attend Eiteljorg events.

    James said it’s been rewarding to see the Eiteljorg Museum mature and grow in terms of major acquisitions, educational programming, collections, publications and recognition among scholars and the general public. “There’s plenty of room for future growth. It’s a young institution with a good soul; it’s great to be a part of that.”



    Top Image Caption:

    James Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, history and culture, is retiring after 17 years at the Eiteljorg, where he managed the museum’s curatorial and collections departments. He is seen here in the museum’s work area with the E.I. Couse painting, The Wedding. The 1924 oil painting was a gift to the museum courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg.

    The James Nottage File:

    • Eiteljorg Museum: Vice president and chief curatorial officer, Gund curator of Western art history and culture, 2001-2018
    • Autry Museum of Western Heritage, vice president and founding chief curator, 1985-2001
    • Kansas Museum of History, supervisory historian, assistant museum director, curator of exhibits, 1977-1985
    • University of Wyoming Archives, archivist, 1976-1977
    • Wyoming State Museum, assistant curator, 1969-1975
    • Laramie Centennial Committee Museum, curator, 1968
    • BA and MA in American history and American studies, University of Wyoming, 1972, 1976
    • MA in history museum studies, Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University College at Oneonta, NY, 1975
    • Author, editor, lecturer, consultant with a focus on art, history and cultures of the American West


    Upcoming Events at the Eiteljorg Museum:

    Thursday November 8

    6:00 p.m.
    Special celebration in honor of James H. Nottage’s retirement.

    Friday November 9

    6:00 p.m.
    Preview of reopened Western galleries, for members.

    For reservations, contact mwhistler@eiteljorg.org or call 317.275.1316.

    On Eiteljorg.org
    For behind-the-scenes updates on the work of museum employees, read the Eiteljorg blog:
    http://www.eiteljorg.org/interact/blog/eitelblog/2018/05/29/hello-goodbye-longtime-employees-will-be-missed-new-employees-welcomed

     

    This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine. 





  • Eiteljorg Insider | Event Planning Pointers with Kelsey Donson

    by Rachel Foley, marketing and communications intern | May 29, 2018

    Kelsey Donson

    Kelsey Donson

    Beyond its role as an institution of art, history and cultures, the Eiteljorg Museum building is a popular venue that couples rent for weddings and receptions and groups rent for catered events, such as corporate meetings. Planning and organizing these occasions so they run smoothly and clients have a great experience at the Eiteljorg has been the job of Kelsey Donson, the manager of catering, rental and events.

    In charge of booking all outside and internal events, scheduling, arranging contracts and taking payments – as well as marketing the museum as a venue – Kelsey started at the Eiteljorg in February 2016. She has served as liaison between clients and the Eiteljorg’s exclusive caterer: Kahn’s Catering.  Before she moves away from Indianapolis to start a new chapter, Kelsey shared some of her experience and insights about planning a special event at the Eiteljorg.

    For young couples planning weddings, there are a few major pitfalls that can increase tension throughout the planning and slow down the process of preparing for the big day, according to Kelsey. One of the most prevalent sources of conflict and misunderstanding is having too many people involved in the decision-making process, she said. Although input from parents can be helpful and necessary, Kelsey emphasized that the wedding is for the couple. She recommends that as many decisions as possible be handled by a single voice.

    “There have been time when I’m only working with the bride, or only working with the (wedding) planner – and that’s great. When you get the additional people coming in, that’s when it gets tricky,” Kelsey said.

    Another common issue in planning a wedding at any venue involves unmet expectations. Oftentimes, couples make assumptions about what is and what isn’t included in a rental package, Kelsey added. She advises couples to ask questions about exactly what is included in a package, and make judgments early about what the value truly is when selecting options. Various options are offered at different cost levels:  The Eiteljorg’s first tier package, for example,  includes tables and chairs for indoors as well as parking at the White River State Park garage, but does not include outdoor tables and chairs or audio/visual equipment.

     Venues of all kinds have rules and regulations that vary greatly. Although beautiful and full of character, the Eiteljorg building is a working museum. Since food and beverages could damage valuable pieces of art, the Eiteljorg has rules about keeping them in certain areas of the building and not in the galleries. Events at the Eiteljorg cannot have open flames and require a certificate of insurance; and some floral arrangements are restricted in the building, she noted.

    Kelsey’s most important tip is for couples to create and stick to a detailed budget for their wedding. “It mainly comes down to expenses,” she said. Couples who know exactly what they want and can afford typically are more successful in the event-planning process.

    In addition to wedding ceremonies and receptions, the Eiteljorg hosts corporate meetings and events throughout the year.  The Clowes Court multipurpose ballroom can seat a maximum of 260 for a formal dinner, and an hors d’oeuvres and cocktail party can host as many as 1,000 guests throughout the museum, she said.

    Combined with the gorgeous atmosphere and prime location just steps from the JW Marriot, the Eiteljorg Museum is a popular location among visiting corporate groups who want a different feel from a standard hotel event space. Compared to weddings, Kelsey said managing the corporate events is “both easy and hard.” Oftentimes a corporate event such as a company meeting, seminar or awards luncheon has been held several years in a row, so the client organizing it has an idea of what they want. Each venue is different and has its own set of limitations particular to the facility, vendors and caterers, she said.

    Events at the Eiteljorg remain an important part of the organization. Revenues from all museum external events go toward the building expenses, as do admissions and Museum Store revenues, she said. In addition, weddings and corporate events alike draw in crowds from all over the nation and serve as an opportunity to highlight the Eiteljorg Museum as a vibrant, ever-changing cultural institution in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

    Kelsey has been a great addition to the Eiteljorg team. Asked about the most fulfilling part of the job, she cited the reaction of wedding couples to her completed wedding reception preparations in Clowes Court: “Seeing (two people’s) eyes light up as they see the finished ballroom is the best part.” She also endearingly cites several thank-you letters she has received from happy clients that she plans to keep forever.

    Kelsey Donson, right, and Lorna Speece, left

    Kelsey Donson, right, is succeeded by Lorna Speece, left, as manager of catering, rentals and events at the Eiteljorg. 

    With Kelsey moving on, the Eiteljorg announced that Lorna Speece will be the new manager of catering, rental and events. Lorna has been with the museum for three years, first in security and most recently as co-coordinator of Guest Services.

    We wish the best of luck to Kelsey Donson on all of her future endeavors. For more information on events at the Eiteljorg, please visit www.eiteljorg.org/rental





  • Hello, Goodbye: Longtime employees will be missed, new employees welcomed

    by | | May 29, 2018

    The Eiteljorg Museum recently said goodbye to three dedicated employees who have moved on and welcomed some new colleagues:

    Jan Eason
    Jan Eason

    Jan Eason
    has been a beloved member of the Eiteljorg team for more than 26 years, almost as long as the museum has existed.  As education services coordinator, Jan worked in scheduling school field trips and adult tours and supported volunteer tour guides with training and schedules. She retired April 16.

    “Jan added much to the happiness of the museum,” Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer James Nottage said. “She has an uncanny ability to engage with people. She went out of her way to say hello, to ask how you were doing, and brought warmth and personality to her exchanges with staff, members, and guests alike.”

    Jaq Nigg
    Jaq Nigg

    Jaq Nigg in April wrapped up 17 years at the Eiteljorg as festivals and markets manager. With a background in film production, Jaq developed and refined the annual Indian Market and Festival into one of the top Native art markets in the nation. She also managed the museum’s Winter Market, Spring Market and WestFest events. Jaq cultivated close ties with Native artists and performers, and created a consortium of market planners across the nation that developed into a supportive professional network.  She moved on to a new position as production and operations manager at The Cabaret in Indianapolis.

    Succeeding Jaq is the new public events coordinator, Brandi Crocker. With a background in banking, Brandi previously worked in the Eiteljorg's Guest Services, first as co-coordinator and then as manager of that division. We welcome Brandi to her new role organizing the annual Indian Market and Festival and other Eiteljorg events.


    Kelsey Donson, right, and Lorna Speece, left
    Kelsey Donson, right, and Lorna Speece, left

    Another departure in May was Kelsey Donson, who has been manager of catering and rental events for the past 2 ½ years.  When couples booked weddings and receptions at the Eiteljorg, or when corporate event planners booked the museum space for company functions, Kelsey was in charge of ensuring all the details of their special day went exactly as planned. Kelsey and her family are relocating to another city, and Lorna Speece, who has been co-coordinator of Guest Services, has succeeded her as manager of catering and rental events.

    Jan Eason, Jaq Nigg and Kelsey Donson all will be missed by their Eiteljorg co-workers, and the museum wishes them the best.


    Allison Evans
    Allison Evans

    The Eiteljorg’s collections department maintains, cares for and organizes thousands of artworks and cultural objects, both those on exhibit and many more in storage. The department’s new director, Allison H. Evans, came to the Eiteljorg in January with 17 years of experience in the collections field, most recently at the Stark Museum in Orange, Texas. In her opening months at the Eiteljorg, Allison oversaw preparation of objects installed in The Reel West exhibition. Allison succeeds former collections director Amy McKune, who last year moved on to a museum in Missouri.

    Paul Jones
    Paul Jones

    Helping to keep the museum’s computer systems operating smoothly is Paul Jones, who joined the Eiteljorg in January as IT support assistant and AV technician.  Paul worked in computer systems for 29 years at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

    Paul succeeds Tom L. Coble II, who was promoted to the position of Eiteljorg director of technology. Tom succeeded longtime director Dee McConville, who retired in December.

    Kristin Stout
    Kristin Stout

    The new librarian of the museum's Watanabe Family Library is Kristin Stout, who brings long experience in libraries and our content areas. With a bachelor's degree in history from Ball State University and a Master of Library Science degree from Indiana University, she worked for eight years as the reference and instruction librarian at Lane Library at Armstrong University in Savannah, Ga., and also at Herron Art Library and Lebanon Public Library.  Kristin succeeded former Eiteljorg librarian Dana Duffy, who moved on to a new position as education manager for the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington.

    Note: This article is a special online feature of Storyteller magazine.  This story included contributions from Eiteljorg marketing interns Samantha Roll, Brittan Semler and Rachel Foley.  Read more about the museum employees on the Eiteljorg blog: https://www.eiteljorg.org/interact/blog

     





  • Eiteljorg Insider | Meet Curatorial Intern Lyndsey Blair

    by Lyndsey Blair, Eiteljorg curatorial intern | Apr 22, 2015

    Lyndsey Blair
    Howdy! My name is Lyndsey Blair, and I am a second-year graduate student in the Public History Master’s program at IUPUI.  For the past nine months, I have served as the Eiteljorg’s curatorial intern.  Much of this time has been spent researching information related to the museum’s latest exhibit, Gold! Riches and Ruin.

    For this exhibit, I read numerous articles and books by respected historians, examinedlyndsey blair - WP_20150225_003 first-hand accounts in newspapers, letters, and journals, and viewed thousands of historic photographs.  These resources have given me a greater understanding of the California, Black Hills, and Yukon-Klondike gold rushes.  The most important point I learned was that these rushes not only affected the miners (who were from a variety of backgrounds) but American society as a whole. Some of these changes were beneficial, while others were not.   For example, this phenomenon turned fledging western towns like San Francisco into bustling cities, led to advances in railroad transportation and mail delivery, and inspired new works of art, music, literature, and fashion.  But this event also exposed racial and ethnic tensions in mining camps and nearby cities with diverse populations and resulted in the genocide of thousands of Native Americans. 

    Lyndsey blair 2 - WP_20150225_007Beyond the academic knowledge I have gained from this internship, I have also learned a lot about the museum world.  Much of the work that occurs in museums is a collaborative process, and the same can be said for the Eiteljorg.  With this latest exhibit, staff members spent hundreds (and possibly thousands) of hours planning, researching, and installing the show.  Of course there are the curators, whose work has already been addressed.  But it is also important to recognize the contributions of the designers, the education department, the marketing team, and the maintenance and security staff.  All of these people played important roles in this exhibit.  In the end, I am very grateful to have been part of Gold! and hope visitors enjoy seeing all our hard work!

    Go comment!




  • Eiteljorg Insider | Meet Agave President Justin Sufan

    by Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art | Jul 10, 2014



    Tonight, beginning at 5:30, Agave, the Eiteljorg's young professionals' auxiliary will co-host a "Sip & Learn" event featuring Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison at the Eiteljorg and 431 Gallery: Art and Impact, at the Indiana State Museum. Agave is teaming up with 1816, the State Museum's young professionals' group. 

    Lots of planning goes into developing an event that takes 20-to-30 somethings to two museums in the same night. And, Agave's dedicated and creative team works hard to make it happen. We asked Agave President Justin Sufan a few questions about Agave and why young professionals should join!

    EITELJORG BLOG: What interested you in joining Agave?

     JUSTIN: Other than having an appreciation of the local arts scene, I've always had a special interest in the Eiteljorg Museum.  I remember originally visiting the Eiteljorg at a young age on a school field trip, and since then I've always held the Museum in high regard.  A few years ago while attending IndyHub's Get IndyVolved event at the Children's Museum, I came across the Agave booth.  The Agave members had a lot of exciting things to share about the Museum, and I joined on the spot!  Like many other young professionals in Indianapolis, I find that Agave offers the perfect blend of networking coupled with the Arts.

     EITELJORG BLOG: What plans do you have to make the Agave experience even better this year?

    JUSTIN:  We look to offer a Young Professional (YP) experience that's very different agavehappyhouranseladams1from what other YP groups in Indy offer.  Agave closed out a successful 2013 and, in large part, this was due to the help of a new and engaged auxiliary board.  We plan to build on that success in 2014.  We've had exciting events the first half of the year and even more planned later - including Jorgstock on the Canal August 23, our Freiteljorg Halloween party in October, and a Holiday party in December.  Of course we'll continue to offer Happy Hour events throughout the year.  All of our events celebrate the Museum, and feature a current exhibit.

    EITELJORG BLOG: Why should young professionals join Agave?

    JUSTIN: There is something distinct here at the Eiteljorg.  Your participation in Agave opens doors to a great network of intelligent and contemporary community leaders in Indianapolis who share an appreciation of culture and the arts...  and at only $30 a year, the value far exceeds the entry point.  We have an inviting Agave board and we make personal connections with all of our members.  We have great events, opportunities to meet new people, and excellent educational programs. Finally, our events are FUN.  They range from low key curator-led Happy Hour events to raucous parties on the canal with incredible bands and DJs.  Not to mention, all of our events are open to the public so you can bring your friends too!

    Justin works full time in regulatory affairs for Indianapolis Power & Light Co.

     TONIGHT'S EVENT:

    Agave Sip & Learn
    Thursday, July 10
    5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
    Admission is $25; $15 for Agave and 1816 members
    Hosted by: Agave, the Eiteljorg Museum’s young professionals’ auxiliary, and 1816 Associate Board, the Indiana State Museum’s young professionals’ group.
    Guests will enjoy local brew, wine and eats while experiencing two of Indy’s premier cultural institutions. The evening begins at the Eiteljorg, where guests will get a private curator-led tour of the museum’s Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison exhibit. Then, they will walk over to the Indiana State Museum for a VIP exploration of 431 Gallery: Art and Impact. Tickets available at www.gmhappyhour.eventbrite.com.

     

    Go comment!
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