Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Learn the history of the American guitar in a special presentation

    by User Not Found | Apr 26, 2013

    Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 5! That’s when C.F. Martin & Co. historian/guitar expert, Dick Boak, will take participants through an interactive journey of the history of the American guitar. Dick’s presentation will showcase the 180-year-old Martin company, as well as the evolution of its acoustic guitars.

                                                  (Left) 1834 Martin Stauffer, (Right) 1945 Martin D 45

    The presentation will be supplemented with demonstrative guitar "vignettes" of appropriate period pieces on an assortment of evolutionary Martin designs by acoustic guitarist Steve Reno of Reno's Music in Fishers, IN.

    Dick has been inextricably intertwined with C.F. Martin, in Nazareth, PA, for more than 35 years. He established and managed Martin’s Artist Relations and Limited Edition guitar program which produced signature models for more than 100 legendary artists, including Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, John Mayer and Sting. He is an accomplished guitarmaker, woodworker, musician, illustrator and writer. Following the discussion, Dick will be available to sign copies of three books, Martin Guitar Masterpieces, Martin Guitars: A History and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference.

    Martin acoustic guitars continue to be prized for their tone, consistency, quality and attention to handcrafted detail. Professional and amateur musicians in every category of music hold Martin guitars in high esteem.

    The list of Martin players, past and present, reads like a "Who’s Who" of the musical world and includes legends such as Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Hank Williams, Sr., Jimmy Buffett, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Sting, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and countless others. In addition to guitarmaking, Martin is also one of the world’s largest manufacturers of musical strings.

    C.F. Martin & Co. was founded by Christian Frederick Martin Sr. in 1833. It remains the oldest surviving maker of guitars in the world.

    So, whether you’re a self-proclaimed guitar geek, novice string strummer, or just a fan of music history, come join us! Sunday May 5 is sure to be a very special afternoon with a man whose heart and hands have had a mighty influence on some of American’s favorite riffmeisters.

    While you're here, check out Guitars! Roundups to Rockers. More than 100 guitars—owned by greats including Roy Rogers, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Buddy Holly and others— are on display.

    Photos for this post are courtesy of C. F. Martin Archives.

    DeShong Perry-Smitherman, Eiteljorg Public Relations Manager
    Contact me at for interviews with Dick Boak or Steve Reno. Follow me on Twitter @DeShongPerry.

    Go comment!

  • Why there are 62 body bags inside the Eiteljorg

    by User Not Found | Apr 25, 2013

                                    Bonnie Devine (Ojibwa),Manitoba, 2010, 62 Pandemic Body Bags

    Bonnie Devine’s work, Manitoba, is a powerful piece that is not to be missed. A prominent Canadian First Nation woman and 2011 Eiteljorg Fellow, Devine is a multi-talented sculpture and installation artist, as well as a curator and writer. Devine’s work often deals with issues of her culture, the environment and the Canadian (mis)treatment of First Nations people. Her work, Manitoba, is created with the use of 62 body bags, sent to a reservation in response to request for help during a pandemic.

    Robert Houle (Saulteaux), another prominent First Nation artist and 2003 Eiteljorg Fellow states this about Devine’s installation:

    "Manitoba is a story of surviving influenza and how pandemic body bags were callously sent to the Cree community of St. Theresa Point First Nation in northern Manitoba in 2009. The government of Canada delivered an ominous message by sending dozens of body bags in shipments of medical supplies for the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Once again, in the spirit of solidarity, Devine confronts any obstacle to human dignity with the compassionate rigor of a warrior. As a mother would take pains to comfort a child, Devine takes trauma to heal societal inequities."

    As the label in the Eiteljorg gallery reads: “This act is reminiscent of Native peoples being given blankets that were full of smallpox. Governments are clever, but rarely compassionate, especially to the first peoples (Jennifer Complo-McNutt, Eiteljorg Curator of Contemporary Art).”

    Visitors are invited to interact with the piece in a very intimate way. They can walk amongst the bags and see the individual names of reserves in Manitoba. Every person’s reaction is different. Adults often stand back in reverence or horror, confronted by the meanings of the body bags. Children are often seen running in and out of the maze-like installation or talking with adults to try and better understand the work. While every visitor’s reaction to Manitoba is different, it is definitely an installation you do not want to miss experiencing in person.

    Manitoba is one of several works installed in our contemporary galleries by Canadian First Nations artists. On display in the Harvey gallery is Home and Garden, 2009, Edward Poitras’ (Gordon First Nation) large-scale installation. In the Hurt gallery, visitors can see Faye HeavyShield’s (Kainai-Blood) quiet but powerful piece, hours.

    Have you visited Manitoba? What was your experience? Let us know in the comment space below.

    Ashley Holland

    Ashley Holland
    Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art



  • How We Made Noise with Guitars!

    by User Not Found | Apr 23, 2013

    Several pictures of Eiteljorg staff members talking to the media 

    On a chilly Tuesday afternoon in December 2012, I sat in the hot seat at the Eiteljorg. It was my second interview for a PR Manager job - and I was sitting at a boardroom table with curators, vice presidents and other decision makers. They all wanted to know whether I had what it took to get the word out about the upcoming Guitars! exhibit.

    Sitting there in my pinstripes, with butterflies in my belly, my goal was to make believers of this crew of quizmasters. As a longtime television news producer, I knew how to sell a vision. I knew this museum was about to install something very special - something that deserved placement on every local TV news and radio station and in every major print publication in this market. I also knew that upcoming exhibits and events like Indian Market & Festival and the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship ought to be on this city’s radar.


    I made promises and shared some of my personal strategies for reeling in media. Pretty soon I had a couple of them smiling. Others were bobbing their heads to the beat of my ideas. And the one inquisitor who threw me for several loops finally started easing off that deadly serious side-eye smirk! After my interview with CEO John Vanausdall, I learned I had landed this dream job. But now it was time to deliver --- and fast!


    I started February 1. Guitars! opened March 9. That gave me a month to get coverage commitments. But before I could do that, I needed to talk to our curators, programming team and collections director about schedules, photography rules and vault tour authorizations.


    Thanks to our curators, collections and public programming teams, the stories behind our treasured guitars were able to come to life in print, broadcast and social media. And my media Wall of Fame is growing! 

    TheIndianapolis Star did a fascinating tour of our vault with our curators. NUVO previewed, then reviewed the show. The Indianapolis Recorder ran a story I wrote about jazz man Charlie Christian’s fabled guitar and the late player’s legacy. And Lou Harry, from the Indianapolis Business Journal, wrote a kick-booty piece called “Eiteljorg shows how the West was strummed.”  Then, there were the endless radio interviews. James and Johanna talked Guitars! on Bob and Tom, WFYI (twice), WIBC, WICR (twice) "Indiana This Week" and HANK-FM. And, we welcomed all the TV stations in this market: WTHR came opening day, WISH did four segments with Dick Wolfsie, WRTV ran previews in three newscasts and FOX-59 produced morning segments with feature reporter Sherman Burdette, and WFYI showcased Guitars in a 30-minute show called "Art of the Matter."  Pretty soon, our museum, known for its quiet, calming personality, was making a lot of noise!

    Now, nearly two months after the grand opening, Guitars! is still a hit. We’re packed on programming days and seeing a 30 percent hike in visitors over last year, when we hosted the popular Steel Ponies motorcycle exhibit. People leave our home feeling excited, inspired and culturally rich.


    I’m overjoyed about being able to share in part of the success of Guitars! So glad I was able to get a smile out of “side-eye” that chilly December day.  

    DeShong Perry-Smitherman
    Eiteljorg Public Relations Manager
    (I'm pictured on the left. That's my equally fierce coworker, Registrar Christa Barleben on my right)


  • Curatorial beats with a Western connection

    by Johanna Blume | Apr 18, 2013

    picture of guitars in Eiteljorg exhibit

    Throughout the run of Guitars!: Roundups to Rockers, we’ll highlight the top five guitar picks from an Eiteljorg employee and find out whether there’s a Western connection! This week’s playlist comes from Johanna Blume, Assistant Curator of Western Art, History and Culture.

    Assistant Curator Johanna Blume

    My music taste has often been described as “eclectic,” so you may not see a lot of rhyme or reason in my picks. Instead, think of them as five songs that I think feature particularly beautiful or interesting guitar playing:

    1. “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M., Out Of Time, 1991
    2. “Down By The Water,” The Decemberists, The King Is Dead, 2011
    3.  “Land,”Patti Smith, Horses, 1975
    4. “Modern Girl,” Sleater-Kinney, The Woods, 2005
    5. “Rainbow Connection,” Willie Nelson, Rainbow Connection, 2001

    You can hear the influence of the band R.E.M. on The Decemberists’ most recent album, The King Is Dead. In fact, Peter Buck, R.E.M.’s lead guitar player, contributed guitar to several tracks, including “Down By The Water.” When you listen to “Down By The Water” and “Losing My Religion” together, keep an ear out for the guitar and mandolin parts in particular.

    Patti Smith is one of the most influential acts in rock. Her 1975 album Horses was at the very forefront of the punk movement in the United States. In “Land”, Lenny Kaye created mesmerizing and surprising sounds with his guitar.

    On a more personal note, growing up in Western South Dakota, my friends and I didn’t have access to a lot of non-Top 40 music on the radio or through live performances. Thankfully, my best friend had friends in the Pacific Northwest who shared the amazing music happening in their neck of the woods with him, and he in turn shared it with me. Sleater-Kinney was one of my first introductions to punk and riot grrrl music.


    I can’t help but think of high school and my once turquoise and purple hair whenever I listen to them.

    On another personal note, one of my all time favorite songs is “Rainbow Connection,” first sung by none other than Kermit the Frog, and played on his little frog banjo. This version, performed by Willie Nelson, features some beautiful guitar playing, instead.

    So what do these songs have to do with the American West? In the case of The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney, and Willie Nelson, the immediate connection is that they’ve all called the West home (Oregon, Washington, and Texas, respectively). But the connections run deeper than just where these artists have lived. Sleater-Kinney grew out of the vibrant riot grrrl and punk scenes that developed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s and 1990s. The Decemberists have been an integral part of the indie-folk-rock boom happening in the Pacific Northwest today. And, well, Willie Nelson is one of the defining acts in “outlaw country.” Even Patti Smith and R.E.M, while not from the West, are connected to our story. Both have influenced generations of Western musicians including The Decemberists, Nirvana, and a host of others.

    funk and brownstein guitars

    If you haven’t had a chance to see Guitars! Roundups to Rockers yet, or if you’re thinking of visiting again, be sure to keep your eye out for the guitars played by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, and Chris Funk of The Decemberists.

    Johanna Blume
    Assistant Curator of Western Art, History and Culture

    Go comment!
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