Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Exhibit looks at how Hollywood Westerns shape perceptions of American identity

    by | | Feb 15, 2018

    The Reel West headline

    Worldwide, people often formed their first impressions of the West and of America not from visiting its vast landscapes but from seeing tales of the West flicker onscreen.

    A romanticized and fictional version of the West galloped across movie screens and on televisions, thrilling audiences while portraying a violent and often simplistic version of American life in the frontier era, with spurs jingling and showdowns at high noon. After a century of Hollywood Western films and decades of Western TV shows, the storylines have become more complex and nuanced. And while fans now are as likely to watch by streaming video, the power of Westerns to create perceptions of the American West is undiminished.

    To explore the role of Hollywood in shaping American ideas of morality, diversity and national identity, the Eiteljorg Museum will take a deep dive into the Western genre through its next featured exhibit: The Reel West. Opening March 3, The Reel West explores the historic, artistic and cultural significance of Western films and TV shows. Film costumes, props, paintings, movie posters and images from the early silent Westerns and mid-20th century classics up through today all are represented.

    Included in the interesting things you will see in The Reel West are:

    • A mask, hat, costume, gun belt and scarf worn by The Lone Ranger, actor Clayton Moore

    • A full costume worn by Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit

    • Two hats worn by Clint Eastwood, on his early 1960s TV show Rawhide and years later in his 1985 film Pale Rider

    • Western hats or other costume items worn on camera by Western performers from several eras, including John Wayne, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, James Arness, the cast members of Bonanza, plus Sam Elliott, Anjelica Huston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jamie Foxx and many others

    • Interactive technology including touchscreens that museum-goers can use to watch clips from Westerns and to explore in greater detail the themes of morality, diversity and identity that Westerns portray

    • A small movie theater showing clips from film trailers of well-known Western movies

    • Hands-on interactives for all ages.

    Among the Western films highlighted in The Reel West is director John Ford’s 1956 epic The Searchers, starring John Wayne and Natalie Wood. Though films of that so-called “classic” era certainly could be entertaining with good-versus-evil storylines, they often overlooked and distorted the roles of women, Native Americans, African Americans, Latino and LGBTQ communities in the actual West. As audiences and cultural sensibilities changed, Hollywood Westerns evolved over time; so the exhibit also looks at important historical and recent Western films that better convey the West’s diversity, some more realistically, some satirically or ironically, some combining elements of other film genres, such as science fiction.

    Cast, The Searchers, Lilly, Full Permissions

    “We are thrilled to present The Reel West, as this yearlong exhibit has multigenerational appeal to casual movie fans, serious film buffs, Baby Boomers who remember iconic Westerns and younger people new to the genre,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Many special programming events are scheduled during the run of the exhibit where guests can learn more about how these films were made, thus enhancing their appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of Westerns.”

    Developed by Johanna M. Blume, the Eiteljorg’s associate curator of Western art, history and culture, The Reel West has been several years in the making. The exhibit includes art works from the museum’s collections, but Eiteljorg staff also traveled the nation to confer with other museums, collectors and studio archives that loaned costumes, objects and props for the exhibit.

    The Reel West, presented by Oxford Financial Group, LTD and sponsored by Ice Miller LLP, The Sunrise Foundation, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, the Indiana-polis Colts, Nordstrom, Frank N. and Patricia L. Owings and other sponsors, continues through Feb. 3, 2019 in the special exhibit gallery, and is included with regular museum admission.

    Original Westworld, Alamy, Promotion non-paid use, Exhibit Permissions

    A year of fascinating, fun programming for The Reel West

    The Reel West will kick off with a special opening reception Friday evening March 2. For information and reservations, contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or

    Eiteljorg partner IMAX Theater will hold screenings of Western films throughout the exhibition. Tickets to an IMAX Western include Eiteljorg Museum admission. Check for details of film screenings.

    Here are other programming events in connection with The Reel West, all at the Eiteljorg unless otherwise noted:

    • Curator’s Choice talk, Women in Westerns: A sneak peek at The Reel West exhibition with Johanna M. Blume, noon March 2

    • Presentation by award-winning Dances with Wolves costume designer Cathy Smith, 1 p.m. March 3

    • Screenings of the silent films An Eastern Westerner and Safety Last! accompanied by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, March 10 and March 11, at the Schrott Center for the Arts. Tickets available on the ICO website,

    • Lecture and gallery tour with Dr. Sue Matheson, Western film scholar, focused on art works that influenced John Ford films, 1 p.m. March 31

    • Presentation by Emmy Award-winning writer and co-producer of Into the West, Kirk Ellis, 1 p.m. April 7

    • Trivia night, chuckwagon grub, movie screenings and much more.

    More events are being added all the time; please visit for the latest details.

    Image Captions:

    Promotional artwork of Yul Brynner in Westworld, 1973
    Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

    Cast in The Searchers, 1956
    Image courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana


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

  • Grammy-winner Bill Miller to perform concert at Eiteljorg Museum April 5

    by Bryan Corbin, editor, Storyteller magazine | Jan 31, 2018
    Bill Miller image

    A powerful singer-songwriter, Bill Miller is known for his percussive guitar style and intense vocals. His Native American flute-playing has earned him Grammy awards. Drawing upon his Mohican heritage, Miller sings poignantly about his Native experience, combining traditional singing styles of northern tribes with classic rock, gospel, blues and Native flute. Highly admired in music circles, Miller has performed on the same stages with Pearl Jam, Tori Amos and Arlo Guthrie, and participated in a Johnny Cash documentary and tribute album.

    To hear an artist of Miller’s virtuosity perform live is a real treat. Eiteljorg visitors can experience his concert at a free event starting at 7 p.m. April 5 at the museum. Miller’s performance is part of an evening that begins with a fascinating panel discussion about an IUPUI professor’s project to revive Mohican-language hymns that almost were lost to history.

    Interwoven into Bill Miller’s songs is the history of Mohican and other tribal cultures and his own family story. His song “Love Sustained” is about his mother, who raised nine children on the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin, amid his father’s battles with alcoholism. During his 35-year music career, Miller has produced more than a dozen albums, performed across North America, toured with national acts in the 1990s and built up a social-media following. As a musician he has connected with audiences of many cultures and faiths. “I’ve had unlikely alliances with people who you’d never think I’d be influenced by,” he said.

    Miller also has lived through recent personal tragedies, including deaths of his mother and adult son, and his own near-fatal illness and heart surgery. Now touring again, he remains passionate about musical excellence. “I’m playing on a different level, spiritually. I’m very confident in what I do. I don’t have a doubt anymore,” Miller said.

    Historical detective story

    The spiritual dimension of Bill Miller’s songs has won over many fans, including Rachel Wheeler, Ph.D., religious studies professor at IUPUI. She first heard Miller in 2001 during research into missionaries who worked among Mohicans in the 1700s. Her research compared a Congregational (Puritan) mission in Miller’s ancestral community of Stockbridge, Mass., to a German Moravian mission in a nearby Mohican community.

    In the Moravian church archives in Bethlehem, Pa., Wheeler found lyrics of 18th century hymns, written in the Mohican language. Moravian records provided glimpses into the lives of Mohican communities of centuries ago, before their removal from the Hudson River Valley and New England to Indiana and eventually Wisconsin, where the tribe is based today.

    Wheeler sought to recreate the Mohican hymns, but the project faced huge obstacles: the Mohican hymn tradition disappeared, the last fluent Mohican speakers died in the 1930s and the rediscovered lyrics lacked sheet music. Wheeler collaborated with Sarah Eyerly, Ph.D., Florida State University musicology professor, who located the original music in Germany and matched up lyrics with hymn tunes. Mohican composer Brent Michael Davids developed arrangements of the hymns that modern choir singers can perform. Exactly how the Mohican hymns sounded in the 1700s is not known; but through the team’s reverse engineering, the hymns again can be sung in Moravian musical styles. Bill Miller is working on new music rooted in Native music traditions to go with the Mohican-authored lyrics.

    Miller’s own recordings explore Christianity and Native spirituality. At the April 5 event, during the panel discussion with Wheeler, Eyerly and others, Miller plans to debut new music for the Mohican hymns, followed by a concert of his own material. “I think it’s a beautiful circle of me coming into my own heritage with my faith,” he said of the collaboration. “What I want this project to be as far as my connection to it is to add my spirit voice to it.”


    Mohican Songs of the Spirit
    Eiteljorg Museum’s Clowes Court

    Thursday April 5
    7 p.m.

    Panel discussion with Dr. Rachel Wheeler, Dr. Sarah Eyerly, Bill Miller and others.
    8 p.m.
    Concert by singer-songwriter, fine-art painter and activist Bill Miller.

    Free Admission

    Sponsored by:
    IUPUI American Indian Programs
    IUPUI Department of Religious Studies
    Spirit & Place
    American Council of Learned Societies
    Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

    IUPUI AIP Logo

    IUPUI Religious Studies logo

    Spirit & Place Festival logo

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

  • Celebrate Native American Heritage Month at the Eiteljorg

    by Alisa Nordholt-Dean | Oct 23, 2017

    Mario Martinez_Conversation

    November is National Native American Heritage Month and what better way to celebrate than by visiting the Eiteljorg. Peruse the museum galleries, join in a curator tour, see Native Art Now! and meet two incredibly talented Native artists visiting Indianapolis to inspire visitors and showcase their beadwork skills. Here is a sampling of what’s in store for November.

    Curator’s Choice Tour:
    Cut Fold, and Sew: The Miami, Potawatomi and Delaware Arts of Ribbonwork with Dr. Scott Shoemaker, the Thomas G. and Susan C. Hoback curator of Native American art, history and culture. Nov. 3 at noon.

    Native Art Now! 
    Don’t miss this exhibit of iconic contemporary Native art from the Eiteljorg’s permanent collection. Opens Nov. 11.

    Karen Ann HoffmanArtist in Residence: Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida)
    Award-winning artist Karen Ann Hoffman creates beautifully decorative pieces using Iroquois raised beadwork. Her work has been displayed across the nation and is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Wisconsin Historical Museum and other institutions. Meet Karen and learn about her art and culture during open studio sessions on Nov. 11, 18 and 25. She will also teach a brooch-making workshop on Nov. 22.

    Katrina MittenArtist in Residence: Katrina Mitten (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma)
    Beadwork artist Katrina Mitten creates embroidery-style beadwork traditional to Native peoples of the Great Lakes. She has won numerous awards for her work over the years and her pieces can be seen in museums around the nation. On Nov. 24 and 25, meet Katrina, learn about her Miami culture, and watch as she demonstrates beadwork techniques.

    Visit for the latest information about art-making events and opportunities to meet artists.


    Image caption for Native Art Now! image at top:

    Mario Martinez (Pascua Yaqui, born 1953)
    The Conversation, 2004
    Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
    Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship


    This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine.


  • Day of the Dead celebration brings community together

    by Eiteljorg Staff | Sep 25, 2017
    Day of the Dead 2What comes to mind when you conjure up images of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)?  A somber memorial? Gruesome Halloween ghouls? Well, picture vibrant swirling color, lively music, dancing calavaras (skeletons), rhythmic sounds of hammers making punched-tin treasures, laughter as children enjoy delightful papel picado (cut paper) creations, beautiful Catrinas dressed for a parade and elaborate ofrendas (altars) created to honor deceased loved ones. It’s all part of Nopal Cultural’s annual Día de los Muertos Celebration at the Eiteljorg Museum.

    What is
    Día de los Muertos?

    With roots going back thousands of years to indigenous traditions in Mexico, this holiday is a time to gather together to remember and celebrate friends and relatives who have passed on. Day of the Dead has evolved into a diverse festival, celebrated not only in Mexico but in the U.S. and many other countries.

    During this two-day holiday for honoring the dead, tradition holds that souls are allowed to return home and celebrate among the living, if only for a few short hours. Meanwhile, living relatives work hard to clean and decorate gravesites with fragrant, colorful cempasuchil (marigold) flowers and construct elaborate altars with photographs, food and drink. Some communities even hold town-wide festivals culminating in parades and special dances.

    Join us in celebration

    Day of the Dead 1Join Nopal Cultural and the Eiteljorg in celebration on Saturday, Oct. 28. Because this is a special holiday, museum admission will be free to everyone on that date. Festivities include dance performances, art-making, a mercado (marketplace), music, ofrendas, a Catrina parade, artist-in-residence Richard Gabriel, Jr., who specializes in Spanish Colonial tinwork and so much more. The event is sponsored by the Lopez Law Firm and The Penrod Society.

    OCT 28
    Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
    FREE Admission

    Day of the Dead image- ofrendaA special exhibit of ofrendas (altars) will be on exhibit in the Lilly Theater from Oct. 10 – Nov. 2 and seeing it is included with the regular museum admission  cost -- with the exception of Oct. 28, when admission to the Eiteljorg Museum is free.

  • Jammin’ In July | Live Music Every Wednesday

    by Sandy Schmidt, Eiteljorg public programs coordinator | Jul 07, 2015
    Music. It comes in all verities. It can be loud or quiet. It can be calming or inspiring. It can create emotions and recall memories.  Some types you love and others, well….they maybe aren’t your jam.  Everyone has a favorite song, whether it is classical, hard rock, pop, country or anything in between.  You know the feeling when that song comes on… suddenly it is the only thing you want to focus on for the next three minutes and you will not hesitate to silence your friend mid story by turning the volume to a level your Mother would condemn.  Don’t lie, you like music and you probably have done that at least once in your life.  That is one of the biggest reasons we have chosen to have live music under our new addition, The Sails!  This is going to be a wonderful community spot! We will have shade, games, drinks and tunes outside the museum, right next to the Canal.  As we completely understand that people have a variety of tastes in music, we are featuring a variety of bands each Wednesday evening in July from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. beginning on July 1st.

    We have booked some pretty great local bands including Freddie T & The People, Soundz of Santana, and Coolidge.  We also have The Indianapolis Ceili Band for a performance before they make their way to Ireland to compete!  All in all, we have a lot planned out there for that community space this summer and we would love to see your face!

    Just a head’s up, bringing your lunch to enjoy out under The Sails is wonderful…I may even venture to say blissful. Then factor in a little bit of lunch time live music that will be happening occasionally, and you will have an awesome work day break!  Wednesdays are about to get a whole lot better.

    Jammin' Line up:
    Soundz of Santana6
    July 8
    Soundz of Santana

    Whiloughby Sprig1
    (Willoughby Sprig)

    July 15
    Willoughby Sprig,  
    Indiana Old Time Ambassadors 
    Indianapolis Ceili Band 2014
    July 22
    Indianapolis Ceili Band
    Emily Ann Thompson Band

    July 29
    Frank Dean, Scott Parkhurst and LuAnn Lancton
    Go comment!
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