Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

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)


  1. 2 Sharon Popa 23 Apr
    I love the Guitar exhibit!!! So much fun and interesting!! Thank you for putting it together and sharing it.  I hope to see it again before it leave in August. Great job!!
  2. 1 Josephine H. Perry 23 Apr
    What a journey, Planet DeShong is still revolving.


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