Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Artistry and Excellence: A conversation with Betsy Theobald Richards about Native Art Now!

    by Bryan Corbin, editor, Storyteller magazine | Oct 23, 2017

    Betsy Theobald RichardsTo lead the dialogue at a convening of scholars and top contemporary Native artists, the Eiteljorg has selected a nationally known art and social justice expert: Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation). With two decades of experience in philanthropy, arts education, advocacy and theater directing and producing, Richards served at the Pequot Museum and Ford Foundation and now is program director for The Opportunity Agenda. With a passion for Native art (her aunt is the renowned artist Kay WalkingStick), Richards designed the format of the facilitated conversations she will lead at Native Art Now! on Nov. 11-12 that will examine the future of contemporary Native art.

    Storyteller magazine recently interviewed Richards about the program, and her comments are lightly edited for space:

    On why she designed the format of the Native Art Now! gathering of artists and scholars to include facilitated roundtable discussions:
    “I put the suggestion out there that (the Eiteljorg) might want to try something I had tried at one of my biggest convenings called ‘Creative Change’ . . . which was how to take a large group of incredibly talented, visionary folks, and have them have a dialogue. That isn’t what we normally have, which is panels where four people sit up on the dais and talk at people and take questions. I tried to help design a format that will allow people to have dialogue among themselves, to have thought leaders for folks that begin conversations; but that the conversation then becomes owned by the group.”

    On what insights she expects participants will gain from the facilitated dialogue with artists:
    “What I hope is to get everybody thinking to create a space where people can think as big as possible about the future. Not just, ‘Five years from now we should have this program or two more exhibitions in a year,’ not just the tactics or mechanical outcomes, but really have time for some dreaming. Dreaming is a very powerful thing.”

    On the challenges that contemporary Native artists face today that will provide context for the discussions:
    “Contemporary Native art is contemporary art . . . Often contemporary Native art is sidelined. Some people are interested in historical or ethnographic pieces; but our artists are living treasures. They deserve to make a living . . . We should all appreciate the artistry and the excellence of these contemporary artists.”

    On the key points that should be conveyed to funders about the importance of supporting contemporary Native art:
    “We forget as Americans that we are on Native land and that our Indigenous cultures are an asset, something very special to this country. I think that we need to start understanding — not just funders, but America in general — what an incredible asset of our heritage and our future that our Native cultures are. And one of the most visible and powerful ways to exhibit our living cultures is through our art . . . We are living cultures, and these artists are upholding our living cultures in magnificent ways just as our ancestors did . . . If funders and the general public want to support Native communities, one of the many ways is to support Native culture (through art). Also, Native art is cool. I think people need to buy some Native art.”

    On her social justice work and how that relates to the convening of Fellowship artists:
    “A lot of my work is around incorporating art, culture, pop culture and media into the work of social change. And I have continued in my work in Indian Country and am as dedicated as ever to Native American art and culture; and hopefully I’ll be bringing the skills that I’ve learned, both around facilitation and around how to advance a dialogue, to this convening.”


    Artists and scholars will convene for a dialogue led by Betsy Theobald Richards about contemporary Native art. The morning and afternoon events and lunch together are $30 per person or $15 for students.
    10 a.m. to noon: Facilitated discussion
    Noon to 1 p.m.: Buffet lunch
    1–3 p.m.: Preview of clips from the Native Art Now! documentary followed by roundtable discussions.
    5–9 p.m.: Native Art Now! exhibit opening celebration. This evening event is $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers.

    SUNDAY, NOV 12
    10:30 a.m. to noon: Fellowship artists convening led by Betsy Theobald Richards. The Eiteljorg Fellows will deliberate on the Fellowship to help forge its future. This event is included with general admission and the public is invited to attend, but please register.

    To register to attend any of the events, contact Mary Whistler at 317.275.1316 or by Nov. 3 or log onto

    Kay WalkingStick -- Wallawa Memory

    Image caption:

    Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation)
    Wallowa Memory, 2003
    Gift: Courtesy of the artist

    Photograph of Betsy Theobald Richards is courtesy of The Opportunity Agenda.

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

  • Popular holiday tradition Jingle Rails returns this year with new Hollywood theme

    by Emily Sabens, marketing intern | Oct 23, 2017

    17JingleRailsImageNoLogoSince it first opened in 2010, Jingle Rails: The Great
    Western Adventure
    has become a cherished Indianapolis holiday tradition for families. The extraordinary miniature train attraction returns to the Eiteljorg on Saturday,
    Nov. 18.

    In Jingle Rails, nine G-scale trains chug along nearly 1,200 feet of track through iconic scenes and landmarks of the West that visitors are sure to recognize. Made of all-natural materials such as bark, twigs and acorns, the backdrops are decked out in bright, festive holiday lighting.

    One of the most affordable holiday attractions in Indianapolis, Jingle Rails is included with regular admission, and children age 4 and under are free.

    The Jingle Rails adventure begins in the museum’s Clowes Court, where a miniature train departs from a scaled-down version of downtown Indianapolis. It swings past replicas of Monument Circle, Lucas Oil Stadium, Union Station and the Eiteljorg itself.

    After exploring the Circle City, visitors follow the trains to other displays depicting the iconic landmarks of the American West. You’ll see recreations of national parks and lodges, a Northwest Coast Native village, an Aspen ski resort and wonders — both natural and man-made — including Mount Rushmore, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Old Faithful, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge and more.

    There is an exciting addition this year: Visitors will be able to experience Hollywood and see familiar landmarks such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Warner Bros. water tower, the Griffith Park Observatory and, of course, the iconic Hollywood sign. The display is thanks to a generous donation from the Kortepeter Family, who have committed to supporting a new addition to Jingle Rails each year.

    The Hollywood backdrop also includes a replica of a traditional Western movie set, complete with a saloon, bank and sheriff’s office — a nice lead-in to the museum’s upcoming 2018 special exhibit, The Reel West. Opening March 3, The Reel West will examine how Hollywood movies and television have shaped the public’s ideas of the American West.

    From its inception seven years ago, Jingle Rails has expanded in size, scope and popularity. The must-see attraction extends from Clowes Sculpture Court into Eagle Commons. Families can again pose for a keepsake photo next to a towering replica of a locomotive steam engine — created from tree roots and honeycomb — that was a recent addition in 2016. Visitors also will enjoy a birds-eye view of each train by exploring the interactive kiosk.

    Jingle Rails was designed and built by Paul Busse and his talented crew of creative artists, botanical architects and landscape designers at Applied Imagination. Based in Alexandria, Kentucky, the nationally-recognized team has created similar railway exhibitions for the New York Botanical Garden and the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C.

    Jingle Rails photoOver the years, Jingle Rails has received national acclaim. It was featured in a Chicago Tribune article highlighting popular Midwest holiday attractions. Fox News Travel recognized Jingle Rails in an article titled, “See the world in miniature: 12 of the most incredible model railways.” USA Today also recognized Jingle Rails as a “10 Best” Indianapolis holiday attraction.

    Last year, more than 40,000 guests experienced the holiday railway. All the while, a dedicated team of staff, volunteers and model-railroading enthusiasts keep the trains and display running smoothly.

    Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure will remain open until Jan. 15. Don’t miss this captivating and beloved holiday tradition.

    At the Eiteljorg Museum
    Nov. 18 to Jan. 15

    Included with regular museum admission  (except on Jan. 15 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day; admission is free on that date only.)

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

  • Perspective: Every Second Monday in October and Why Not Indigenous Peoples Day?

    by Dorene Red Cloud, assistant curator of Native American art | Oct 09, 2017

    This week of October 9, 2017, will consist of many reminders about one of my least favorite historical figures, Christopher Columbus. For instance, today is Columbus Day observed. Then this Thursday October 12, 2017, it will be the actual 525th anniversary of Columbus arriving, lost, on the shores of the Bahamas. And I have already seen countless advertisements of Columbus Day sales for mattresses, department stores, and what have you, and I can tell you, I am not inspired to shop. And I like to shop!

    Every Columbus Day, observed and actual, I wear all black clothing for it is a day of mourning, in my opinion. Backed by Spain (although he was Italian), Columbus (born Cristoforo Colombo) was in search of a trade route to the Far East. When he arrived in the Caribbean, he believed he had “discovered” India, so he monikered the people (who had welcomed this stranger politely), “Indians.” Because these people were not Christianized, Columbus, during each trip to what is now called Central and South America, claimed the land and resources for Spain. 

    Speaking of resources, Columbus wanted the gold that he saw the people wearing so he began to demand it — and over a short period of time — more and more of it. He invented methods to punish the people who did not procure enough gold in ways I do not care to elaborate. But I can tell you this much, I never wear gold in memoriam of all of the Indigenous people who were tortured and killed for this gold lust.

    Until that time, gold had mainly been collected from the Ivory Coast of Africa. Due to Columbus’ new system of supply and demand, the “idea” of trading slaves from Africa to replace the decreasing gold supply (and thereby create a new market), occurred. Thus, the introduction of transatlantic slavery was born.

    Did you know that Columbus never landed on North American soil and that Columbus Day was not an official federal government holiday until 1937?  So why do we continue to honor Columbus whose influence introduced disease, rape, and massacre, or, the colonization of the Americas? 

    I want to pay homage to the cities in the U.S. whose citizens voted that they would rather observe a celebration honoring Indigenous Peoples Day and not Christopher Columbus. Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Berkeley, California, Phoenix, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Asheville, North Carolina; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, are some of the cities that no longer observe Columbus Day. And, who, in my humble opinion, totally rock for taking a stand to say “no, we will no longer celebrate a harbinger of death and colonial figure!”

    For many reasons, it behooves us to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.  Despite the millions of Indigenous peoples who perished as a result of contact with Europeans who travelled to all of the Americas after 1492, we Indigenous peoples are still here.  In the U.S., we are 4 million-strong and growing. There are still several millions of Indigenous peoples in Central and South America too, despite history recording these peoples as Latin Americans. Most of you know and are friends with Indigenous peoples, and we have a lot to offer to not only this country, but to the entire world.

    So the true celebration is in our resiliency and survival, our strength and perseverance, and our sense of humor and personalities.  There are so many, many reasons to retire Columbus, ceremonially and officially. So please join me in greeting one another today (and on Thursday, Oct. 12) with “Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!”

    Dorene Red Cloud (Oglala Lakota) wrote this opinion piece for the Eiteljorg blog.

  • 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.

  • Out West™ film screening and discussion: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

    by Eiteljorg Staff | Sep 25, 2017

    The Out West™ programming series explores the positive contributions of the LGBTQ community to the history and cultures of the American West. In the next installment of that series, the Eiteljorg Museum on Oct. 21 will host a screening of the documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, followed by a panel discussion with the film’s director, Michele Josue, who also was a close friend of Shepard. The film relates the story of Matt’s life and the larger impact of the tragic and fatal hate crime on Oct. 6, 1998 against Matt, who was a gay freshman at the University of Wyoming.

    Excerpt of statement by director Michele Josue:

    “The murder of Matthew Shepard was a devastating tragedy that made countless headlines around the world. As people denounced the hatred and senseless violence that caused Matthew’s death, a much-needed dialogue about hate crimes and intolerance against the LGBT community began and continues to this day. His tragic story brought the reality of inequality and vicious, irrational contempt into the public consciousness and set the stage for the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.

    “Though framed through a very personal lens, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine tells a universal story that highlights the responsibility we have now to make sure young people around the world are not at risk of falling victim to the same story ending Matt was.”

    Image caption:

    Filmmaker Michele Josue is seen in this personal photograph with her childhood friend, Matthew Shepard. Josue is the director of a documentary film, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine that will be screened at the Eiteljorg on Oct. 21 followed by a discussion with the director


    OCT 21
    Saturday, 1 p.m.
    The event is included with regular museum admission. Eiteljorg members are free. 


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