Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • Meet our new director of collections, Allison H. Evans

    by Brittan Semler | Feb 12, 2018

    For Allison H. Evans, the transition into her new position as the Eiteljorg’s director of museum collections has been a fairly easy one, comforted by her own knowledge and experiences, the adventure of having a new city to discover and the welcoming people. “The best part of the position so far has been how welcoming everyone is,” she said. “I love the city. I loved Texas, too, but Indy has been really fun to explore.”

    Allison H. Evans

    Allison recently moved to Indianapolis from Orange, Texas, where she worked for the Stark Museum of Art. Although she relocated more than 1,000 miles from her previous position, the work is familiar. She credits the smooth transition to her prior experience with Western and Native American art and artists. “I was working for the Stark Museum of Art, which is also Western American and Native American, and so I’m familiar with some of the artists here, which is great. I think that helps make the transition easier, too, because I’m not dealing with a whole new group of artists and collections, which is nice.”

    As director of museum collections, her responsibilities include overseeing the care and conservation of art works and objects in the museum’s collections. That involves chairing various councils, committees and a task force, planning for disasters and revamping the Eiteljorg’s collections management policy and procedures. Those are policies about how we care for our collections, why it’s important, and how we acquire objects into the collection. She also has the opportunity to travel occasionally, accompanying artwork as it’s transferred to different museums. Just weeks after she was hired, she traveled to San Diego to pack a collection donated to the museum.  

    “There’s so much of this job I enjoy. I’ve been doing it so long,” she said of her 17 years in the collections field. She’s especially looking forward to working with the Eiteljorg’s database and possibly giving the public more access to information on the museum’s collections.

    Her decision to apply to join the Eiteljorg was an easy one. “I knew its reputation was really good and they were doing exciting, innovative things like working with Native American artists and tribes and that’s just really exciting to me, to really work with those different cultures.”

    Originally from Pennsylvania, Allison has lived in Delaware, Texas and now Indiana. “I don’t know where the next thing will take me,” she said, “but right now I am loving my job and loving Indy, so I’m looking forward to exploring more.”

    Allison succeeds Amy McKune, the previous director of collections who is a dedicated professional and had been with the museum 13 years. Allison’s first day at the Eiteljorg was Jan. 8. In her short time on staff, she’s already figured out what makes the Eiteljorg unique. “I think the thing that sticks out to me is how dedicated the staff is to this organization, and they really seem like they’re all having a good time, which is really special. You don’t get that everywhere.”

  • 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. 

  • The Reel West looks at how Westerns shape identity

    by Eiteljorg staff | Nov 21, 2017


    On March 3, 2018, the Eiteljorg opens an exciting new special exhibition: The Reel West. This collection of objects, images and hands-on interactives explores how Western movies and TV shows shape perceptions of the American West.

    Whether you’re a fan of classic Hollywood Westerns such as The Searchers and Bonanza, or contemporary takes on the genre like Django Unchained and the reboot of Westworld, there’s something for everyone. The Reel West examines how Westerns tell morality tales, represent diversity and build myths that shape American identity.

    Fun and interesting for all ages, the yearlong exhibition includes film screenings, curator talks and more. Interested in sponsoring a movie-style theater seat or a hat worn by your favorite Hollywood hero or villain? Contact 317.275.1311 or for sponsorship opportunities.

  • Beautiful and thought-provoking contemporary Native Art Now! exhibit will inspire

    by Eiteljorg Museum staff | Nov 01, 2017


    Do you want to see contemporary art that is surprising, challenging and intriguing? Such engaging artworks await you at the Eiteljorg Museum’s new exhibition Native Art Now!, which opens the weekend of Nov. 11-12.

    As home to one of the nation’s best collections of contemporary Native art, the Eiteljorg will showcase some of the most visually compelling pieces it has acquired over the past two decades. Native Art Now! will be on exhibit at the Eiteljorg until Jan. 28; then it will travel to other museums around the nation.

    So what exactly distinguishes contemporary Native art from other contemporary art?

    “The difference between a contemporary artist and a contemporary Native artist is about 15,000 years,” explained Jennifer Complo McNutt, curator of contemporary art at the Eiteljorg. “Contemporary Native artists have knowledge about their ancestors, traditions and cultures that spans thousands of years. That changes the way you see the world.”

    Rick Bartow_Fox Spirit
    Native contemporary artists had not received the same recognition as other contemporary artists, Complo McNutt said, but now the contemporary Native art field is coming into its own, admired and appreciated by scholars and collectors alike.

    That brings us to Indianapolis. To help support and sustain contemporary Native art, the Lilly Endowment Inc. for two decades has supported the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Every other year since 1999, the Fellowship program has selected a new group of five Native artists and provided them grant support to further their careers and receive recognition. The Eiteljorg has purchased more than 200 contemporary works and received gifts of another 200 to add to its permanent collection. Thirty-nine significant examples are in Native Art Now! and will be on view in the museum’s special exhibition gallery.

    Dynamic and vibrant, the exhibit depicts the broad spectrum of Native art. You’ll see installations, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, glass, and textile art by Indigenous artists from across the U.S. and Canada, such as Rick Bartow, Jim Denomie, Harry Fonseca, Nicholas Galanin, Meryl McMaster, Holly Wilson and others. Many pieces speak to injustices against Native peoples and the resilience of Native cultures. Others encompass innovative styles and mediums, and are open to interpretation.

    And what would a Native art show be without Indian humor? You will experience that, too.

    Holly Wilson_Enough
    The traveling exhibit is one part of the Native Art Now! project. The weekend of Nov. 11-12, the Eiteljorg will host a celebration and convening of leading Native artists and scholars. It will include a facilitated dialogue, moderated by a nationally known art and social justice expert, Betsy Theobald Richards, to consider the past, present and future of contemporary Native art, as well as the future of the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.

    The Eiteljorg and WFYI also collaborated on a one-hour documentary that presents personal perspectives on Native contemporary art.  It is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Thursday Dec. 14 on WFYI-TV 20.1.

    The museum has produced a scholarly companion book for Native Art Now! that examines Native expression in contemporary art since 1992.

    When seeing Native Art Now!, don’t miss two other exhibits of contemporary Native art now on view at the Eiteljorg: In Their Honor, in the Hurt and Harvey galleries, and The Geometry of Expression, in the Myrta Pulliam Photography Gallery.



    Artists and scholars will convene for a dialogue led by Betsy Theobald Richards. 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


    Image Captions:

    James Lavadour (Walla Walla, born 1951)
    Naming Tanager, 2001
    Oil on wood
    Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship. Acquisition in honor of Bonnie Reilly for her long service to the museum’s Collections Council.

    Rick Bartow (Wiyot, 1946—2016)
    Fox Spirit, 2000
    Mixed media
    Gift: Courtesy of Penny Ogle Weldon in memory of Kenneth L. Ogle, Jr.

    Holly Wilson (Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma/Cherokee, born 1968)
    Enough, 2015
    Museum Purchase: Eiteljorg Fellowship


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

  • Grafton Tyler Brown: An important new acquisition

    by James H. Nottage, Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer, Gund Curator of Western art, history and culture | Oct 24, 2017

    Grafton_Tyler_Brown_Castle_Geyser_YellowstoneVisitors to the Eiteljorg starting in November 2018 will experience beautifully reimagined Western art galleries. The best of our collections will be featured; and new experiences through technology will help convey the history and meaning of the art. The best of works from the Harrison Eiteljorg, George Gund, and K. S. “Bud” Adams collections will be shown in the best light, and will be joined by works acquired to fill gaps in the overall collection.

    The good news is that one of the newly acquired paintings is on exhibit right now, and it will be part of the galleries and our efforts to demonstrate the broader diversity of Western art by artists from many national and cultural backgrounds. Now featured in the Gund Gallery of Western Art is a notable painting by Grafton Tyler Brown.

    Born in Pennsylvania in 1841, Brown moved to San Francisco and worked as a lithographer and commercial artist. Brown was one of a small number of recognized African American painters to work in the West in the 1800s. He became known for creating and publishing cityscapes, business documents and maps. Later he was known for his paintings of the Western landscape, settling for a time in Oregon, British Columbia and Montana. His last years were spent as a draftsman and map maker in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    GraftonTylerBrown_artist_imageGrafton Tyler Brown’s depictions of Yosemite, Yellow-stone and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest are represented in a select few museum collections. Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, was sketched on-site by Brown on Sep. 6, 1890, and the canvas was completed in 1891 at his Helena, Montana, studio. The work reminds us that people with diverse roots have been a part of the Western experience, and that the traces of their lives are something we can all see and appreciate. The work also helps to expand the museum’s holdings of landscape views of the American West.

    Image Captions:

    Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918)
    Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891, oil on canvas
    Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg

    Grafton Tyler Brown at work in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1883.
    Courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives, Victoria.

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



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