Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • The Tillers Kick Off Summer Under The Sails Concert Series on Wednesday, June 6 at the Eiteljorg Museum

    by Rachel Foley, marketing and communications intern | Jun 04, 2018
    On Wednesday, June 6, The Tillers will perform as the first act in the summer-long Summer Under The Sails concert series that’s back for a fourth season at the Eiteljorg Museum.  Every Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. through Aug. 1, music acts will perform concerts under The Sails along the canal. The concerts are free and guests are invited to sit back and relax under The Sails, enjoy appetizers from the Museum Café and grab a drink from the cash bar. Admission to the museum, including The Reel West exhibit, is free from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays during the concert series.


    The Tillers are a string band with bite — steeped in old-time bluegrass flavor and garnished with an aggressive spirit that carries the listener through stories of the Ohio River Valley. Instrumentally, they are traditional folk storytellers using banjo, guitar, upright bass, fiddle and harmonica to construct a full, fast-paced sound. However, the Cincinnatian foursome of Mike Oberst, Sean Geil, Aaron Geil and Joe Macheret spent many of their formative years involved with punk and rock music, and the influence is evident in their recorded and live performances.

    According to Sean Geil, vocalist and guitarist, they have yet to do many summer concert series but are excited to perform June 6 at the Eiteljorg outdoor stage. They will feature their original bluegrass, folk and old-time songs from their four studio records and even hinted at performing some cowboy-style songs, attributing Oklahoma music legend Woody Guthrie as a major influencer. Geil also said that audience members could expect a tune from their 2013 release titled “Tecumseh on the Battlefield” — a fast-paced telling of the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe between the Shawnee tribe and Gen. William Henry Harrison’s army.

    The band’s self-titled March release, The Tillers, marks their newest era and comes five years after their last record, Hand on the Plow. Although known for their live performance style and fast-paced intensity, the band had struggled to translate that sensation into the recorded version. 

    “It’s been a journey to figure it out,” Geil said. “You’re trying to nail the take and get everything just right, but you’re not thinking as much about the performance. With the new (album) we finally were able to harness that energy and put it on a record.”

    Beyond local club performances and house shows, The Tillers have shared a stage with some of the biggest names in bluegrass and folk. In 2010, The Tillers were able to open for Grammy award-winning guitarist and songwriter Doc Watson and played alongside folk star Iris Dement in 2012. The band also toured with Pokey LaFarge in 2013 and the Hackensaw Boys in 2017, helping to grow their audience and following across the region.

    “Opening for people like Doc Watson and Iris Dement, those people are heroes and have really, truly influenced our music. It’s just an honor. We’ve worked with amazing musicians and they’ve all been extremely kind,” Geil said. 

    Geil is one of the main vocalists and guitarist for The Tillers and has been with the band since its start in 2007. Mike Oberst, another founding member, also does vocals and plays the banjo. Aaron Geil, brother of Sean, joined in 2010 as the upright bassist and in 2015, the guys welcomed fiddler Joe Macheret to the group. 

    “There’s just something about the chemistry this group of guys has on stage. No matter what’s going on with anything else in our lives, we can zone out and use the music as a release and an escape from reality. The reaction from the crowd on a good night can make everything great, and the connections that we make with our audience are priceless,” said Geil, who has played in several bands throughout the years.

    The Tillers attribute much of their soul and style to their Cincinnati roots and its loyal, DIY music culture. Despite growing up in a rural southeast Indiana, Geil has always considered himself a Cincinnatian and spent his younger years exploring the punk rock and hardcore scene of that city’s west side, which he considers an invaluable learning experience. “(I learned) if there‘s not a club willing to put a show on, you can just put your own show on in someone’s basement; and if you could do that with punk rock, you could easily do that with a string band,” Geil said.

    In more recent years, the Tillers have broken out of Cincinnati and now perform in cities and festivals across the region, including Indianapolis. In March, the band performed at the Hi-Fi, the trendy concert venue in the heart of Fountain Square. “There’s a beautiful house concert scene (in Indy) and we’ve played just about every house concert series over the years. We always have an amazing turnout and those are really fun, intimate shows.” 

    For more information on our Summer Under The Sails concert series click here.

  • Eiteljorg Insider | Event Planning Pointers with Kelsey Donson

    by Rachel Foley, marketing and communications intern | May 29, 2018

    Kelsey Donson

    Kelsey Donson

    Beyond its role as an institution of art, history and cultures, the Eiteljorg Museum building is a popular venue that couples rent for weddings and receptions and groups rent for catered events, such as corporate meetings. Planning and organizing these occasions so they run smoothly and clients have a great experience at the Eiteljorg has been the job of Kelsey Donson, the manager of catering, rental and events.

    In charge of booking all outside and internal events, scheduling, arranging contracts and taking payments – as well as marketing the museum as a venue – Kelsey started at the Eiteljorg in February 2016. She has served as liaison between clients and the Eiteljorg’s exclusive caterer: Kahn’s Catering.  Before she moves away from Indianapolis to start a new chapter, Kelsey shared some of her experience and insights about planning a special event at the Eiteljorg.

    For young couples planning weddings, there are a few major pitfalls that can increase tension throughout the planning and slow down the process of preparing for the big day, according to Kelsey. One of the most prevalent sources of conflict and misunderstanding is having too many people involved in the decision-making process, she said. Although input from parents can be helpful and necessary, Kelsey emphasized that the wedding is for the couple. She recommends that as many decisions as possible be handled by a single voice.

    “There have been time when I’m only working with the bride, or only working with the (wedding) planner – and that’s great. When you get the additional people coming in, that’s when it gets tricky,” Kelsey said.

    Another common issue in planning a wedding at any venue involves unmet expectations. Oftentimes, couples make assumptions about what is and what isn’t included in a rental package, Kelsey added. She advises couples to ask questions about exactly what is included in a package, and make judgments early about what the value truly is when selecting options. Various options are offered at different cost levels:  The Eiteljorg’s first tier package, for example,  includes tables and chairs for indoors as well as parking at the White River State Park garage, but does not include outdoor tables and chairs or audio/visual equipment.

     Venues of all kinds have rules and regulations that vary greatly. Although beautiful and full of character, the Eiteljorg building is a working museum. Since food and beverages could damage valuable pieces of art, the Eiteljorg has rules about keeping them in certain areas of the building and not in the galleries. Events at the Eiteljorg cannot have open flames and require a certificate of insurance; and some floral arrangements are restricted in the building, she noted.

    Kelsey’s most important tip is for couples to create and stick to a detailed budget for their wedding. “It mainly comes down to expenses,” she said. Couples who know exactly what they want and can afford typically are more successful in the event-planning process.

    In addition to wedding ceremonies and receptions, the Eiteljorg hosts corporate meetings and events throughout the year.  The Clowes Court multipurpose ballroom can seat a maximum of 260 for a formal dinner, and an hors d’oeuvres and cocktail party can host as many as 1,000 guests throughout the museum, she said.

    Combined with the gorgeous atmosphere and prime location just steps from the JW Marriot, the Eiteljorg Museum is a popular location among visiting corporate groups who want a different feel from a standard hotel event space. Compared to weddings, Kelsey said managing the corporate events is “both easy and hard.” Oftentimes a corporate event such as a company meeting, seminar or awards luncheon has been held several years in a row, so the client organizing it has an idea of what they want. Each venue is different and has its own set of limitations particular to the facility, vendors and caterers, she said.

    Events at the Eiteljorg remain an important part of the organization. Revenues from all museum external events go toward the building expenses, as do admissions and Museum Store revenues, she said. In addition, weddings and corporate events alike draw in crowds from all over the nation and serve as an opportunity to highlight the Eiteljorg Museum as a vibrant, ever-changing cultural institution in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

    Kelsey has been a great addition to the Eiteljorg team. Asked about the most fulfilling part of the job, she cited the reaction of wedding couples to her completed wedding reception preparations in Clowes Court: “Seeing (two people’s) eyes light up as they see the finished ballroom is the best part.” She also endearingly cites several thank-you letters she has received from happy clients that she plans to keep forever.

    Kelsey Donson, right, and Lorna Speece, left

    Kelsey Donson, right, is succeeded by Lorna Speece, left, as manager of catering, rentals and events at the Eiteljorg. 

    With Kelsey moving on, the Eiteljorg announced that Lorna Speece will be the new manager of catering, rental and events. Lorna has been with the museum for three years, first in security and most recently as co-coordinator of Guest Services.

    We wish the best of luck to Kelsey Donson on all of her future endeavors. For more information on events at the Eiteljorg, please visit

  • Eiteljorg Insider | Samantha Roll, Marketing and Communications Intern

    by Samantha Roll, marketing and communications intern | May 29, 2018

    Last November, I had the privilege of shadowing Hyacinth Rucker, the Eiteljorg communications coordinator, through an event put on by the Public Relations Society of America Hoosier Chapter. That experience opened my eyes to what an amazing institution this museum truly is – something I had been completely oblivious to, despite attending college not even a 10-minute walk from the Eiteljorg. Hyacinth encouraged me to apply for the spring marketing and communications intern position, and I jumped at the opportunity.

    Samantha Roll

    As a sophomore at IUPUI majoring in journalism and public relations, I was looking for an internship that would provide me with a wide range of experiences, and that’s exactly what I found at the Eiteljorg. Since early January, the marketing and communications team has given me access to opportunities I wouldn’t have received anywhere else. I have planned and prepared strategic social media posts, attended exhibit-premiere parties, events and fundraisers, created content for the Eiteljorg Blog, and learned so much about the museum and the wonderful people who work here.

    interns store 2
    Robert Tate, retail manager talks to Samantha Roll & Brittan Semler, both marketing and communications interns

    Having the opportunity to be a part of promoting The Reel West exhibit was by far the most enlightening experience of the past four months, as I observed all the hard work that goes into such a large exhibition. From reaching the public through both social and local media outlets, to advertising campaigns and everything in between, I was able to have a small part in it all. Watching the marketing team’s work come to fruition in a successful opening to the exhibit was extremely fulfilling, and one of my favorite parts of my internship here.

    Brittan, Samantha & Hyacinth

    This position provided me with a look into the public relations and communications career field, and has made me excited for what lies ahead. I am so thankful to the amazing Eiteljorg marketing team and the rest of the museum staff for making the last few months so memorable and filled with experiences I couldn’t have learned in the classroom.

  • Eiteljorg Insider | Brittan Semler, Marketing and Communications Intern

    by Brittan Semler, marketing & communications intern | May 21, 2018

    It feels like just yesterday I was standing in the parking garage entry tower, dressed in my only business outfit and carrying my new over-stocked portfolio, calling my mom for some last-minute support before my interview. It had been less than a month since life sneaked up on me and I began searching for internships, scrolling through page after page of online listings before I stumbled upon a marketing and communications internship at the Eiteljorg Museum. I loved the idea of working for a museum; history had always been a passion of mine, and I was intrigued by the thought of working for an organization that did more than just marketing -- they did everything. I applied that same day, interviewed and – surprise – was offered and quickly accepted the position.

    Brittan Semler

    My first day was overwhelming; I edited the Storyteller magazine right off the bat and was running around the museum trailing Hyacinth Rucker, the communications coordinator, scheduling interviews for blog posts and taking pictures for social media. I quickly caught on that this would not be an internship filled with coffee-runs and filing papers. Throughout the past four months, I have planned and executed social media campaigns, written original blog posts, edited news releases and Storyteller articles, pitched events to local media outlets and so much more. I attended many insightful programs (including one that landed me on the court at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse), prestigious fundraising events and exhibit premieres and was behind the scenes when television crews filmed segments in the museum. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to gain so much real-world experience in just four short months.

    Samantha Roll and Brittan Semler pose with Fox 59's Sherman Burdette and our Jamie Foxx and John Wayne cut outs to promote our special exhibit #EJTheReelWest

    As I was nervously waiting for my interview to begin, I wish I could have shown myself all I’ve since accomplished and how rewarding this internship has been. I work with great people and am blown away every day by their love and commitment to this institution, and compassion for each other. I’m so grateful the marketing department trusted me to learn through doing and included me in eye-opening discussions on nearly every project. They have been valuable mentors and I will carry their guidance and expertise with me through the rest of my career.

    Samantha Roll, Brittan Semler and Hyacinth Rucker at Cowpokes & Cocktails in April

    I couldn’t have asked for a better first professional internship. I learned the demands of every area of communications and marketing, and am better equipped to determine what I want my future to look like in this profession once I graduate from Butler University next spring. I will miss this chapter in my life, but I will never forget all it has taught me. No matter where I end up, I know I am better off because of my experiences at the Eiteljorg.

  • The Eiteljorg’s Fourth Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration

    by Samantha Roll, marketing and communications intern | May 17, 2018

    On Saturday, June 16, the Eiteljorg will celebrate Juneteenth (also called Freedom Day) with music, food and fun for the whole family. This annual celebration of freedom is held to commemorate the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas 153 years ago in June of 1865, at the end of the Civil War.

    For Alisa Nordholt-Dean, the public programs director at the Eiteljorg, the best part of the Juneteenth celebration is the community atmosphere. “Everybody’s excited, everybody’s having a good time,” she said. “There’s something for everyone – whether it be families who are drawn in by the hands-on activities and musical performances or those more interested in the scholarly information provided. It’s just a lot of fun.”

    The celebration kicks off at 11 a.m., with an explanation of the holiday and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and General Orders by an Abraham Lincoln reenactor. Following the opening remarks, music, activities and fun will begin inside and outside the museum.


    Near the canal, the stage under The Sails will feature musical performances for the duration of the celebration. Tamara Winfrey Harris, author of The Sisters are Alright and a former Eiteljorg vice president of communications and marketing, will emcee as various musicians take the stage. Among the performers will be The Griot Drum Ensemble and Freetown Village Singers, both crowd favorites.

    New to the stage this year is Premium Blend, a local jazz group featuring saxophonist Jared Thompson, guitarist Ryan Taylor, drummer Brian Yarde and keyboardist Steven Jones. Known for their high energy and unique adaptations of jazz standards, the band is on the forefront of modern jazz in Indianapolis. 

    “I’m really excited about Premium Blend. We try to switch things up each year, and they’re an awesome addition,” Alisa said. 

    Something new is happening inside the museum as well. To coincide with The Reel West exhibition, Juneteenth is introducing the Harlem Goes West Film Series to its programming. The set of three Westerns features the contributions of African-Americans to the genre. The films will be shown inside Clowes Court beginning at 10:20 a.m. June 16 with The Bronze Buckaroo (1939, NR, 56 minutes), followed by Sergeant Rutledge (1960, NR, 111 minutes), and concluding around 3:45 p.m. with Buck and the Preacher (1972, PG, 102 minutes).

    While performers take the outside stage and Westerns are playing indoors, other Juneteenth programming events are ongoing throughout the day. Outside in the Kincannon Learning Circle will be hands-on activities and a gold panning station for guests to test their luck. Near The Sails, a chuck wagon, or Western “field kitchen,” will be cooking samples of authentic cowboy food. The Indianapolis Black Cowboys Association will be close by with a horse that guests can pet and feed. 


    Inside, a tour of The Reel West Gallery will be held highlighting the roles of African-American actors in the Western film genre. At 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Art of the West Gallery, actor-interpreter Joanna Winston will perform in character as noteworthy African-Americans Western entertainers such as Jim Beckwourth, Mary Fields and Nat Love. Eagle Commons will be the venue for various community groups and a Community Wall with a prompt “What Does Freedom Mean to You?” where everyone is welcome to share comments.


    Museum admission is free for the celebration along with free parking in the White River State Park underground garage while available, giving everyone access to Juneteenth programming and the museum exhibitions. We hope you will join us in our celebration of freedom. 
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