The Eiteljorg Museum curates Western and Native American art.

Exterior of the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis

One of the best ways to experience history is through art! Whether it’s a painting or a quilt, each piece tells the story of the person who made it—and the culture they lived in. Since 1989, the Eiteljorg Museum has shared the story of North America through its collection of art and cultural artifacts.

The Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis is the only museum of its kind in the Midwest. Its robust collection shares both Native and Western American history through authentic artifacts. From traditional Navajo textiles to early modernist art, the museum has approximately 9,000 objects, including both historic and contemporary artworks.

The museum’s Western art collection transports you back to the wild West with paintings and sculptures from the 1800s. They capture the essence of the American wilderness with sprawling landscapes, majestic beasts, and ambitious settlers. Meanwhile, the Native American collection offers a glimpse into North America’s indigenous cultures. It features art and artifacts from many different Native nations, sharing the unique histories of their people. 

The Eiteljorg Museum also embraces contemporary artwork and tells the story of our world today. Their collection of modern Native art is one of the best in the world—with paintings, sculptures, photographs, and multimedia installations. And best of all, they directly support and feature current Native artists, amplifying their voices and experiences in today’s society.

“Native contemporary art cannot be judged by whether there is a recognizably Native design or form integrated into the art. Native art connects to individual artists. It rejects stereotypes, reflects today, and like all art, has changed over time. [Their art] not only blurs the line; it challenges the narrow definitions assigned to contemporary Native art and overcomes them.”

– Jennifer Complo McNutt, Curator of Contemporary Art, Eiteljorg Museum

The Eiteljorg Museum casts a spotlight on contemporary Native artists. 

When people think of Native American art, they often imagine pottery, beadwork, textiles, and other traditional pieces from centuries past. But Native American art isn’t limited to a specific style or medium. Today’s indigenous artists create poignant and powerful pieces that explore their experiences in the modern day.  

The Eiteljorg Museum helps challenge stereotypes and conventions by celebrating contemporary Native artwork. The museum has one of the best collections of its kind, featuring installations and artworks from diverse cultures and traditions. And a significant number of those pieces were directly purchased from up-and-coming Native artists.

Every two years, the museum offers the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship to increase awareness and appreciation of contemporary Native art. Altogether, the fellowship awards $25,000 to five Native artists—including one distinguished artist in recognition for their expertise. The Eiteljorg also purchases work from each fellowship winner, so their art becomes part of the museum’s ever-growing permanent collection.

Since the fellowship program began, the Eiteljorg has given over $2.5 million in combined awards and art purchases. Over the years, they’ve collected a wide range of thought-provoking artworks in a variety of mediums—both unconventional and traditional. From film to performance art, the Eiteljorg’s collection sparks conversation and supports the next generation of Native American art.

Learn about indigenous Native American cultures at the Eiteljorg.

The Eiteljorg Museum also hosts a variety of events designed to support indigenous artists and teach visitors more about North America’s history and cultures. They often invite guest experts to speak on relevant and related topics, and the museum is particularly renowned for their art shows.

Every summer, the Eiteljorg Museum hosts their annual Indian Market & Festival—one of the top Native American art markets in the nation. The festival has been an Indianapolis tradition since it first began in 1993, bringing together over a hundred Native artists and thousands of visitors each year. The market features artworks like jewelry, pottery, paintings, beadwork, weavings, and other cultural pieces from expert Native artisans.

You can bring your whole family to the festival to celebrate Native cultures and learn more about different nations and their traditions. With live music, cultural dances, and delicious food, you can experience part of Native American history while admiring their beautiful and unique art. And then, you can directly support the people you meet at the market by purchasing their work for your own collection!

Visit the Eiteljorg Museum to experience American history.

When it comes to art museums, the Eiteljorg Museum is a place like no other. It’s a place where cultural expression meets historical context, inspiring a deep appreciation of Native American people and their perspectives. As you walk through the museum halls and exhibits, you can see the story of North America throughout the centuries and contemplate our role in creating a better future.

So, next time you’re exploring downtown Indianapolis, take some time to visit the Eiteljorg Museum and immerse yourselves in the cultures of our nation. The Eiteljorg is located right in the White River State Park, next to the Indiana State Museum—which makes it the perfect place for a day out on the town!