Photo: Bryan Loar
The only museum of its kind in the Midwest, the Eiteljorg’s collections of both Western and Native American art showcase the aesthetic of American West, in all its diversity.
The brainchild of businessman, philanthropist, and art enthusiast Harrison Eiteljorg, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art opened in Indianapolis in 1989.
Born in 1903, Eiteljorg maintained an early appreciation for art nurtured by his artist-mother, even as his career led him into the business world. While pursuing coal mining ventures out west in the 1940s, Eiteljorg developed a link with and great respect for the land, the people, and the culture there.
As his fortune grew, Eiteljorg amassed a large collection of pottery, basketry, clothing, bead and quill work, and weavings. He not only collected artwork, but functioned as a patron to emerging artists, allowing them to devote their full attention to their art.
Eiteljorg eventually decided that his extensive collection should be accessible to the public, and obtained the financial backing of the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to dedicate the Indianapolis museum that bears his name.
Until his death in 1997, Eiteljorg served as chairman of the museum’s board, and played a key role in the institution’s day-to-day operations and growth.
The Eiteljorg Museum in located near downtown Indianapolis, in White River State Park.