Eiteljorg Insider: Finding Community through Community Engagement
By: Sophia Jaegly, Eiteljorg Fall 2021 Marketing and Communications Intern
Entering the third year of my studies at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, I felt immense pressure to know. I wanted to discover how the world worked, how my community defined itself and how I could contribute to that. After spending the last two years attempting to answer these questions from my virtual learning space, I had the opportunity to explore the world of community engagement at the Eiteljorg Museum.
I entered the Eiteljorg’s Marketing and Communications Internship with one goal: to absorb as much professional experience as I could. With that, my internship could not have timed more perfectly as my residency at the museum paralleled many great additions to the institution, such as the public launch of the capital/endowment campaign, Project 2021.
As the Eiteljorg was planning its reconstruction and reinstallation of the Native American Galleries – opening June 2022 – I was crafting my social media portfolio by generating campaigns that promoted the project across all Eiteljorg social media channels.
On the Eiteljorg social media pages, where the museum celebrated the release of the Project 2021 video, I had the opportunity to edit various video projects in conjunction with it – and thus add those projects to my professional portfolio. Projects such as the B-roll used in a feature for President and CEO John Vanausdall’s interview with the Inside Indiana Business TV show and the Project 2021 clips reached beyond the museum, and into the greater Indianapolis and Central Indiana communities.
And where guests were smiling, enjoying the reopening of the Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center featuring the R.B. Annis Western Family Experience, I was smiling too — remembering the various networking meetings I’d attended with members of other museum departments in that space.
Each day of my internship provided me the practical opportunity to apply the technical skills of my Media Arts & Science studies and the critical thinking mindset I learned from the American History program. Exploring visual and digital communications not only contributed to the museum’s larger Advancement department goals, but it furthered my understanding and interests in institutional work by offering a behind-the-scenes look at the realm of nonprofits.
I served as a photojournalist and social media operative for many other museum events, including the Quest for the West® Art Show and Sale, the opening weekend of the 2021 Eiteljorg Contemporary Arts Fellowship exhibit Shifting Boundaries, the Dia de Muertos Community Celebration, and the grand opening of the Fifth Third Bank Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure.
In each event, each grand-opening or exhibit preview, I found the true meaning of community. Each visitor, staff member, Artist in Residence, member and volunteer carry a piece of the museum in them. The Eiteljorg is about more than a place; it is the people and the experiences they create. My experiences — from interacting with each of the visitors, artists, and staff alike — were powerful ones, growing in inspiration and motivation each day.
As my role comes to an end, I again reflect on my initial wonderings. Because of my time as a Marketing and Communications intern, I now know a community is something you create. It comes from actions in all shapes and sizing, from a shared smile to a holiday experience. Community is felt by coming together, seen in celebrations of diversity, and heard by sharing stories.
And it is something that no one does better than the Eiteljorg Museum.