Eiteljorg Museum to lead citywide reading celebration of classic Western novel, “True Grit”

national endowment for the arts

Eiteljorg Museum to lead citywide reading celebration of classic Western novel, “True Grit”

INDIANAPOLIS – The novel True Grit by Charles Portis will be subject of a citywide reading program next year led by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art that will include book discussions, guest speakers, Old West family activities and film screenings. The Eiteljorg is one of 75 organizations nationwide participating in the NEA Big Read program, where a community is encouraged to read the same noteworthy novel and participate in events related to it.

The Eiteljorg’s True Grit programming will take place from April 13 to June 15, 2019, at the museum and other locations around Indianapolis.

True Grit is a 1968 adventure novel set in the Old West in which a young woman, Mattie Ross, and a U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, search for the killer of Mattie’s father. The book by Portis was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post magazine and soon adapted into a 1969 film. Another film adaptation, by the Coen brothers in 2010, also was critically acclaimed.

“Charles Portis’ classic Western novel True Grit explores themes of courage, endurance and personal growth, and those themes will be explored during the two months of Eiteljorg events and programming as part of the NEA Big Read project that will offer the community a shared reading experience,” said Dr. Martha Hill, vice president for public programs and the Beeler Family director of education at the Eiteljorg Museum.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Its focus is on living authors, contemporary works and the universal appeal of themes that are likely to inspire lively and deep discussions within communities.  The Eiteljorg received a grant that will fund programming that coincides with the citywide reading of True Grit.

As part of the project, the Eiteljorg is partnering with the Indianapolis Public Library to conduct 10 book discussions about True Grit at various locations around the city. The Eiteljorg will distribute at no charge 500 copies of the book to the public through the museum and partner organizations.

The museum also is collaborating with Brick Street Poetry, Inc. that will host three events, including a Western-themed poetry reading with Larry Woiwode, the state poet laureate of North Dakota.  A cooking class, “True Grits,” will also be offered by another partner, Duos Kitchen.

The Eiteljorg’s other Big Read-related programming events in 2019 include:

  • April 12: Event kickoff, including a talk by author and filmmaker Jay Jennings, an expert on the work of True Grit author Charles Portis, as well as a museum family day featuring a chuck wagon, storytellers, historical re-enactors, Cameo the horse and her cowboy, Western games and art activities
  • April 25: Saloon night with Brick Street Poetry
  • May 11: Kid-friendly program on Western snakes and other reptiles
  • May 18: Screening of the 1969 film version of True Grit, followed by a keynote talk by Western scholar and author Dr. Richard Etulain about American presidents who shaped the West
  • June 5: Free concert of Western-themed music outside the museum, part of the Summer Under the Sails series
  • June 7: Curator’s talk about women in the West, focusing on the Mattie Ross character from True Grit
  • June 12: Poetry reading with North Dakota Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode
  • June 15: Screening of the 2010 film version of True Grit.

Book discussions and other True Grit-related events in conjunction with the NEA Big Read will be added to the Eiteljorg calendar. For details on events, visit www.eiteljorg.org.  The Eiteljorg Museum is one of three organizations in Indiana to receive a 2019 NEA Big Read grant for a community-wide novel-reading project. Organizations seeking to participate in the NEA Big Read select from a list of books as part of their projects; and True Grit was the novel selected by four participating organizations nationwide, including the Eiteljorg.

About the Eiteljorg:
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America. Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg Museum was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions.