Native American

Customary Art 101

Past Exhibition

Gain a new perspective of Native American Customary art through beautiful and diverse artworks from Indigenous cultures from across North America.

Celebrate the ever-changing nature of Native art

What is it: While the Native American galleries undergo construction, before opening with a reimagined installation in late Spring 2022, we invite you to explore selections from our Native American customary art collection. The collection encompasses diverse materials and techniques, and showcases the gifted imaginations of Native artists.

What is Customary Native American Art?
Customary Native American art is work originating from an artist’s cultural customs. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the work made by Native American artists encompassed all aspects of life and was not defined by labels. Since the colonization of North America, the art created by Native artists has been called “craft” or “traditional” by non-Native people. Colonizers projected their own values on Native art, and did not consider quillwork, basketry, and pottery — artwork made mostly by women – as fine art. Art made by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania was incorrectly labeled “primitive”, and collected by natural history and anthropological museums reinforcing the colonizers’ idea of what is authentic and traditional for Indigenous artists.

Traditions across cultures are constantly evolving to incorporate new ideas, materials, and techniques. This is the foundation of personal growth. Many museums are changing how they exhibit Native art and no longer want to present customary artwork using incorrect and offensive definitions of primitive tradition or craft. The Eiteljorg is one such institution that is working to transform the public understanding of Native American art. Native Art is, and always has been, dynamic, innovative, and diverse. It is worthy of a new perspective.

Come experience this exhibit

How to visit: See exhibit Mon-Sat 10-5 p.m., and Sun 12 p.m.-5 p.m.

Admission: Exhibit is included with the cost of museum admission

Call for Community Art

NOUN: 1. A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form
that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. (Oxford English Dictionary)

A Sense of Beauty
As a part of the museum’s 30th anniversary celebration, you (and everyone else you know) are invited to create artwork inspired by the theme, Beauty. Artwork will be on display in conjunction with the exhibition, A Sense of Beauty, which opens March 9. So get out your paints, pencils, tablets or whatever medium you choose and create some art! (Public artwork will be hung within ten days of receipt after March 9, 2019 and be on display through August 4, 2019.)

Criteria: artwork must be original and inspired by the theme Beauty
2-D only; 4” x 4” size (unframed)
a signed consent form must accompany the entry

Send your entry to:
Public Programs
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
500 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-270

Please download the consent form by clicking here, fill it out and include it with your submission.

You’re invited!


Join us for a special 30th Anniversary Party, which will kick off a yearlong celebration at the museum.


Thank you to Our Contributors

Capital Group Eiteljorg Corporate Sponsor
Barnes & Thornburg Corporate Sponsor at the Eiteljorg
Come experience our featured exhibition