News Release: Eiteljorg in final stretch of Project 2021 capital/endowment campaign with goal in sight

Public’s support sought to fund remaining amount to bring museum’s vision to reality

Project rendering of the new Native American Galleries at the Eiteljorg Museum

Images courtesy of Origin Studios

INDIANAPOLIS – The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is in the home stretch of a $55 million capital and endowment campaign that is funding transformational changes to the museum’s galleries and programming spaces while also tripling the museum’s operating endowment. The capstone phase is the reconstruction and reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Native American Galleries, which will have an entirely different look when they reopen in June 2022 with a highlight on the Native peoples of the Great Lakes.

Now entering the public phase of its fundraising campaign, called Project 2021: Telling Your Stories, the Eiteljorg seeks to raise more than $6 million by May 2022.

Among the goals of Project 2021 have been to reconstruct and reinstall the museum’s two major galleries and expand and renovate the most popular parts of the museum to provide visitors more culturally enriching experiences. The non-public phase of the campaign began in 2016 when the Eiteljorg Board of Directors and management launched an effort to raise an additional $40 million for the museum’s endowment and another $15 million for capital projects. Since then, the museum has raised more than 85 percent of its overall need.

“Through a combination of gifts and bequests from the museum’s most loyal supporters, corporate partnerships and grants from local and national foundations, the Eiteljorg has been remarkably successful in hitting our financial milestones during the ‘quiet phase’ of our fundraising over the past five years,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Even during the pandemic when all charitable giving slowed, our supporters helped us make progress toward our capital campaign and endowment goals. Now we are announcing the public phase of fundraising, and urge Eiteljorg supporters, members, visitors and the community to contribute to helping the museum cross the last mile.”

What community leaders are saying about the Eiteljorg Museum:
A newly launched webpage, 2021, highlights totals raised and specific projects funded and encourages the public to donate so that work is completed on schedule. Supporters can make secure donations on the page, which features web videos of leaders of the cultural arts, tourism and philanthropic fields describing their support of the nonprofit museum.

“The Eiteljorg is a key institution that helps attract visitors from around the world globally to Indianapolis. It’s such a sought-after place and space for visitors to come and learn about Native American culture(s) and Western art,” said Chris Gahl, senior vice president of Visit Indy. “And I don’t know that Indianapolis residents firmly understand how big of a deal having this museum, this cultural icon, in Indianapolis is; and it’s in our own back yard.”

“The importance of the Eiteljorg to Indianapolis really can’t be overstated; I think it is one of the true gems of our arts and cultural community. Not only in the breadth and depth and importance of the collections that are here, but in its role as a cultural center: as a center of conversation, as a center for exploration, as a center for partnership,” said Julie Goodman, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis. “(All) the dimensions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access . . . it represents and exemplifies in our community.”

While reconstruction continues on the Native American Galleries, some of the Eiteljorg’s other Project 2021 benchmarks already have been reached: Its Western Art Galleries were reconstructed and reinstalled in 2018. The museum’s Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center is under renovation now and will reopen to visitors in November. Still ahead is a planned 2022 expansion of the museum’s Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court event space to double its capacity, allowing the Eiteljorg to host larger educational and cultural programs and larger rental and catered events.

A closer look at the Project 2021 phases:

Project rendering of the new Native American Galleries at the Eiteljorg Museum

Images courtesy of Origin Studios

  • The Eiteljorg’s second-floor Native American Galleries have exhibited artworks on largely the same floorplan since the museum opened in 1989. As part of Project 2021 the Eiteljorg is completely reconstructing the galleries, and will reinstall Native artworks in a fresh, contextualized space. To design and build the new galleries, the museum engaged Origin Studios of Ottawa, Canada, and Kubik Maltbie of Boston, along with local construction company F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co., Inc. Native artworks will be organized around the themes of Relation, Continuation and Innovation, which are common elements shared by Native peoples.With an expanded focus on Native peoples of the Great Lakes, the galleries will incorporate artworks from a large collection the museum acquired in 2019 through a $2.83 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Having recently closed to visitors, the Native galleries are now under construction and scheduled to reopen in June 2022; and the museum is seeking financial partners in supporting timely completion. (In a related project, the museum also is developing online resources about Great Lakes Native peoples.)

Ojibwe Artist, name not recorded

Bandolier Bag, ca. 1875
Loom woven beadwork bag; glass seed beads, glass basket beads, wool cloth, wool fox braid, wool yarn, cotton cloth
Collection of the Eiteljorg Museum
Museum purchase with funds provided by a grant from Lily Endowment Inc.

  • The Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center in the museum’s canal level is under renovation now by Indiana companies Shiel Sexton, McGuire Scenic Inc., Dye Woodworks, CSA Graphics, Inc., and Large Ink LLC. This renovation will enhance the children’s discovery area, the R.B. Annis Western Family Experience, by adding new educational interactive scenes focusing on five diverse families of the West who are Native American, Latino, African American, Asian American and European American. Two favorite features, the Totem Pole and Concord Stagecoach, remain highlights in the renovated children’s area. Through the new Cagle Family Gateway to Learning, young visitors and their grownups will enter the Stephen and Sharon Zimmerman Resource Center. It includes the Watanabe Family Library with a large collection of Native and Western materials, a nursing room and quiet room for the museum’s youngest visitors, and the TCU and Dr. Ann H. Hunt studios for artist programs. After being closed for several months, the Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center is scheduled to reopen to families by Nov. 20, to coincide with the start of Jingle Rails, the museum’s annual holiday model train display.

Image of the Stagecoach in the new R.B. Annis Western Family Experience

Image courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum

  • The Eiteljorg’s multipurpose rental and event space, the Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court, hosts wedding receptions, corporate conferences and other celebrations, as well as museum lectures, concerts and presentations throughout the year. Plans designed by Browning Day and the original architect of the museum, Jonathan Hess, call for expanding the facility by moving the current east wall to enclose the entire outdoor OneAmerica Terrace facing West Street. Expanding over the terrace will approximately double the Clowes indoor space, increasing the seating capacity to 375. That would make room for additional artist booths during Indian Market and Festival each June, greater visitor capacity during the annual Día de Muertos Community Celebration in late October, and more model railroad scenes during the Jingle Rails attraction each holiday season. Indiana-based Garmong Construction Services will serve as construction manager for the project.

A project rendering of the expanded Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court at the Eiteljorg Museum

Image courtesy of Browning Day

  • In the now-completed first phase of the five-year Project 2021, the museum’s Western Art Galleries were reconstructed and reopened in 2018. The changes include an exploration of diversity in Western paintings and sculptures, new interactives and a video wall near the museum entrance.


  • The Eiteljorg’s endowment started with $20 million in 2016, and the goal of Project 2021 is to add another $40 million to that. A healthy endowment is important to the future financial security of the museum through providing a stable base of support year after year. The Eiteljorg makes an annual draw upon investment and interest income earned on its endowment while allowing the principal of the fund to grow. It long has been a goal of John Vanausdall since he began his tenure as museum president and CEO 25 years ago for the endowment to be able to support approximately one-third of the museum’s annual operating budget.
    To that end, the fundraising goals of the Project 2021 capital/endowment campaign are as follows:


Endowment Campaign (started with $20 million)
Goal: an additional $40 million
Additional amount raised to date: $36.4 million (in cash, pledges over time, and planned estate gifts)
Left to raise: $3.6 million

Capital Campaign
Goal: $15 million
Raised to date: $12.4 million (in cash and pledges over time)
Left to raise: $2.6 million

Through careful financial management, the museum leadership and Board of Directors navigated the Eiteljorg through the pandemic year of 2020 without any furloughs. The museum employs more than 50 staff, and relies on more than 120 volunteers who donate service hours to support the museum’s exhibits and programming. As one of the major attractions in downtown Indianapolis, the Eiteljorg plays a role in the local tourism economy, through visits by convention-goers, families traveling on vacation or day trips, or group tours. The museum enjoys a national reputation for excellence in the fields of Native American art (both customary and contemporary) and Western American art.

Front exterior view of the Eiteljorg Museum, downtown Indianapolis

Image courtesy of Jessica Strickland Photography, 2013

About the Eiteljorg Museum:
In conjunction with the physical changes to the building through Project 2021, the Eiteljorg is emphasizing the museum’s longstanding commitment to diversity, as well as reaching out to the larger Midwest region and seeking to grow its base of members and supporters.

“The Eiteljorg is a place of inclusion, it’s a place that represents the potential for conversations that we can have with the other. The Eiteljorg is about representation of all people and especially with Native people, I think. They’ve done a great job of giving us a platform to share a voice and to share our stories,” said artist Steven Yazzie (Diné / Laguna Pueblo), who is a 2021 Eiteljorg Fellow.

“Volunteering and working with Eiteljorg for the last six years or so, the Eiteljorg means ‘community’ to me. It means unity — embracing not just one culture, but several cultures,” said Tammy L. Cooper, an educator of Black history and college professor who helps to plan the museum’s annual Juneteenth Community Celebration. “The Eiteljorg is willing to step up to the plate. They’re willing to take the risk. They’re willing to embrace other people. So it’s important that the community continues to support, donate and volunteer.”

Donations to Project 2021 are tax-deductible. Naming opportunities for components of the reconstructed spaces are available. The museum is planning grand reopening events for the Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center in November and the Native American Galleries next June. For more information on donating gifts of any size to the new construction or the endowment, visit

A cultural pillar for 32 years in downtown Indianapolis’ scenic White River State Park, the Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the arts, histories and cultures of the Native peoples of North America and of the American West by telling amazing stories. Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. It was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions.

The Eiteljorg Museum is in full compliance with all state and local public health requirements for indoor gatherings. Guests are required to wear face masks and take other precautions.


Media Contacts
Bryan Corbin
Public Relations Manager

Bert Beiswanger
Director of Marketing and Communications

Sophia Holt-Wilson
Digital Communications Coordinator


Editor’s note:

At this link is a TV interview about Project 2021 with Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall on “Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick,” from Oct. 8, 2021.  Watch the video.

At this link is a separate audio interview with John Vanausdall contained in an article on the “Inside INdiana Business” website, written by Alex Brown. Visit the link.

At this link is an article about Project 2021 published in the Indianapolis Business Journal on Oct. 15, 2021.
IBJ article_Project 2021_Oct. 15, 2021

At this link is an article about Project 2021 published on on Dec. 21, 2021. Visit the link.

The print edition of the Sunday Star with the above article was published Jan., 9, 2022. See it at this link:
Indy Star_Project 2021 story_1.9.22

An article about the new Native American Galleries was published in the January 2022 issue of Great Lakes By Design magazine. Read it at this link:
Great Lakes By Design article_January 2022

At this link is an article about Project 2021 in the October 2021 issue of the Eiteljorg’s Storyteller magazine:
Project 2021 article_October 2021


Museum Info

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500 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204