News Release: Eiteljorg Museum Leads Citywide National Endowment for the Arts Celebration of the Classic Western Novel, “True Grit”

Calendar of events starts with Big Read True Grit Kickoff Event April 13

INDIANAPOLIS – The classic Western novel True Grit by Charles Portis will be the subject of an Indianapolis community experience led by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, in partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, Brick Street Poetry and Duos Indy. The two-month experience will include family programs, special events, book discussions, film screenings and more.

The Eiteljorg Museum’s True Grit programming begins with a fun family-oriented Big Read True Grit Kickoff event at the museum on April 13. A full calendar of special events and book discussions taking place at the museum and other locations around Indianapolis will run through June 15.

The Eiteljorg Museum is one of 75 organizations nationwide to receive a 2019 NEA Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for a community-wide reading initiative designed to connect people through the joy of sharing a book. Through the NEA Big Read program, a community is encouraged to read the same noteworthy novel by a living author and participate in events related to it.

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 then 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,” said Dr. Martha Hill, vice president for public programs and the Beeler Family director of education at the Eiteljorg Museum. “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.”

The community can enjoy a full lineup of True Grit-related program offerings. The Indianapolis Public Library will conduct book discussions at various locations around the city. More than 1,000 copies of the book will be distributed.

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

  • April 13, 1 p.m.: Big Read True Grit Kickoff: Enjoy a festive Western family day featuring a chuck wagon, storytellers, historical re-enactors, Cameo the horse, Western games and art activities. The day includes a True Grit keynote talk and book signing by author and filmmaker Jay Jennings.
  • April 25, 6 p.m.: Saloon Night with Brick Street Poetry and Hotel Tango Distillery includes saloon drink tastings and talks and readings by local poets. Age 21+ only. Register today at
  • May 9, 6 p.m.: True Grits cooking class with Duos Indy. Register today at
  • May 11, 11 a.m.: Words and Other Wild Things featuring Brick Street Poetry and Snakes Alive! with live creatures from the Joseph Moore Museum of Earlham College.
  • May 18, 10:30 a.m.: Screening of the 1969 film version of True Grit, followed by a keynote talk by Western scholar and author Dr. Richard Etulain: The True Grit of Presidents who Shaped the American West.
  • June 1, 11 a.m.: Juneteenth Community Celebration with free admission.
  • June 5, 6 p.m: Western swing music with the Sawyer Family Band, a free concert as part of the Summer Under the Sails Music Series
  • June 12, 6 p.m.: Poetry reading with North Dakota Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode and Brick Street Poetry.
  • June 15: Screening of the 2010 film version of True Grit.

For complete details on events and book discussions around Indianapolis, visit Update can also be found on social media via #EJNEABigRead.

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.  Organizations seeking to participate in the NEA Big Read select from a list of recommended novels as a part of their projects; and True Grit was the book selected this cycle by four participating organizations nationwide, including the Eiteljorg.


About the Eiteljorg:
Celebrating 30 years of telling amazing stories in 2019, 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.




Media Contacts:

Bert Beiswanger
Director of Marketing and Communications
Eiteljorg Museum

Bryan Corbin
Public Relations Manager
Eiteljorg Museum

Hyacinth Rucker
Digital Communications Manager
Eiteljorg Museum

Museum Info

Monday – Saturday:
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Noon – 5 p.m.

500 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204