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News Release: Native American Galleries on track with $500K grant from Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

Eiteljorg Museum’s Project 2021 goals closer to reality; new galleries to open in June

Project rendering of the Eiteljorg Museum’s new Native American Galleries

Image courtesy of Origin Studios

INDIANAPOLIS – The ambitious capstone project to reconstruct and reinstall the Eiteljorg Museum’s Native American Galleries has made substantial progress since last September, when the galleries fully closed to the public. Steady financial support from museum members and friends – including a recent $500,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust – means the new reimagined galleries are on schedule to reopen in late June as a celebration of Native cultures coinciding with the Eiteljorg’s 30th annual Indian Market and Festival. The gallery reconstruction is part of the museum’s larger Project 2021 capital / endowment campaign, which is in the home stretch of raising $55 million by October 2022 to fund a major revamp of the Eiteljorg’s favorite public spaces.

“We are deeply grateful to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust for this generous grant that brings the Native American Galleries a significant step closer to completion under Project 2021,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “In departing from the way museums typically have presented Native peoples’ stories, the new Native American Galleries will create a space for Native peoples themselves to tell their own stories. Visitors will come away from the galleries with a new understanding that Native American cultures are still with us today and the art they create depicts the past, present and future. The Trust’s support of this project is meaningful,” he said.

“We appreciate the Eiteljorg Museum’s commitment to honor Native American peoples and traditions through its refined and reimagined Native American Galleries. Through thoughtfully executed endeavors such as this, the Eiteljorg enriches community life in Indianapolis,” said Kent E. Agness, trustee of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust was established upon the death of Nina Mason Pulliam in 1997 to support the causes she loved in her home states of Arizona and Indiana. The Trust seeks to help people in need, protect animals and nature, and enrich community life in metropolitan Indianapolis and Phoenix. Since its inception, the Trust has distributed over $353 million to 1,046 organizations. For more information visit

When the Eiteljorg’s Native American Galleries reopen in June, visitors will experience a new concept in how the galleries exhibit examples of Native art from the U.S. and Canada. The old galleries had utilized the same floorplan since the Eiteljorg’s founding in 1989, and Native art was organized by geographic region. By contrast, the new galleries will organize Native works under the themes of Relation, Continuation and Innovation, demonstrating the continuum of Native art, both customary (or “traditional”) and contemporary.

A space within the new galleries, Connected by Water, will have a special focus on art by Native peoples of the Great Lakes and surrounding areas. It will feature beautiful beadwork, ribbonwork, carvings, weavings, basketry and textiles – many from a major collection the museum acquired in 2019 through a separate grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. At the galleries’ primary entrance, visitors will be welcomed by recorded audio greetings in the languages of the original inhabitants of Indiana: the Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria and Kickapoo. In the galleries, audio descriptions, larger text on labels, improved lighting, hands-on interactives and touch samples will contribute to the exhibition being more accessible and inclusive.

Through the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust grant as well as grants from other organizations and gifts and bequests from individuals, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art has achieved more than 90 percent of its fundraising goal for Project 2021. The Eiteljorg still is seeking donations to complete the project; visit for details. To design and construct the new Native American Galleries, the museum engaged Origin Studios of Ottawa, Canada, and Kubik Maltbie of Boston, Mass., along with construction company F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co., Inc. of Indianapolis.

About the Eiteljorg
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.

Eiteljorg Museum, front exterior

Image courtesy of Jessica Strickland Photography, 2013


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