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News Release: New painting “For Freedom” a highlight of Black History Month at Eiteljorg

Museum acquired important work by Dean Mitchell, African American artist


Dean Mitchell

For Freedom, 2020
30 x 22 inches
Gift of Catherine Turner, 2020.6.1

INDIANAPOLIS – As the nation observes Black History Month, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is proud to unveil a significant painting it acquired, For Freedom by Dean Mitchell, a renowned watercolor artist who is African American and known for Western themes in his art.

The painting depicts a Black soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War, standing at attention with his rifle and gazing resolutely forward. Mitchell painted For Freedom in 2020, and the model for the watercolor was a Civil War re-enactor at Fort Scott, Kansas, which is an important historic site in African American Civil War history.

“African Americans are centrally important to the 19th century history of the American West, but were largely unrepresented in artworks created at the time. In recent years, the Eiteljorg Museum has actively acquired art reflecting diversity to add to its Western art collections,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Dean Mitchell’s outstanding painting speaks to the struggle for African American freedom, and we are very pleased that through a generous gift we are able to share this compelling artwork with museum guests.”

For Freedom was one of Mitchell’s paintings available for purchase last September during the Eiteljorg’s 2020 Quest for the West® Virtual Art Sale.  A longtime Eiteljorg supporter, Catherine Turner, purchased the painting and gifted it to the museum. For Freedom has joined the museum’s permanent collections and recently was installed in the Western art galleries as part of the museum’s Black History Month observance. It is on public view now through April 12 for visitors to appreciate and enjoy.

The photograph of Dean Mitchell is courtesy of the artist.

Read more about Dean Mitchell’s For Freedom at the Eiteljorg at this link:

Read about the artist at this link:

The painting and other works in the Western art galleries are included with regular Eiteljorg admission; museum members have free admission. See for details.

The Eiteljorg also is observing Black History Month with other free multicultural events:

  • The Eiteljorg will offer a free prerecorded virtual tour, Blacks in the West: the Stories Behind the Art. Eiteljorg guide Gayle Cox will highlight the contributions and all-too-often unknown stories of historical and contemporary Blacks in the American West through four pieces of art. The video tour can be viewed beginning the week of Feb. 23 at
  • At noon Feb. 24, the Eiteljorg will host a free virtual artist talk with Phillip Blanchett, who is of Yup’ik Inuit and African American descent, about his role with the Alaskan music group Pamyua. Details here.
  • A free virtual talk had been scheduled for Feb. 20 with New York Times multimedia journalist Walter Thompson-Hernández, author of The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland. Due to the author’s family emergency, the lecture will be rescheduled to a later date. Thompson-Hernández’s virtual presentation is part of the Eiteljorg’s Leon Jett Memorial Lecture series. Check for the new date of the talk.
  • Looking ahead, the Eiteljorg plans free virtual and in-person events and performances for the annual Juneteenth Community Celebration, which will take place on two Saturdays: June 5 and June 19. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and the arrival of freedom in Texas in 1865.

All information regarding events and programs can be found at

For the latest updates on the museum as well as museum-related content, visit or follow the Eiteljorg on social media. The Eiteljorg Museum is currently open, with face mask and social distancing requirements due to local and state public health rules.

About the Eiteljorg Museum
A cultural pillar for more than 31 years in downtown Indianapolis’ scenic White River State Park, the Eiteljorg Museum seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the diverse art, history and cultures of the Indigenous peoples of North America and of the American West, through 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.

Media Contacts:          
Bryan Corbin
Public Relations Manager

Bert Beiswanger
Director of Marketing and Communications