The Eiteljorg Museum will show Native American art in a new way

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The renovated Native American galleries at the Eiteljorg Museum will feature works spanning more than 170 years when they reopen in June. But visitors will not start at the beginning, middle or even end of this period. Instead, they will be greeted by works of art with stories that merge past, present and future.

Hannah Claus’s “Song of Water: peemitanaahkwahki sakaahkweelo,” for example, encapsulates the origin story of Miami residents in a work she created as a 2019 Contemporary Art Fellow at the Eiteljorg. She took photos around their native lands in the Mississinewa and Wabash river regions between Marion, Peru and Wabash.


In doing so, Claus, who is a member of the Bay of Quinte Mohawk First Nation, explored the history of how the Miamis first arrived from the water in what is now northern Indiana and from southern Michigan to grab tree branches and pull themselves. on the ground to walk. Digital images printed on acetate film in the form of discs will delicately hang from wires attached to the ceiling, reflecting the story and sound waves of a song written about it.

“water song” will be an introduction to approximately 300 works of art, with more cycles in the installation over time, that will tell the story of tribes from across North America through a thematic presentation that centers the Indigenous cultural values ​​in the galleries.

“Indigenous art is on this continuum that what’s considered older or traditional and what’s newer or contemporary – it’s all Indigenous art and they inform each other,” Dorene said. Red Cloud, Associate Curator of Native American Art.

The play will also be held amid spoken greetings from the Great Lakes tribes and written acknowledgment from the peoples – including the Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria and Kickapoo – who are the original inhabitants of the land where now stands. the museum.

The rebuilt Native American galleries are part of Eiteljorg’s larger 2021 project, a $55 million fundraising campaign that will add to its endowment and redesign the galleries and event space. Residents of this region are particularly interested in spotlighting the Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes, which are growing after the museum acquired a significant collection of their art in 2019.

“It’s really a transformation for the museum. We went for 30 years in a certain mode, and now we look at art differently and present it to the public very differently,” said President and CEO John Vanausdall. “It’s going to be so different and I think it’s a lot more contemporary and inviting for today.”

Prior to the renovation, Native American art sat in large wooden boxes, categorized according to its geography into categories including Forests, Plains, Great Basin, and Desert Southwest. The floor plan was largely the same as it had been since 1989, when the Eiteljorg opened.

Together with its Native American National Advisory Council, the Eiteljorg has developed a new vision for galleries that is organized around the themes of relationship, continuity and innovation, which are important in Indigenous cultures.

The works of art – which include jewelry, pottery, prints, portraits, ribbons and beads – will be displayed in display cases that open up the space considerably.

“One of the biggest changes from the old exhibition to the reinstallation is to look at art through these three major themes, because before that we took – as many other museums did – an anthropological look at art, people and cultures and really categorizing people by geographic area. So you had people from the plains, people from the southwest,” said Elisa Phelps, vice president and chief curator.

“It’s really a non-Indigenous perspective on art, cultures and people.”

The theme of relationship explores connections with spirits, animals, plants, families, communities and nations. Red Cloud said the creation or origin of stories of indigenous peoples will be part of this section. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and Cahokia Mounds, which lies just east of St. Louis, are among the ancestral places of today’s tribes but not properly recognized as such, a- she declared.

“Indigenous peoples have lived in North America for thousands of years. And when European settlers came to America, they saw these mounds and other places and didn’t recognize the living indigenous people there,” Red Cloud said. “If you speak with indigenous people who are descended from these areas, they will say to you, ‘Oh, these are our parents, these are our ancestors. “”

Continuation celebrates indigenous practices and observances that thrive despite assimilation efforts, while exploring forced displacement and resettlement and schools intended to rid children of their culture. Finally, innovation includes the entrepreneurial spirit of Aboriginal artists in the creation and sale of their work.

About 15% of the galleries’ artwork will come from the collection the Eiteljorg previously acquired from art dealer Richard Pohrt Jr. The objects, which were created by the Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes in the mid-19th and in the early 20th century, provide a broader understanding of Indiana’s past and present.

Pohrt’s new art adds a lot of diverse work to the museum’s existing Great Lakes collection, which was previously small compared to others, according to public relations manager Bryan Corbin. The Eiteljorg had exhibited some of these works from Miami, Delaware and Potawatomi in “Mitohseenionki: The People’s Place” since 2002. Now some of these objects will be in the reconstructed galleries.

Other Miami and Potawatomi artwork that has previously been on display in the galleries has been loaned out and returned after nearly 20 years on display.

This section of the resettlement will focus on the tribes’ ties to the Great Lakes as well as contemporary environmental issues, such as pipelines in the region and the return of seed varieties to their place of origin in Indigenous communities.

Artwork by people from the Great Lakes and surrounding areas will be spread across the relocated galleries and specifically highlighted in the Connected By Water room. With a dark ceiling and walls, artwork like textiles and moccasins will be inside lighted boxes.

“You’ll be in this jewelry box-like setting,” Phelps said.

Given the sensitivity of many works to light, the art will rotate, which will help the museum display more than 400 objects from the Pohrt collection, Phelps said.

The artistry and skills of the tribes will be evident, and Red Cloud said the exhibit provides an opportunity to teach their spiritual beliefs through images used in the works, such as those of thunderbirds and subterranean panthers. marines. Once again, past and present will unite through works like an early 20th century shoulder bag with floral beads, an art form that continues.

On “shoulder bags, you will see a lot of floral patterns – floral and plant. They are based on the knowledge of plants that people have, you know, what kinds of plants are beneficial to use for medicine or for eating,” Red Cloud said, “Floral beadwork is something you can only find in the Great Lakes region, and artists are still doing it today.”

Gallery construction is underway as the Eiteljorg enters the final fundraising phase of the 2021 project. In October, the museum announced its goal of raising more than $6 million by May after receiving nearly of $49 million during the private phase which began in 2016. Some of the money – $40 million – will be added to its endowment. The remaining $15 million will go to his fundraising campaign.

In addition to Native American galleries, the latter includes the reconstruction of Western art galleries, which reopened in 2018; the renovation of the Nina Mason Pulliam Education Center, which reopened in November; and the future expansion of the Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court event space. Corbin said the museum has so far achieved more than 90% of its overall goal.

Audio descriptions, digital tools, information easily visible to people in wheelchairs and special lighting for the visually impaired will make the galleries more accessible. Visitors will also be able to touch certain parts of the exhibits.

Additions include videos of Indigenous artists explaining their work. These voices are key to telling the stories of the art and the people behind it, Phelps said. Even amid painful situations endured throughout the history of Indigenous peoples, Red Cloud said the galleries will show the perseverance and joy of their cultures.

“People are still culturally alive and viable, as evidenced by art,” she said. “Art practices continue and evolve, and that’s where we come to innovation and where we really celebrate Indigenous art and its diversity.

Source: The Indianapolis Star

About Margaret L. Portillo

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