Nicole Wiltrout takes readers on a tour of Eiteljorg Museum,a beautiful museum devoted to western and Native American art in Indianapolis.
When Dominique was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to share a post here at Midwest Guest, I was thinking through what might be a good topic. She mentioned that she hasn’t written much about Indiana other than a few posts on various locations in the northern part of the state. I’ve spent most of my life in central and southern Indiana, so it’s natural for me to focus on these regions. I spend much of my energy at my own blog (Arrows Sent Forth) covering this part of the Midwest.
What I like best about Indianapolis, found in the very center of the state, is how it often surprises visitors (and locals) with quality attractions that they don’t expect to find. For instance, when you think of an ideal location for a museum devoted to western and Native American art, Indianapolis likely doesn’t come to mind. And yet that’s exactly where you’ll find the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
Despite being an avid fan of museums, it has taken me more than 20 years to appreciate what the Eiteljorg offers. Sure, I had visited a few times. Mostly because the Eiteljorg hosted special exhibitions from two of my favorite artists, Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, in the last decade or so. But otherwise, I hadn’t paid this gem much thought until recently.
I first started getting my interest piqued during the holiday season last year. The Eiteljorg was hosting a new exhibit called Jingle Rails. An amazing model train set, it captivated all the kids and families I knew who visited and I mentally put it on my list of things to visit this year when Christmas rolled around. And then I was invited on a press tour to see the museum and figured it was high time I explore this place in greater depth.
Like any good first introduction, my visit began with a delicious meal at the Sky City Café. I’m typically not a big fan of museum cafeterias, but this place is truly a destination on its own merits. It takes the southwestern and Native American influences from the museum and infuses it right into the menu. Beyond the delicious food, I loved the atmosphere. On a nice day, you can dine on the patio, which overlooks Indianapolis’ beautiful downtown canal.
I was equally impressed with the exhibits. This is one of the finest collections of western-inspired artwork you’ll find anywhere in the country. And while my knowledge of this type of art is admittedly lacking, I found many pieces that took my breath away. I really encourage those who are similarly in the dark about this type of artwork to plan their visit at a time when a tour is offered. It really brings the work to life, even for a novice like myself.
I always visit attractions with kids in mind, even when my 2-year-old son isn’t traveling with me. The Eiteljorg doesn’t disappoint in this area either. While some of the galleries wouldn’t be interesting to young kids, the entire basement is a hands-on introduction to the Wild West. Here in the R.B. Annis Western Family Experience, you can build and raise your own totem pole, visit a Nebraskan sod house, and even take a ride in an authentic stagecoach. When I take my son to visit Jingle Rails this winter, I plan on carving out a lot of time to spend in this area of the museum.
For older kids studying Indiana history, the Native American gallery holds a special collection called the Peoples Place that focuses on Indiana tribes, including the Miami, Potawatomi, and Delaware. The museum also offers a Family Adventures Pack for kids ages 8-12 to enhance their museum experience.
If you plan a visit to the Eiltejorg, you’ll be happy to know its situated right in downtown Indianapolis, in White River State Park. It is within walking distance of many of my favorite Indy attractions, like the Indianapolis Zoo, NCAA Hall of Champions, Indiana State Museum, and more, so you can plan an entire day and evening here without getting in the car.
Disclosure: I was invited on a press tour of White River State Park in June of 2011. My admission and lunch at the Eiteljorg were paid for. I was under no obligation to write about my time there, and all opinions are my own.
Nicole Wiltrout is a stay-at-home mom (who rarely stays home) and lives in Columbus, Indiana. Nicole writes about adventures at home and away with her husband and 2-year-old son at http://arrowssentforth.com. You can also find her on Twitter at @arrowssentforth or Facebook. She loves Hoosier road trips and is an Expert Blogger for the state’s tourism blog, the Indiana Insider at Visit Indiana. She has also written guest posts at Travel Mamas, Rookie Moms, Go Explore Nature, Go Big or Go Home, and Pitstops for Kids.
Photos and text © Nicole Wiltrout 2011 All rights reserved, used with permission