The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is a unique Indianapolis attraction in the heart of Indianapolis downtown. Founded by Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist Harrison Eiteljorg, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is a reflection of his own love for collecting Western and Native American art. Each month this Indianapolis museum offers a host of Indianapolis events and constantly brings new exhibits to its Indianapolis art galleries. May 22 marks the opening of the Eiteljorg Museum’s newest Indianapolis art exhibit Generations: The Helen Cox Kersting Collection of Southwestern Cultural Arts. Open through August 8, this Indianapolis culture event offers an in depth look at Native artists.
Generations: The Helen Cox Kersting Collection of Southwestern Cultural Arts represents the collection, which has been formed over two generations in the Kersting family. With a focus on art from the Navajo and Pueblo cultures done from the late nineteenth century to the present, the exhibit explores Native American art from ancient times to the present. In tandem with the Generations exhibit, the Eiteljorg Museum of Western Art and American Indians will also release a book of the same title detailing the exhibits contents with stunning photographs of each piece.
The volume illustrates nearly 800 objects in the Kersting collection including pottery, jewelry, baskets, katsinas, dolls, Navajo weaving and other objects. With essays from the Chief Curatorial Officer of the Eiteljorg, James Nottage, the curator of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Diana F. Pardue, and the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Indian Market, Dr. Bruce Bernstein, the publication will serves as a valuable archive of this important part of North American history.
James Nottage explains the importance of the collection, saying, “it demonstrates both tradition and innovation in Southwestern Native arts by providing important examples of multiple generations of artists. Through the magnificent work of these artists, we gain better understanding of how their tribal cultures have survived and thrived.”
Helen Cox Kersting is a native of Belleville, Illinois. After attending the Millikin University School of Music and the Juilliard School of Music, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, as a mezzo soprano. Kersting’s avid interest in collection Southwestern art, pottery, jewelry, weavings, baskets and other objects started when she was only a girl, traveling the American West with her parents. Her hobby soon transformed into a connoisseurship as she developed a wide base of knowledge on Western and Native American art.
Her jewelry collection alone contains more than 200 pieces. Belts, boxes, rings, bracelets, necklaces, pins, earring, bolo ties, hair pins and cuff links offer a wealth of information about these ancient cultures. With pieces from noted jewelers such as Charles Loloma, Carl and Irene Clark, Vernon Haskie and Denise Wallace, each piece tells a stunning story. The collection is peppered with elegant materials like silver, turquoise, gold, opal, coral, diamonds and more, making it a brilliant walk through rare gems, as well as a history lesson about Native cultures.
But perhaps the most telling items in the Generations exhibit are among the more than 400 pottery items Kersting has collecting. Prehistoric coiled jars and baskets collected by her parents in the 1930s reveals the great timeline of acquiring such a massive and important collection. And while the Eiteljorg’s permanent collection offers pieces from a range of historic periods, it contains only a few pots from Maria Martinez of the San Ildefonso period. Kersting’s collection includes an expansive selection of pottery by Martinez in a range of forms and color.
But what is so unique about Helen Cox Kersting’s exhibit is its systematic collection of work by extended families. Entire family trees are represented through her pieces. And each piece of art work reveals a different aspect of each generation’s history.
Kersting, who currently lives in Arizona, says, “I have pursued my search for the final custodianship of my cherished Native American collection for a couple of years. . . It is no wonder this devotion creating the collection requires a special home for the future where it can demonstrate its character and content and be a learning tool of Native art history for years to come. Simply, I felt and feel all of my hopes could be fulfilled by the Eiteljorg with its vigorous ‘young museum’ mentality.”
Catch Generations: The Helen Cox Kersting Collection of Southwestern Cultural Arts May 22 through August 8 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Admission is included with ticket to this Indianapolis art museum. With prime Indianapolis real estate along the Indianapolis Canal Walk and near the White River State Park, the Eiteljorg is near tons of cool places like the Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions and the Indiana History Center.
After you take a walk through the Eiteljorg’s newest exhibit, treat yourself to dinner and drinks at any of these Indianapolis restaurants or Indianapolis bars. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Events and Information on Fun City Finder.com for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis education to Indianapolis sports and everything in between. Get out in Indy and find some fun! Make the Circle City your playground!
Generations: The Helen Cox Kersting Collection of Southwestern Cultural Arts
May 22 through August 8
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
500 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204