Mention the term “Western art,” and an immediate picture pops in people’s minds.

Picture stunning vistas of unsullied mountains, canyons and other wilderness, Native Americans in traditional cultural outfits and cowboys wrangling cattle on the ranges.

But a whole class of artists are doing some unique, unexpected work focusing on the West, and Indianapolis art lovers will have the the chance to see it first.

“We really want them to get the sense that the West is a living, breathing place with living, breathing people. It’s not just this thing stuck in the static place,” said Johanna Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. “There’s a lot of cool art being creating in the West today.”

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Some of North America’s most exciting Western and Native American artwork will be on display through Oct. 8 at the Eiteljorg Museum. Quest for the West is an annual art sale and exhibition featuring brand new paintings, charcoal drawings and sculpture from today’s top working artists.

The event helps support artists throughout the country, as well as serving as a major fundraiser for the Eiteljorg, Blume said. Last year, Quest for the West generated nearly $1 million in sales.

The exhibition and sale will feature 49 artists showcasing 200 works of art. In addition, a special exhibition will focus on the artwork of Peter A. Nisbet, a master of the American landscape. “Light, Space and Power: The Art of P.A. Nisbet,” will be on display through Nov. 19.

Quest for the West is included in admission to the museum, which is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $7 for youth ages 5 to 17 and free for children 4 and under. The museum, located at 500 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

While getting ready for the exhibition, Blume took time to break down what to expect as this year’s Quest for the West.

What makes this such a unique event?

It’s special because it’s Western art that’s being created today. A lot of times, Western art is thought of as something of the past, so it’s really great to see artists who are carrying those traditions forward today, and doing really interesting things with the art and subject matter.

Why do a show of new work by living artists?

We do a fair amount of work with living artists, but it’s neat to do an exhibit with 50 living artists. And it’s a lot of the same folks who come back year after year, so there’s some longstanding friendships and working relationships that form over the years.

What are some of the exciting things that artists in this year’s show are doing?

We have six new artists this year, which is a larger number than usual. We’re really excited about the new folks joining us. Artists like David Grossman, I’ve never seen much art like his that is being created in the Western art world. We’re seeing some resurgence of Impressionist technique in Western art, so there’s some of that in there.

To go along with Quest, you’ll be featuring Peter A. Nisbitt. What was it about him that made him stand out?

He’s an extraordinary painter with an extraordinary career. He paints some magnificent landscapes, primarily the American Southwest. He’s a master of the Grand Canyon, the deserts and high mesas, all of that. For us, it was a natural fit that he’d work with us.

Why was he chosen as the Artist of Distinction?

The Artist of Distinction award is given to an artist who really stands out as somebody who’s contributed significantly in the field of Western art and Quest for the West, who’s admired and appreciated by their peers in the Western art world. And Peter really lives up to all of that.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.