Arts » Visual Arts

NFL team owner donated a massive art collection to The Eiteljorg

The late Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams, owner of the Tennessee Titans, donated his Western paintings and Native American artifacts


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Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon, 1917, oil on canvas, Bequest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams - SUBMITTED
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  • Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon, 1917, oil on canvas, Bequest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams

Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is best known as owner of the Tennessee Titans. The famous NFL team owner willed his historic collection of Western paintings and Native American artifacts to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

John Vanausdall, Eiteljorg president and CEO, in making the formal announcement at the 10th anniversary gala dinner of the Quest for the West® Art Show and Sale on Sept. 19 said, “We are grateful to the Adams family for entrusting the Eiteljorg with this nationally-significant collection. Rarely does a museum director get to experience a gift of such profound impact. The Adams Collection will enrich the museum and its offerings to the public in a meaningful way.”

The multi-million dollar Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams Collection, which the Adams family readily shared in their Houston, Tex., home and business offices, includes significant paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, N. C. Wyeth, Thomas Moran and more of the most notable painters of the West. The collection also contains Plains Indian beadwork, clothing and hundreds of other Native American objects, said Vanausdall. “It is one of the largest and most important gifts of Western and Native art the Eiteljorg has received since its founding in 1989.”

“It is no secret that the Eiteljorg Museum is a special place," said James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer Gund Curator of Western Art, History and Culture. "When we connect with a collector like Bud Adams, it means a great deal that he chose to share his passion through a gift to this museum.

“Every beaded bag he acquired, every great painting he proudly hung on his own walls, is an addition to our museum that will increase the educational value and cultural experience for each visitor who walks through the door.”

Frederic Remington, A Buck-Jumper, 1893, oil on canvas, Bequest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams - SUBMITTED
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  • Frederic Remington, A Buck-Jumper, 1893, oil on canvas, Bequest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams
Nottage took af moment of personal reflection. “Curators dream of being able to add great art and artifacts to the collections of their museums,” he told NUVO. “Limited financial resources make it difficult to do this. Generous patrons like Bud Adams make our fantasies come true and help to expand our ability to more effectively share art, history, and culture with the general public.”

Kenneth Stanley “Bud” Adams Jr., was born on January 23, 1923 in the Cherokee Nation City of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and was a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

At the time of Adams death at age 90 on Oct. 21, 2013, Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a statement about Adams “that he never lost touch with his Cherokee heritage,” which was through his maternal ancestry and grew through his early upbringing by his maternal grandmother.

Chief Baker said, “Through the years Bud Adams was one of the Cherokee Heritage Center’s staunchest supporters, serving on its executive board and making generous contributions that established attractions such as the Adams Corner Rural Village in 1979 in honor of his mother, Blanch Keeler Adams. Endowments and continuing support from Adams have had a broad impact on Cherokees and other visitors to the Cherokee Heritage Center.”

Adams’ maternal uncle, W.W. Keeler, was appointed Chief of the Cherokee Nation by President Harry Truman in 1949 and retained that position until 1975, with reappointments by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Keeler is considered one of the major leaders of the Cherokee Nation. Thus, Adams grew up with a close connection to the civic and cultural affairs of the Cherokee Nation while at the same time finding an essential niche in the both the Oklahoma and Texas oil industries. In Houston he co-founded the former American Football League and was active in sports promotion including sponsoring amateur and AAU teams.

 Adams was a 1940 graduate of Culver Military Academy, in Culver, Ind., where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball. This Indiana tie played a large role in the decision to house the collection here in Indy.

“The Eiteljorg Museum is one of the premier museums of Native American artifacts and Western art in North America, and it is appropriate that these priceless treasures will be housed at the Eiteljorg permanently,” said Amy Adams Strunk, daughter of Bud Adams and controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans, as part of the official Eiteljorg news release. “This collection was very special to my father, and our family hopes that those who view these items on display will walk away with the same sense of wonder and appreciation for the culture and heritage that these unique artifacts and works of art represent.”

The Eiteljorg statement includes a comment by the Adams’ family that their father and grandfather “took great pleasure in sharing his art and artifacts with school children and others.”

The Eiteljorg reports that “Since the Adams collection arrived at the museum, staffers have been doing the arduous and exciting work of unpacking, sorting, examining and cataloging each item.

“While we have known the collection for many years, this is the first time each piece has been closely studied,” said James Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer. “We’re excited about the many new opportunities we will have to unveil the collection and show it in the context of other rich holdings of the museum.”

Dee Ketchum, former Chief of the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, upon learning of the Adams gift told NUVO, "I know the family well. The Phillips Petroleum Co. was the company that started in Bartlesville. Frank Phillips struck oil on Anna Anderson's allotment. She was my wife's aunt and was a young Delaware girl at the time. Bud Adams’ gift to the Eiteljorg is such a wonderful gesture and it is significant because all who knew him regarded him as a generous man. His connections to KU, Bartlesville, Phillips 66, and the Indians in this area have always given me good feelings about Bud and the Adams family. Then his gift to the Eiteljorg of Indiana certainly makes me feel a further connection since I hold the museum in high regard.”

The Delawares story is in the Eiteljorg permanent collection and includes the Ketchum family along with the Anna Anderson family.

Visitors to the Eiteljorg will begin seeing select paintings from the Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams Collection in the museum’s Western art galleries over the next several months. A major exhibit of the top paintings and artifacts will be presented in the Eiteljorg’s special exhibitions gallery from Nov. 2016 through Jan. of 2017.


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