Art and Artifacts Sought for Wes Montgomery Exhibition

Posted by Indy Arts Council ; Posted on 
Art and Artifacts Sought for Wes Montgomery Exhibition




The Indy Arts Council, in partnership with the Indianapolis Airport Authority, seeks to borrow objects and EXISTING artwork depicting or paying tribute to the great jazz guitarist (and Indy native) John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery (1923-1968) for an exhibition at Indianapolis International Airport, to be on view from November 2023 to March 2024.

The exhibition will combine artifacts, photographs, and original artworks so airport visitors can learn more about Wes, one of Indy’s most important cultural figures and a highlight of our city’s considerable contributions to the international jazz scene. The exhibition will form a centerpiece of the airport’s 2024 Black History Month presentations, and will be on view during a period of increased visitation to Indy for the NBA All Star weekend, February 16-18, 2024.

ELIGIBILITY: Artists and collectors living in central Indiana


Wes Montgomery is widely regarded as one of the three “founding fathers” of jazz guitar, the other two being Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. His style was distinguished by using his thumb to pick the strings instead of a pick or plectrum, leading to a warmer and more muted sound. He also improvised in octaves and chords, which was unique at the time. Although he started playing professionally at age 19, performing in a jazz band with his older brothers, his widespread fame only lasted 10 years before his death at age 45 from a heart attack. Nevertheless, in that time he recorded 20 albums as a group leader and participated on the albums of many others, playing with Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus among others. Guitar maker Gibson created three instruments for him customized to his playing style, and he was nominated for Grammy awards several times. Today he is known as a transitional figure between the “classic”, purely improvisational jazz of the 1950s and today’s “smooth” jazz, exploring everything from wild solos to lush multi-orchestral compositions to covers and interpretations of contemporary pop hits. His commercial success during his lifetime led to many posthumous releases, and he has been acknowledged as an influence by musicians as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Joe Bonamassa. Read more at the official Wes Montgomery website and find recommendations for his best music at Jazz Guitar.


Artifacts of particular interest include song sheets, composition books, album covers, vintage reel-to-reel tapes, original photographs (particularly vintage, taken at performances), signage, guitars known to have been played by Montgomery, and ephemera such as broadsheets, posters, ticket stubs, advertisements, and similar. Items such as small ephemera may be scanned and enlarged to be shown in reproduction.

Artworks of interest include original tribute portraiture and visual interpretations of his music, particularly by central Indiana artists.

All items will be displayed in the Ticketing Hall in large closed and locked exhibition cases. The cases are not independently climate-controlled, but are protected against dust and lit with low-UV fixtures. Airport police officers provide walking security in the area.


  • Solicitation released:  March 17, 2023
  • Exhibition contents confirmed: September 30, 2023
  • Delivery of items to Indy Arts Council: by Friday, November 10, 2023
  • Exhibition installed: November 11-12, 2023
  • Exhibition celebration: date TBD
  • Exhibition deinstalled: March 9, 2024
  • Items available for pickup or return: March 11, 2024


Email Julia Moore, Director of Public Art at the Indy Arts Council, with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your contact information (email and phone number)
  • A description and photographs of the items you wish to be considered for the exhibition
  • If you are suggesting artifacts, provide a brief narrative explaining how you acquired them (for example–was it a performance you attended? An object with a personal connection to Wes?)

Questions? Contact Julia Moore, or call (317) 624-2556