Heard Museum Review – A Celebration of Native Cultures and Art

Courtyard entrance to Heard Museum

Since its founding in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Bartlett Heard--as a small museum in a small southwestern town--the Heard has grown in size and stature. It has been expanded five time, boasts ten galleries in  the flagship here in Phoenix plus one in Scottsdale and another in Surprise, AZ. Today the Heard is recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, its educational programming and its festivals.

Now eight times its original size, the Heard hosts an unparalleled collection of more than 32,000 works of art and objects including more than 3,600 works of contemporary Native American fine art. The Heard is a living museum - giving voice to a uniquely American people.

Contemporary Sculpture in Courtyard

The entrance to the Heard is impressive. As you wander through its elegant arches,  the beauty and grace of the Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture is serene and restful.  Continue through the many courtyards filled with a wide variety of sculpture created by the nation’s premier Native artists. Or enjoy lunch or regional favorites at the Arcadia Farms Café overlooking the ironwood trees, waterways and sculpture.


Arcadia Farms Café

Now come inside. You will be wowed by the Heard’s signature exhibition “HOME: Native People in the Southwest,” a collection of the Heard’s most-prized masterpieces, sweeping landscapes, poetry and personal recollections.  HOME takes us on an unforgettable, awe-inspiring journey through the majestic Southwest and the vibrant arts and cultures of Native Peoples. This HOME.

HOME artfence

The HOME's 30-foot artfence of glass and micaceous clay “Indigenous Evolution,” created by Tony Jojola, Isleta and Rosemary Lonewolf is an artistic interpretation of the organic fences built by the native people. As Lonewolf says, “This linear installation reminds visitors to leave stereotyped misconceptions behind  and enter a world where indigenous people blend the past with the present and firmly establish a limitless future.”

Close up of artfence

A stunning commemorative book, HOME Native People in the Southwest has been published by the Heard and it is filled with moving pictures of art, artifacts, breathtaking photography and a collection of poetry called “Poems of Home.”  Here is one example of a the simple but evocative poetry:

“Smoke In Our Hair” by Ofelia Zepeda
The scent of burning wood holds
The strongest memory.
Whether it is mesquite, cedar, piñon or juniper.
It is distinct.
The sweet smell holds the strongest memory.
We stand around the fire
Smoke like memories permeates our hair,
Our clothing, our layers of skin.
We walk away from the fire
No matter how far we walk
We carry this scent with us.
Paris, France or Germany
We catch the scent of burning wood
We are brought home.

The HOME exhibit is vibrant and compelling and communicates a universal message of the importance of home,  your impetus for viewing  “Mothers and Daughters, Stories in Clay.”  This exhibit drives home the power of DNA and clay when mothers and daughters collaborate.  This arresting work by Rose B. Simpson, daughter of Roxanne Swentzell, exemplifies her introspective work.  There are so many more. Come and see them all!

Rose B. Simpson, "Ready to Go Off," 2007

In yet another take on the importance on home, nurture, roots and tradition, a heart-wrenching exhibit about our government-sponsored Indian Boarding Schools raises our awareness of  the national disgrace and tribal tragedy.  

The rationale behind the Indian Boarding Schools

And last, but certainly not least, comes an unexpected, delightful change of pace, the amazing “Crafty Chica,” the Chicano Martha Stewart in her life size Window Boxes. Her joie de vivre is so contagious, it jumps out of the window box!

The Crafty Chica

There’s so much see! Don’t miss:
  • Every Picture Tells a Story with its interactive, hands-on activities is designed to engage, entertain and educate every member of the family.
  • Arizona’s twenty-one tribal communities—each one with unique environments, traditions and ways of life.
  • The collection of over 400 Katsina dolls dating from the late 1800’s to the 1980’s.  Most come from the Heard Museum’s Barry Goldwater Collection and the Fred Harvey Company Collection.

Display of Katsina dolls

If I didn’t convince you that a visit to the Heard is anything but predictable, I need to say it out loud now: it’s fascinating, beautiful and astonishing.  Go.  Be surprised.  Be open to new ideas. Be ready to learn and grow.  And you’ll be as happy as I that you toured the Heard Museum.  

Heard Museum at the Central and Encanto Light Rail Station, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004, 602.252.8848, http://www.heard.org.

Photos: Heard Museum and Herb Simms

All Aboard! This article is the third in our series Valley Metro Light Rail Review – Spring Break Aboard Phoenix’s Newest Mode of Transportation. Tune-in tomorrow for our next stop, the Phoenix Symphony!

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