Sunday, January 10, 2010

Culture: Visiting the Heard Museum

The entrance to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona was observed on 8-January-2010

TEMPE, ARIZONA - A high priority for me during this visit to Phoenix was a visit to the Heard Museum. A Phoenix Point of Pride, the museum had been founded in 1929 by Dwight B. and Maie Bartlett Heard to house their collections, and has since become one of the foremost centers to experience Native cultures, particularly those of the southwestern United States, in the world.

A portion of the original 1929 building remained a part of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on 8-January-2010

While the museum has greatly expanded from the original house-sized building and features contemporary (including commissioned) Native art, the permanent exhibits still focus on the collection provided by the Heards and other donations made over the years from tribes that live or lived in what is now the state of Arizona. A large portion of the museum displays a portion of the permanent collection of art from the desert, Colorado Plateau forest, and high desert tribes.

A display of a Hopi Katsina dance was but a small portion of the Hopi Katsina collection at the Heard Museum on 8-January-2010

Where I spent most of my time, though, were in two other exhibits. A large hall was dedicated to the twenty-one tribes that have reservations within the state of Arizona, and each had a display on their history, many of them with hands-on exhibits related to their history or art. Another amazing exhibit was on the Indian Schools, telling the story of how Native children were taken from their families to centralized facilities for education for generations. Some of the stories told in this exhibit, including the story of how an Indian School football team once defeated all but one of the Ivy League schools in a season, were rather unexpected.

The entrance to a special exhibition on Native artist Allan Houser showed the contrast between his traditional and abstract pieces on 8-January-2010

The temporary exhibitions were also quite interesting. I never knew that there was more to Henry Fonseca's career than his "Coyote" era of artwork, and an Allan Houser exhibit did a great job of showing how the same artist could create pieces on the same subjects in radically different forms.

A purple heart earned by a Navajo during World War II had been incorporated into this bracelet seen in the Heard Museum on 8-January-2010

Some had warned me that the Heard Museum could be an all-day activity, and I have to admit I was skeptical that it was large enough for this to be the case. The warnings were correct; I certainly could have used more than the four hours I spent inside.

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