Heard Museum preserves Native American heritage

The Metro Light Rail has become a part of Valley culture, and one stop takes passengers to a place where centuries of Southwest culture are preserved.

The Central Avenue and Encanto Boulevard station is located near the Heard Museum, where Native American heritage has been preserved for more than 80 years.

The Heard Museum is a nonprofit, private organization that was founded in in 1929. Its celebration of Native American heritage continues to attract tourists from around the world.

The light rail has provided Valley visitors a convenient way to step into Native American traditions.

“The light rail has made it easier for tourists to find a way to the Heard,” said Kate Crowley, marketing and communications manager for the museum. “They can come straight from the airport.”

The museum hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, and park-and-ride is a popular option for residents and students, she said.

One event students can easily find their way to is Third Fridays Native+You series. The next event will be held Friday at 7:30 p.m., and will feature a panel discussion with young Native American artists from Arizona.

The free event will provide a chance to meet with the artists and tour the Heard Museum.

“A lot of people don’t know much about Native American art and culture,” said ASU graduate student Jaclyn Roessel, an education program associate at the museum.

Roessel, who received her bachelor’s degree from ASU in art history in 2005 and is pursuing a master’s degree in art administration, collaborates with Native American artists from across Arizona and teaches in museum education programs.

“It’s great to be able to learn and teach about other cultures and not just my own,” she said. “They are just as important.”

While Roessel has roots in the Navajo tribe, through interning and being an employee at the Heard Museum, she has had the chance to immerse herself in 72 other Arizona tribal cultures, she said.

Dwight and Maie Heard, a then-prominent couple who relocated to the Valley from Chicago to share their collection and love for Native American art, founded the Heard Museum in 1929.

The Native American gem, full of Navajo rugs, Kachina dolls and the vivid artifacts of Southwestern tribes, has since grown to 130,000 square feet with space for 11 exhibits, half of which change throughout the year, Crowley said.

The Heard’s love for Native American art has flourished in Phoenix and also reached Scottsdale, where a second museum location was built in 1996.

Reach the reporter at ktenagli@asu.edu

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