A mecca of American Indian art history, both historical and contemporary, the Phoenix-based Heard Museum received funding in 2015 to undergo one of the greatest overhauls in its 86-year history.
Under the direction of new CEO David Roche, the Heard, which attracts a quarter-million visitors each year, announced more than $2.35 million in grants that will make touring the exhibits more user-friendly, create a grand gallery for marquee exhibits and allow for preventative care to some never-before-seen sculptures from today's most notable artists.
With the 2016 season underway, here are four new and awesome changes at the Heard Museum:
A $1.1 Million Dollar Boost to the Boarding School Exhibit
Museum staff took notice when visitors attempted to navigate with difficulties the Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience exhibit, which has received much acclaim in its 15-year run.
Before: Apache children upon arrival at boarding school. Arizona Historical Foundation.
After: What the Apache children looked like after being processed. Arizona Historical Foundation.
"This has long posed a challenge for visitors in navigating the spaces," officials said. "The crosswalk is an integral component of the Heard's interior reconfiguration plan."
The funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust grant will allow for the Heard to construct a crosswalk, which connects two areas on the second story often difficult for viewers, who relive one of America's most tragic chapters in history: The establishment of off-reservation boarding schools for Indian children in a misguided attempt to 'Americanize' them.
Sherman Indian School Laundry
Viewing the attraction is "crucial to understanding Native America today," curator Margaret Archuleta says, helping visitors to "understand how that history has influenced contemporary Native American life."
A $1.25 Million Dollar Grand Gallery
In an era where energy efficiency is at the forefront of technology, the Heard received the Piper Trust grant allowing it to stay ahead of the curve with a 6,500-square-foot grand gallery.
Navajo Water Girl by Doug Hyde
Earth Song by Allen Hauser
The state-of-the-art addition opens next fall and includes digital communications platforms and interactive exhibit capabilities.
Officials say the project will further the museum's ability to educate and inspire audiences about the indigenous cultures and peoples of the Southwest.
"Creating this new expanded gallery by renovating existing spaces opens our doors to a multitude of world-class exhibits and programming opportunities," John Bulla, former interim director of the Heard, said.
A $36,000 Iconic Sculpture Renovation
Those cultures would be difficult to understand without real imagery - including works from the well-renowned Allen Hauser - which is where a $36,000 Bank of America Conservation grant comes into play. The funding will help the museum with to restore eight iconic sculptures by some of Indian country's most notable artists, including John Hoover and Bob Haozous.
Zen Bear by Bob Haozous
Crane Woman by John Hoover
Curator Diana Pardue said many of the sculptures were displayed outdoors at private homes from Phoenix to Los Angeles before the Heard acquired them. Because of harsh rain and soil damage, the pieces need conservation treatments and are not on display yet.
"It's important for us to have beautiful artworks on display," Pardue said, noting the grant was the first the museum has received for sculpture conservation.
A New CEO Ready for Great New Changes
The museum hopes it has found a stable leader in Roche, who will be at the helm of administering the grants. The new CEO already has a strategy for guiding it to success. Roche comes to the Heard after consulting and lecturing at American Indian art museums.
Crane Woman by John Hoover
"Building on its many strengths and ensuring that we reach the broadest possible audience both in Phoenix and beyond strikes me as important and very exciting work," he said.
"David's passion for and expertise in American Indian art combined with his experience and leadership skills are a perfect match for the Heard Museum," said the museum's board chairwoman Sue Navran. "The Board was unanimous in its view that David is the ideal director and CEO."