Heard director envisions hub in Gilbert, Ariz. - Satellite museum would spotlight tribal art, lifestyles


GILBERT, Ariz. (MCT) – Gilbert would become a hub for American Indian and indigenous cultural events, under a vision Heard Museum director Frank Goodyear described Nov. 29.

The director told the Gilbert Town Council that he envisions a 25,000-square-foot satellite museum in Gilbert.

Such a museum would host the kind of cultural events that the Phoenix museum is internationally renowned for, focusing on indigenous or Southwest cultures, and artwork, pottery and food. And, with the aim to educate the public in an “inclusive” way about Native history, the center could include classrooms amid permanent and traveling displays, he said.

“We’d like to be in a situation where we could grow beyond 25,000 square feet,” Goodyear told the town council at a noontime meeting at the museum. “But we’re realistic to know what might not be possible.”

The idea for a satellite museum is in the exploratory stage, but museum and Gilbert officials expressed a strong interest in proceeding with the discussion. Planning could take a few years, including whether Gilbert has the right location for a museum, and if so how to fund it.

The meeting was arranged by East Valley developer Marty De Rito, who has expressed interest in hosting a satellite museum in his planned Gilbert Esplanade development on the northeast corner of the Santan Freeway and Gilbert Road.

Mayor Steve Berman said the presence of the entire council at the meeting spoke to the great interest in hosting the museum in town. But he was worried about how much the town could afford to put into such a project.

“The reality is, we might not be able to afford 25,000 square feet,” Councilman Les Presmyk said. “We might be able to afford 7,500 square feet.”

The most recent satellite branch, which opened in June in Surprise, was originally envisioned as the same size, but city and museum officials agreed to begin with a 7,500-square-foot wing, and consider future expansions toward 25,000 square feet. Surprise donated 2.5 acres for the museum, $3.2 million for construction and is also providing landscaping and security during the first four years.

Heard Museum Board Vice Chairman John Stiteler said in the past the museum has discussed a branch in Chandler, but those talks never moved forward.

The Heard opened its first satellite branch in Scottsdale in 1996, and has since sought additional locations and become a “museum in many places” in response to urban sprawl that has made the downtown Phoenix location a distant drive for many possible museum patrons and schools, Goodyear said.

<i>Copyright (c) 2006, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.</i>