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The Heard Museum - Always Worth a Visit

PHOENIX-The Heard Museum is a place where there's always something worth
looking at, no matter how many times a visitor has been there before.

While some of the familiar galleries are currently under construction, that
isn't stopping the Heard from displaying about 10 different exhibits, as
well as two sculpture gardens outside.

"Every Picture Tells a Story" is built upon the premise that "for
centuries, Native artists have illustrated life forms and events." So,
"each object contains images of plants or animals in the artist's
environment."

This particular exhibit works especially well for children, with several
interactive parts, a sturdy canoe for them to play in, and many bite-sized
versions of Native stories on flyers, such as "Why Birds Live in Our Hopi
Villages," or the Santa Clara "Story of the Bear Paw Design."

Another story, the Kiowa "Story of the Big Dipper," explains the origins of
two things at once, the Big Dipper created by six children escaping a bear
that was chasing them, and Devil's Tower in Wyoming, created when the bear
scored the side of the mountain with his claws during the chase.

Right by an exhibit of Ojibwe bandolier bags, kids can make their own
rudimentary bandolier bags.

But it is educational for adults, too, to learn that eight-pointed stars in
Sioux beadwork often represent Venus, the morning star. And while the kids
make bandolier bags, adults can learn that the flowers on them represent
real varieties like Arrowhead leaves, Virginia bluebells, and silver maple
leaves.

Next is an exhibit called "Masterworks by Native Peoples of the Southwest,"
and here is on display is just a taste of one of the least-known glories of
Native art - Yaqui masks. The Yup'ik and other Northern people are rightly
celebrated for their maskwork, but the three magnificent Pascola masks on
display are worth the price of admission. Perhaps the fact that the Yaqui
range is spread over two counties (the U.S. and Mexico) has led to this
benign neglect.

These masks are made of wood, horsehair and paint, and are worn by pascola
dancers, the ceremonial hosts at events like weddings and saints' days.
Crosses on the foreheads of the masks protect the dancers.

"Masterworks" is an exhaustive look at the peoples of the Southwest. Some
of it is familiar, like Navajo weaving, pueblo pottery, Hopi katsinam,
Navajo and Zuni silverwork, and the examples here are all quite beautiful.
Some of it may be less familiar, like the brilliant Hopi weaving (done by
the men!) and silverwork.

The Heard's famous collection of katsinam has been put in with this show,
and it fits seamlessly. Many of these katsinas or kachinas (katsinam is the
correct plural) belonged to a collection donated by Arizona Sen. Barry
Goldwater.

The traveling exhibit "Remembering Our Indian School Days: the Boarding
School Experience" is on display currently at the Heard, and it is a sad
and sobering reminder of the cultural imperialism Indian people have been
subjected to in the reservation era.

Gallery walking is more tiring than it seems it should be, and attendees
can get a chance to rest several times throughout the sprawling museum,
located on Phoenix's Central Avenue, just north of McDowell. There are not
one but two sculpture galleries. One features an imposing modern-day totem
created by Tom Hunt, Kwakiutl, while the other is presided over by the
delightful "Sea Weed People" sculpture by John Hoover, Aleut. These stalky,
cheerful and seemingly all-female blue-green people rise up out of a pool,
an excellent solution for what to do with these water beings in the middle
of an Arizona desert.

Another sculpture that may catch your eye inside is by Tewa sculptor Nora
Naranjo-Morse. It is a bronze called "Khwee-seng (Woman-man)" and it is a
beautiful reflection on unity and duality.

The Heard is marking its 75th anniversary this year. It continues to hold
its annual Indian Fair and Market and the World Championship hoop dance
contest, and has opened an annex, Heard Museum North, in neighboring
Scottsdale, Ariz.

There is a well-stocked gift shop on the grounds, as well as a cafe which
can provide another rest for weary museumgoers.