The Heard Museum in Phoenix is offering free admission this Sunday, July 29, as part of its Summer Sunday program — which features guided tours, hands-on activities for children and more. The Heard Museum, which also has a location in North Scottsdale, features a large collection of works by Native American artists. Think baskets, blankets, pottery, dolls, paintings, sculpture and such. I attended last week’s Summer Sunday with my 22-year-old son Christopher, who’s been joining me for Heard Museum adventures since he was just a toddler.
“I’m an Arizona native,” he says. “So I like seeing so many works by Arizona artists.” He’s also a fan of the museum’s lay-out, with exhibits spread throughout various buildings and rooms, which makes for a lovely leisurely stroll. During Sunday’s event we spied parents seated in a circle with their young children, all engrossed by the animated storytelling of Debra Krol of the Xolon Salinan Tribe. The kids seemed fascinated by her stories, most of which featured animal characters and subtle morality tales. We also spotted kids making flower-theme crafts with beads, string and markers while proud parents looked on.
After entering the museum, we took a right turn just past the large installation of multi-colored glass works — entering an area that explores life for the 51 tribes indigenous to Arizona. Next we explored an exhibit called “Beyond Geronimo,” and Christopher confessed that he didn’t remember learning much about Geronimo during his student years.
It reminded me just how valuable Arizona’s many museums can be in supplementing classroom studies, and keeping young minds active during breaks between academic sessions. After a while, Christopher headed to the coffee cantina for a cold drink while I made my way to the children’s area. At nearly 6’5, he’d look a bit out of place there.
When I got to “Every Picture Tells a Story,” a large exhibit space organized around seven different regions, I noticed a family of four working together on a craft — plus a young child seated on a tall stool while working a puzzle with a Native American theme. Several tween girls were huddled around another craft space, and a boy was pushing buttons for an interactive game as his mom looked on.
There’s a large canoe sitting in the middle of the exhibit space, and a dad was busy snapping shots of three kids seated inside while their mom volunteered suggestions about staging and getting everyone to smile at the same time. I admired artworks hung throughout the space, and fought the urge to play with the giant felt board in an arctic theme area.
Next I headed towards a gallery filled with bolo ties, which answers the burning “bolo” or “bola” question and offers lots of other nifty facts about the state’s official neckwear. People seemed most fascinated by bolo ties belonging to Barry Goldwater, but also lingered over dozens of other ties featuring spectacular design, color and craftsmanship.
Soon I explored a large gallery featuring interactive displays about all 21 of Arizona’s federally recognized tribal communities. A colorful mural wraps around the top of the gallery, and there’s a wall filled with works by young artists. A young girl and her grandmother were carefully examining these works right alongside me. Once temperatures cool, I’m going to pop in again to stroll through several areas sporting works of sculpture.
If you head to the Heard Museum this weekend, consider taking along your holiday shopping list. The gift shop is filled with diverse offerings including jewelry, books and CDs, blankets, folk art, baskets and much more. When exploring the Heard Museum North Scottsdale, try snapping a few photos for the contest they’re running through Aug. 31 — and be sure to visit the “Choices & Change” exhibit for kids.