As a regular rider of light rail, I’ve noticed that our helpful automated announcer will do more than just give out station names. The announcer also points out special locations near the station like the “Melrose District” for 7th Ave and Camelback or “Downtown Tempe and Town Lake” at Mill and 3rd St. One that always interested me was the Heard Museum that is always mentioned at Encanto and Central Ave.
Finding the museum is easy when taking light rail. I walked to the south side of the Encanto and Central Ave station and found the entrance to the museum at the other end of the crosswalk. The museum is also located near bus stops on local Route 0. No matter how you get there it’s hard to miss the Heard Museum with its lush green park standing out in the bustling Phoenix streets. The park and surrounding area are full of large sculptures as a landmark for museum-goers or those who want to take a relaxing walk without leaving the city.
When I arrived at the museum’s courtyard, I found it full of people dining at the Courtyard Café and live music from Native American bands. The festivities were part of the museum’s annual Veterans Day event. In addition to the live music, the event included veteran artists showing off their work and a sunset tribute held at the museum’s American Indian Veterans National Memorial. The museum hosts several events throughout the year including their Indian Fair and Market held every March.
The Courtyard Café is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday. If you miss the café or just aren’t super hungry, the Coffee Cantina has grab and go lunches with a nice coffee shop atmosphere and some fun souvenirs for the whole family.
Once I entered the museum the helpful staff directed me to the different galleries of the sprawling campus and gave me interesting tidbits about the artists and their work. The “Grand Gallery” lives up to its namesake. The gallery includes paintings and sculptures created by Native Americans from the 1920’s to pieces made this year. I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and variety of artwork. Classic paintings are displayed next to a sculpture, a painted tricycle or even a video art piece playing on a loop.
The museum showcases a wide range of Native American art and culture. As I moved from room to room, I marveled at the beautiful jewelry, tapestries and dolls made by tribes across America.
The museum does not shy away from the darker aspects of American history. After a long walk on the second floor of the museum I visited the exhibit titled “Away From Home” which details the abuse Native American children were subjected to when the government forced them into American Indian boarding schools.
Before I headed back to the station, I made sure to check out the Museum Shop. The shop offers authentic Native American rugs, jewelry, pottery and more. Among the amazing art and textiles, I found myself enamored with a little sheep figurine made with real wool.
As I returned home, the striking images and art from the museum stuck with me. I can understand why people become members. With so much to explore, it can be a lot to fit into one visit. Luckily, I can head down the museum whenever I like without worrying about city traffic thanks to Valley Metro. For more information on the museum including hours and admission prices visit www.heard.org