The Heards


+ click on images to enlarge


Maie and Dwight Heard moved to Phoenix from Chicago in 1895. They built a home in Central Phoenix and became involved in the city’s cultural and social structure. From the start, the Heards were fascinated with American Indian culture. They began their collection of American Indian art and artifacts and by 1910, their collection had outgrown their home.  In 1929 they built a museum on the back part of their property to house their extensive collection of art and artifacts. Today, the Heard Museum is widely known for its broad and culturally sensitive exhibits of American Indian art and artifacts and its unique opportunity to learn about Arizona’s American Indian people both past and present.


Narrator: There is something captivating and enchanting about American Indian art. Today, the designs and forms are familiar in the southwest. But at the turn of the century, most settlers who came to Arizona from across the country found this art exotic and mysterious. Some people fell in love with it. One of those people was Maie Bartlett Heard. She and her husband, Dwight Heard, married in Chicago in 1893, and shortly after, moved to Arizona.

Ann Marshall: They went through Phoenix and decided that was a place they'd like to settle. So in 1895, they moved here. From the very start, too, they were absolutely fascinated with the different cultures that lived here.

Narrator: Maie Heard began her collection of cultural art. The couple was particularly interested in artifacts from the Hohokam, native people who inhabited the Sonoran Desert
from about 200 to 1450 A.D.

Ann Marshall: So she and Mr. Heard had a wonderful partnership throughout all of their collecting, with all the travels and everything else. It was a genuine shared enthusiasm. They built a house, Casa Blanca, in 1903, and it was on what was then Center Street, which is Central Avenue. I think it must have been a marvelous place.

Narrator: Maie began to fill that marvelous place with beautiful American Indian art.

Ann Marshall: By 1910, you can see the photos of interiors in their home. There are textiles, pottery, baskets all over. The textiles are on the floors, they're hanging on the walls. There's jewelry on the walls. There are baskets on all the shelves. And they are things that the Heards either collected themselves or had someone collect for them or they purchased from the local Indian Art stores.

Narrator: The Heards dove into the Phoenix social culture.

Ann Marshall: For people coming from Chicago, they saw in Phoenix so many things that needed to be built, including social services, which is what Mrs. Heard really threw her energies into, whether it was the YWCA, scouts, the Women's Club, St. Luke's Board of Visitors. She was very interested, and as was Mr. Heard, in building all of the amenities associated with a city.

Narrator: Dwight Heard was fascinated by the agricultural possibilities of the area and the need for water.

Ann Marshall: He was very active with the Reclamation Act, and Theodore Roosevelt was someone he was a fervent supporter of. And Roosevelt had a big role in western water reclamation. Roosevelt came out here to dedicate Roosevelt dam, and we have pictures of him in front of Casa Blanca with Mrs. Heard in the background.

Narrator: Heard even bought the Arizona Republican newspaper in order to support Teddy Roosevelt's run for president. Casa Blanca was a place for cultural gatherings. Their collection grew and grew.

Ann Marshall: By 1910, the volume alone is really quite interesting. Perhaps their daughter-in-law, Winifred, had said to her mother-in-law, "You know, you might start a museum, you've got so much." And Mrs. Heard's supposed to have said, well, they had been thinking about that, but it seemed so presumptuous.

Narrator: But the museum's beginnings were anything but presumptuous.

Ann Marshall: They built the museum on the back part of their property. Mr. Heard died of a heart attack in March of '29 as they were in the process of installing exhibits. So Mrs. Heard kept going. And in June of '29, they filed the Articles of Incorporation to make the museum a nonprofit. There are stories that when the museum would close for the summer, she would take some of the baskets home to Casa Blanca And wash them. It was a small place, and she was so actively involved. It was just a real focus for the remainder of her life.

Narrator: Maie Heard stayed engaged in the museum until she passed away in 1951. The museum has since grown in size and collection, expanding to incorporate contemporary American Indian art. But a mission that remained: to support American-Indian artists and educate about their culture.

Ann Marshall: We've worked very hard to have what we call the first-person voice present in all of our exhibits, and that's American-Indian people talking about the art that they create, their lives, and it brings a wonderful dimension to our exhibits that really personalizes everything that we do, puts everything in context, and we value it so highly.

Narrator: Today, the Heard Museum is widely known for its broad and culturally sensitive exhibits of American-Indian art and artifacts, and its unique opportunity to learn about Arizona's American-Indian people, both past and present.