First new gallery in over a decade set to open at Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is celebrating the grand opening of it’s first new gallery in 11 years thanks to a donation from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

The Heard Museum will open its first new gallery in 11 years on Thursday after receiving a grant from a local trust.

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Grand Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Beauty Speaks for Us,” will have more than 200 pieces of Native American art spanning decades. The collection of artwork includes baskets, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, beadwork and sculptures.

The new gallery space boasts slightly more than 7,000 square feet and high ceilings to allow for large pieces of art, according to Ann Marshall, the curator for the exhibit.

“The title of the exhibit ‘Beauty Speaks for Us’ is really a tribute to artists going back decades,” Marshall said.

The Heard Museum did not plan on getting a new gallery, but they received a generous grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust for more than $1 million, allowing them to build a new crosswalk and create the new exhibition space for “Beauty Speaks for Us.”

The new crosswalk connects the “Boarding School” exhibit to the main museum, making it easier for visitors to navigate and see more art and history.

“That crosswalk brings the whole museum together in a way that makes it very clear for our visitors,” Marshall said.

The new Virginia G. Piper gallery combines already existing spaces, and the layout includes a large, open room, a slightly smaller space, and an intimate area for specific, detailed pieces of art. Featured pieces will be placed in high, glass cases in order to help visitors focus on specific parts of the artwork, according to Marshall and Caesar Chaves, director of creative designs and marketing.

“The sheer scope of it. To just expand on a theme of beauty. Something that simple,” Marshall said. “Just to see over 200 breathtaking pieces across decades – we’ve never had that kind of room before.”

“Beauty Speaks for Us” highlights Native American artwork ranging from past centuries to today’s modern culture.

“In terms of meaning, this is to celebrate the type of aesthetic that American Indian artists have been practicing for about two to three thousand years,” Chaves said.

The exhibition’s artwork comes from the Heard Museum collection as well as local collectors.

“It’s been some of these local collectors who have developed wonderful relationships with artists,” Marshall said. “They’ve gotten to know the artists over several decades and they come to our fairs and met the artists and they have just spent a lifetime collecting.”

Many members of the public and local art and history enthusiasts are excited about the upcoming grand opening.

“I’ve been to the Heard Museum a couple of times and every time I’ve went it’s been a great experience,” Jessica Powers, a frequent museum visitor said. “I’m really excited for the new exhibit to open. I hope it will really enhance my cultural experience and knowledge.”

Contact the reporter at bayne.froney@asu.edu.