January 22, 2008

The Heard Museum

Posted in museums at 9:52 am by classicalmusic

A Phoenix “Point of Pride”

The Heard Museum was founded in 1929 by Dwight and Maie Heard to house their own personal collection of Native American art.  Begun as a small private museum, it has greatly expanded and states as its “mission”:  education of the public about the heritage and living cultures and arts of Native peoples of the Southwest.  It is now recognized internationally both for the quality of its collections and its educational programming.

I had never heard of the Heard until I visited relatives in Phoenix, Arizona, about ten years ago.  One of the sights of Phoenix that they particularly wanted me to visit was this museum.  The building itself is a lovely, spreading, sand colored edifice built on the Mexican hacienda style with lovely arches, pavilions and courtyard garden.

Most of the collection objects are from the 19th and 20th centuries, but since this is a “living” museum, contemporary Native American art is constantly being added to it.

The Barry Goldwater Collection of historic Hopi kachina dolls and the huge collection of contemporary Native American jewelry especially impressed me.

In addition to all of the above, the Heard Museum is the home of the annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest which is generally held in the month of February.

In the last ten years, in fact since I was there, the Museum has expanded to include two more sites:  one in Scottsdale, Arizona, and another in Surprise in the West Valley.  The original Phoenix site is a popular and well attended museum.

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January 3, 2008

Piazza San Petro, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

Posted in museums at 2:01 pm by classicalmusic

Piazza San Petro

Designed by Michelangelo after the original architect, Bramante, had died, this piazza is a wondrous impressive sight of classic beauty and symmetry. Bernini’s encircling columns on each side of the piazza stretch out like welcoming arms, and St. Peter’s Cathedral or Basilica stands as a commanding edifice topped by Michelangelo’s dome. If you are not there on a Sunday, when the piazza is full of devout believers awaiting the Pope’s blessing, the piazza is a lovely quiet place to contemplate the genius of the Renaissance popes and their artists. It is so large that the tourists wandering in to go into the Cathedral do not crowd or worry you.

The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums are so extensive that to go through them takes a whole day. Not all of the displays are really worth spending that amount of time. As a result, and understanding that many tourists do not want to see everything, the museum has 4 tours: A,B,C and D. These are arranged in accordance with length. All of them end up in the Sistine Chapel which is the place you definitely do not want to miss. Therefore, it is best to pick the “A” tour, which is the shortest, and then spend as much of your time as you can in the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling, Michelangelo’s masterpiece accomplished in 4 years, is absolutely awe-inspiring. Everyone is familiar with the famous centerpiece: God and Adam almost touching fingers, but there is so much to see in all of the ceiling that one visit is never enough. A most wonderful description of Michelangelo’s trials, tribulations, sorrows, anger and triumph while painting the ceiling are depicted in Ross King’s well-researched book “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling”. First visit the chapel and then read the book.