Lucia Leigh Laughlin is on a mission to develop new audiences for one of the Valley’s most beloved institutions.
Laughlin, the Heard Museum’s new youth and family engagement manager, and Jeff Goodman, who heads learning and public engagement, are reworking its school tours after taking a hiatus during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Heard has showcased the best in Indigenous arts for more than 90 years, and education has always been at the heart of its offerings. Generations of young people have seen the exhibits, including the permanent exhibit “HOME: Native People in the Southwest,” learning about the Indigenous peoples on their doorsteps and across the Southwest. Some tours include hands-on activities to give kids a sense of what it’s like to be a Native child.
Kids and parents have also enjoyed the Heard’s events, like the World Champion Hoop Dance Contest, Holidays at the Heard and summer events featuring local Indigenous performers and educational offerings.
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But the majority of the 250,000 people who pass through the Heard’s doors each year skew older, Laughlin said. And they won’t be around forever.
“We love them. We want them to keep visiting us,” Laughlin said. “But we need to be developing the audience of arts and culture students of the future.”
Through the generosity of funders, including Season for Sharing, the Heard has built more capacity into its educational offerings, including adding staff and resources.
Last year, Season for Sharing supported the Heard’s school tour program with an $11,250 grant. The museum was among 164 Arizona organizations that shared the $1.8 million donated by Season for Sharing supporters last year.
Donate to Season for Sharing: sharing.azcentral.com.
Among the other arts and cultural institutions that received Season for Sharing grants last year were:
- Arizona Opera, Phoenix, $7,500: For free arts programming for more than 40,000 K-12 students and educators statewide.
- Ballet Arizona, Phoenix, $7,500: To provide accessible dance instruction to 50 adults living with Parkinson’s disease through 96 “Dance for PD” classes during 2022.
- Black Theatre Troupe, Phoenix, $7,500: To help at least 35 children increase literacy skills, confidence and self-worth, and civic pride through a school-year weekend literacy-through-the-life-of-arts program.
- Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, $10,000: To support Cactus Clubhouse, which will provide outdoor educational experiences to thousands of children and their caregivers.
- Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, $7,500: Free access to a virtual education program for more than 5,000 children who attend under-resourced schools in Maricopa County
- Phoenix Symphony, $7,500: In support of the Mind Over Music Program, which uses music to teach STEM-related concepts to students in Maricopa and Pinal Counties in seven K-8 Title I schools.
- Scottsdale Arts, $7,500: To support the Memory Lounge program that creates virtual learning opportunities in visual art, dance, theater and music to 250 adults with mild to moderate dementia-related illnesses and their care partners.
Pandemic gives Heard opportunity to regroup
The Heard’s Laughlin, who grew up in Oklahoma, is cognizant of the need to educate all visitors about Native cultures and history.
“One thing that I think is so great about the Heard is that there’s such a focus on first-person accounts,” she said. “If we had had more when I was growing up, we would have certainly learned a more true version of things.”
Like everything else in March 2020, the museum shut down, Goodman said, as did school field trips. Even after the Heard reopened, school tours didn’t restart, partly because schools still weren’t taking kids on trips, partly because the museum decided it was time to retool the program.
“The pandemic presented us was the opportunity to kind of restart with some fresh eyes,” he said. The museum brought in professionals to realign the field trips with Arizona state education standards while still holding true to the Heard’s mission of educating the community about Native cultures, arts and history through the first-person perspective.
School tours restarted in mid-November, and the education staff is busy developing new hands-on activities for students aligned with current exhibits such as “Substance of Stars,” an exploration of four Native cultures’ perspectives on Indigenous knowledge and spiritual values through art, along with an immersive video experience.
The museum is also offering free teacher education events, where educators can learn what the Heard has to offer and the Heard can learn how it can be a better resource for teachers. Other plans include remodeling the museum’s two classrooms, adding new plants in the Children’s Courtyard that reflect the Southwest’s Native peoples and family movie nights.
Both Goodman and Laughlin emphasized that their aim is to create a renewed commitment and excitement for welcoming kids and families from many communities and cultures to the Heard, so Native and non-Native families can learn from and understand each other and learn what they share in common.
Season for Sharing supported the Heard’s school tour program with an $11,250 grant. Over the past three years, Season for Sharing has given $20,000 to the museum’s educational programs, including in-person school tours and digital resources during the pandemic.
How to donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of Republic readers, Season for Sharing has raised and given away almost $72 million to Arizona nonprofits since 1993.
Ways to give
- Fill out the secure, online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
- Text “SHARING” to 91-999 and click on the link in the text message.
- Go online at facebook.com/seasonforsharing and look for the “DONATE HERE” post.
- Clip the coupon on Page 4A of The Arizona Republic, fill it out and mail it to P.O. Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250.
- Make a donation when you buy tickets to Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden. dbg.org.
Where does the money go?
When you give to Season for Sharing, you are helping nonprofits that support education, feed the hungry and help struggling families and older adults. The Republic pays all administrative costs, so 100% of donations go back to the community.