Heard Museum names David M. Roche director

October 23, 2015 | AZ Central

By Kerry Lengel

The Heard Museum, Phoenix’s internationally renowned home to American Indian art from prehistory to the contemporary cutting edge, has named David M. Roche as its director and CEO.

Roche has worked the past 18 years as director of American Indian art for Sotheby’s, the New York-based auction house. He begins work Friday, Jan. 1, nearly a year after the Heard began a national search to fill the position.

“My interest in American Indian art started when my parents returned from a trip to the Southwest,” said Roche, who was born and raised in Chicago.

“They had visited the Navajo and Hopi reservations, and they brought back souvenirs. They brought back a little Zuni fetish, a miniature Acoma jar, a Hopi kachina, and I was hooked.”

Roche holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s in arts administration from New York University. He has family connections to the Valley and made his first visit to the Heard in 1989. He also worked as director of Gallery 10, a Native art specialist with locations in Scottsdale and Santa Fe.

Roche succeeds James Pepper Henry, the first Heard director to be a Native American tribe member. He left in February to lead the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla., after less than a year-and-a-half in Phoenix.

“Jim Pepper Henry got us off to a good start with a strategic plan that we are still using,” said Sue Navran, president of the Heard’s board of trustees.

Roche is expected to continue the Heard’s efforts to expand and diversify its audience, she added.

“David had a lot of great ideas about how to use our collection to draw connections between historical and contemporary art,” she said.

Roche praised the Heard’s stellar reputation, calling it “one of the most unique museums in the world.”

“One of the great assets of the Heard is a permanent collection that comprises more than 40,000 works of art, and amongst them are true masterpieces of American Indian art,” he said. “Those should be celebrated and will continue to be a cornerstone of the programming moving forward. But I also see the Heard reaching out and working with other museums and private collectors in putting together exhibitions that speak to a variety of tribal traditions and to the breadth and the beauty and the power of American Indian art, both historical and contemporary.”

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