Queen of Arts

Kax Herberger's generation knew the importance of perpetuating the arts. Will a younger generation be as giving?

"That's like 'Have a nice day,'" says Daniel. "Well, I don't want to have a nice day. I'm busy. I want to do things. So I said to Marty Sullivan, who was the director then, if we're an important, nationwide organization, I want to see our war ax from the Mohawks. I want to see something from the Black Hawks. And do we have any Kickapoo joy juice? Do we have these things? Of course we don't. We're a regional museum. And I said I think we need to expand our horizons. He said that's impossible. We don't have any money for acquisitions."

In the three and a half years that the Albrechts have been sweeping the tundra, from Greenland west across arctic North America, they've purchased about a thousand works.

A small chunk of it has already gone to the Heard, and more is likely headed that way.

Lori and Howard Hirsch organized the Five Arts Circle to cultivate new arts patrons in the Valley.
Lori and Howard Hirsch organized the Five Arts Circle to cultivate new arts patrons in the Valley.
Lori and Howard Hirsch organized the Five Arts Circle to cultivate new arts patrons in the Valley.
Paolo Vescia
Lori and Howard Hirsch organized the Five Arts Circle to cultivate new arts patrons in the Valley.

"We give here," says Daniel, "because we can't make a mark at the Met. We can't make a mark at the Art Institute in Chicago. Nor do they need for us to make a mark there. But maybe we can really help with the Heard."

This urge to leave a footprint has built museum troves all over the world. But Phoenix institutions have lagged far behind those of other cities in attracting significant works or collections from patrons. Still, there has been some headway.

Gifts of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from the late Sybil Harrington, and additional bequests of early American Modernist paintings from Lorenz and Joan Anderman, have helped to fortify the Phoenix Art Museum's relatively weak core of modern works. The collection of Chinese art that Roy and Marilyn Papp have loaned to PAM has helped to make the museum a national stop for traveling exhibitions of Chinese art.

Such gifts often come with strings attached.

"A patron is not just somebody who rubber-stamps a check," says Diane Cummings Halle. "A patron is somebody -- if they're giving money -- who wants to see that their goals are met, that there's some kind of an evaluation at the end of the process."

Six years ago she set out to do at the Phoenix Art Museum what the Albrechts are doing at the Heard. She wanted to put the museum on the national map by purchasing a collection of modern and contemporary art from Latin America.

She sees the collection as providing an essential cultural bridge to Phoenix's booming Latino population, a necessary step for the museum to take.

She and her husband, Bruce Halle, who owns Discount Tire, knew nothing about Latin American works before they began.

But, like the Albrechts, the couple leapt into the education and adventure that comes with collecting.

"We wanted to be able to travel to some of these countries, visit the people, listen to their language, their music, or read some of the poetry they write, to really kind of infiltrate other people's cultures."

In the past six years, Halle, who was previously married to the philanthropist Herbert Cummings, has spent an estimated $5 million on approximately 80 works by some 40 artists from 13 nations.

"I'm trying to give them a first-class collection," she says. "I am trying to give them something they don't have in any other area. It hopefully will be the best Latin American collection collected by an American."

Howard Hirsch has always been looking for something else to do. From the 1950s through the late 1980s, he and his brother ran a successful company that manufactured screws and nuts. But he never really liked the business.

"Too many engineers and people who were too regulated by their thinking," he says. "So I was always trying in some ways to get out of it. The problem was that everything I tried to do to get out of it or make it more interesting just made my company different from my competitors."

The business only got better and better.

Most screw-and-nut catalogues of the day were printed in black and white. Hirsch's was in color. He filled his company's Illinois offices with art. To lift his employees above the smoke, noise and grime of the factory floor, he instituted Screw U, a series of informal lunch-hour seminars -- meals on the house -- about art. And on the company's 25th anniversary in 1978, he filled the acreage around his factory with sculptures by contemporary artists. On another plot of land, he displayed General Motors trucks, Ford cars and Whirlpool appliances -- all companies that used Hirsch's fasteners.

"What I was really trying to do was to get our employees to realize that there was a relationship between these things and what they did. I wanted them to think better of what they were doing, to see themselves as artisans."

Now, he wants more of the Valley's wealthy transplants to see themselves as patrons.

Last year he formed the Five Arts Circle, a private group that seeks $5,000 contributions from members in exchange for special access to five Valley arts institutions. The Circle's first year brought in 25 patrons and $125,000. The money went in $25,000 chunks to the Arizona Opera, Ballet Arizona, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Art Museum.

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