Heard Mentality

How much longer will the city allow the acclaimed museum to disrupt a historic neighborhood's peace and quiet?

Goodyear says the museum has revised its guidelines to address as many neighborhood concerns as possible.

"We've had many meetings" with the caterers, he says. "We try to train our personnel to respond to these situations."

Goodyear came to the Heard in November 1999, after a career spent presiding over cultural centers in Wyoming and Pennsylvania. He oversees 91 employees, works with a 40-member board of trustees and manages a $7 million-plus annual budget.

Craig Larotonda
Heard lawyer Nick Wood says the museum wants to be a good neighbor.
Kevin Scanlon
Heard lawyer Nick Wood says the museum wants to be a good neighbor.

He says that, since receiving complaints, the museum has added shields to the rear parking lot lights, reducing the amount of light that goes over the wall into neighbor yards. It made $8,000 worth of modifications to the air-conditioning unit to reduce noise. It placed a sign next to the bus unloading area prohibiting idling engines. It revised catering contracts to include statements concerning "unacceptable noise levels."

"I think we're known as the 'Sssh! Heard Museum' by our caterers," Goodyear says without a smile. "I should also tell you we don't live in a perfect world. There may be policy infringements that happen, but I think the intent of the policy is clear."

However, other measures allegedly taken by the museum are less apparent or effective.

A January 2001 letter from Goodyear to Skelly says that "Please be quiet" signs would be posted for caterers, delivery drivers and other visitors. No signs are currently visible on museum grounds.

Goodyear says the signs are portable and are placed outside during evening events.

The letter also says catering-truck drivers were told not to keep their engines idling while removing supplies.

However, on a recent Friday afternoon, a catering truck was observed with its engine idling for at least 30 minutes while workers unloaded food trays.

"The driver of that van should have been told to turn [the] engine off," Goodyear says. "I've witnessed violations, too."

By January 2001, the city prosecutor's office was being inundated with letters about the museum.

Electronic mail obtained from the city shows that efforts were made by the prosecutor's office to mediate a solution between the museum and neighbors. However, the complaints continued and eventually both sides refused to sit down and talk.

One message from a Phoenix police commander, copied to prosecutors, expressed concern about the disruptions.

"The neighbors are not real satisfied of our response during the late night hours," Commander Joe Klima wrote in March 2001. "This is a very sensitive issue that I think the beat officers and squad sergeants need to be aware of."

The Heard, by this time, was aggressively marketing itself as an ideal site for events.

As a federally recognized nonprofit organization, the museum depends on donations to maintain its artifacts and exhibits. Private contributions are buoyed by gift shop sales, averaging nearly $2 million a year since 1998. Annual events, such as the Indian Market, add more to the coffers. And rental fees from private events have skyrocketed from less than $200,000 in 1999 to more than $500,000 in 2000 and nearly $600,000 in 2001.

Heard officials say the money still isn't enough.

"They have been operating on a shoestring," Wood says.

The Heard's most recent tax return, from October 1999 to September 2000, shows the museum earning $6.9 million in total revenue. During that same time period, the museum spent $7.5 million, resulting in a deficit of more than $500,000.

No financial statements are available for 2000.

"There are certain realities no one can ignore. In order for this museum to fulfill its mission, it needs money," Wood says. "The sources for that money is limited. If you were to lose one of those [sources], there's no guarantee you can replace it with something else, and it may be such a critical loss there's no way the museum could survive."

The museum has relied on avenues such as the Internet to promote its facility and give details about its private-use fees.

"From intimate receptions to exquisite dinners, unique weddings to corporate meetings, the Heard Museum offers a variety of beautiful rooms and courtyards to make your event a one-of-a-kind experience," the museum's Web site boasts. "You can entertain from 20 to several hundred guests."

Rental rates run the gamut from $2,500 for an evening dinner party to $4,000 for a five-hour wedding that, according to the Web site, can accommodate up to 1,000 people. Daytime meetings are advertised from $500 to $1,000 with space for up to 400 people.

The Heard handles all liquor and beverage sales during events. Those profits are included in the museum's estimated gross revenue. The museum also requires that all food be contracted through one of the Heard's preferred catering companies, of which there are six.

Those catering contracts also are lucrative for the museum. According to the Heard's agreement, which caterers must sign, each company agrees to pay a fee of at least $1,500 and promises to provide, as a donation, free catering service for at least two museum events.

In 2001, the museum hosted more than 100 private events, according to Goodyear. Of those, 44 events either took place entirely outdoors or included some outdoor use.

The Heard refused to release a list of individuals who have rented the museum for private use. (The Arizona Press Club is renting the Heard in April for its annual journalism awards banquet; several New Times editors and writers are on the press club board.)

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