Heard Museum Names New Director as Arizona Opera Director Steps Down

Arizona Opera moved into its new Opera Center this month on Central Avenue.
Arizona Opera moved into its new Opera Center this month on Central Avenue.

There must have been something in the air Monday (other than the crazy wind). Arizona Opera general director Scott Altman announced his departure within hours of the Heard Museum announcing its selection of a new director and CEO, James Pepper Henry.

Leadership change-ups within the past year have, and continue to, reshape the Phoenix art institutions (though we'll save that discussion for another day). Nonetheless, spokespeople from both the Heard Museum and the Arizona Opera are confident about their futures and continuing missions.

See also: - Heard Museum Continues Search for New CEO, Names Interim President - Arizona Opera Moves to Central Avenue in Phoenix

Altman joined Arizona Opera in 2009. Before moving to Phoenix, he had served as co-founder of Opera New Jersey with his wife. In the past month, Arizona Opera opened the doors to its brand new Opera Center (used mainly for rehearsal) at 1636 North Central Avenue, across the street from Phoenix Art Museum.

"Arizona Opera has a bright future, and I am grateful to the board and staff for their dedication and passion," wrote Altman in a statement released late Monday by the Opera. "As my fourth production season comes to a close, and the Arizona Opera Center is now occupied, the timing is perfect for my family and the Opera to enter our next chapters."

No word on what Altman will do next. According to the opera, Ryan Taylor, who currently serves as the company's director of artistic administration, will serve as interim general director while the company launches a search for a new head honcho.


Chris Arend -- Anchorage Museum
Chris Arend -- Anchorage Museum
James Pepper Henry

Lee Peterson, former CEO of Sun Health Services, and chairman of the Glendale Municipal Properties Corporation and Glendale School District 40 Trust served as interim director of the Heard Museum for almost a year before the board found James Pepper Henry.

Pepper Henry's coming to Phoenix from Alaska's Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, where he was director and CEO for six years.

He previously served as associate director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian; founding director of the Kanza Museum in Kaw City, Oklahoma; interim curator of American Indian Art at the Portland Art Museum; gallery director at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in Portland; and gallery director for the Institute of Alaska Native Arts in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"I am honored to have been selected as the next director and CEO of the Heard Museum, one of the premier institutions of American Indian art and culture and an American treasure," writes Pepper Henry. "I look forward to working with the board, staff and community to present exciting exhibitions and programs, expand its audiences and steward the Heard into a new era."

Pepper Henry is also a sculptor and an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation.

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