Visual Arts

The Glendale Bead Museum Closes in March ... Now Let's Save the Beads

Okay, I'm officially bummed. 

On March 12, in less than two weeks, The Bead Museum in Glendale will close. Being a lover of culture, as well as beads and jewelry for art's sake, I am devastated by the loss of this historic collection and its research library to Valley residents, tourists and scholars.

Not just personal adornment for the sake of vanity or beautification, beads are one of the most primordial forms of art in the universe. They tell stories about every aspect of every culture in history: a wearer's social status at a particular time, religious beliefs, commercial trade, respect for tradition and sense of aesthetics. Beads are magical and have long been used as amulets for good luck and protection against evil forces.

What will happen to the collection and library is up in the air at the moment.  I'm rooting for either the Phoenix Art Museum or ASU Art Museum's Ceramics Research Center to become the new repository for this critically important mass of cultural history. 

Phoenix Art Museum would be a natural, given the prominence of its Fashion Design Department and Gallery, elevated to international prominence by unending efforts of curator Dennita Sewell, and enthusiastically supported by PAM's Costume Institute.  Additionally, the museum's Astaire Library of Costumes, included in the Museum's Art Research Library, houses many rare books and print relating to costume, textiles and fashion accessories.

Or ... what about the Ceramics Research Center at ASU Art Museum?  Many beads, both early and contemporary, were fashioned from clay, a medium to which the CRC has dedicated itself without reservation.  Plus the university is a research institute and would be a supremely logical place for the collection and library.

Or ... and this is most likely a pipe dream, the best scenario might be to procure a compassionate and impassioned donor to set up an endowment fund. 

If you're interested in seeing The Bead Museum become a part of either Phoenix Art Museum or ASU Art Museum, here's the 411 on the people you should lobby:  James Ballinger, Phoenix Art Museum Director and Dennita Sewell, Curator of Fashion Design or Gordon Knox, ASU Art Museum Director, and Peter Held, curator at ASU Art Museum's Ceramics Research Center.

Kathleen Vanesian is New Time's art critic. To read more of her work, click here.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kathleen Vanesian