David M. Roche

by David M. Roche

What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

I believe that our nation’s strength is in our diversity, and I had always thought of museums as being diverse and welcoming spaces. But a report produced by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation found that art museums on average weren’t particularly diverse. What was of particular interest to the Heard Museum was that fewer than 1% of jobs associated with the intellectual and educational mission of museums were held by Native Americans. We thought the Heard was well-positioned to address this by creating a program that would develop future Native American leaders for the museum field. 

We’re now in our fifth year of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship Program and have trained nine Fellows. We hired Velma Craig, a Fellow who completed three years in the program, as an assistant curator. The Fellows have done outstanding work and enriched the Heard Museum with their energy and creativity. They curated an exhibition titled “Color Riot!” that is now touring the country and receiving rave reviews. Most of all, I’m pleased that their success is raising visibility for career opportunities in the museum field for Native Americans. 

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

Over the past 18 months, we have developed a practice of assessing and adapting to continually changing circumstances — a practice that has been imperative throughout the organization. The success of this approach has revealed the creative strength of the organization, which I will continue to cultivate and draw upon. For example, our temporary closure due to COVID-19 accelerated our plans to build our technological strengths so that we could engage virtually with the community. There is no substitute for experiencing the power of art in person, but adding a virtual dimension to our work has intriguing possibilities for deepening our visitors’ connections to art and to the Heard Museum. 

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

We are struggling to find the talent and skill sets in the local workforce that we need to grow. By focusing on quality-of-life opportunities, I believe the business community will have an easier time attracting professionals to Phoenix. Supporting arts and culture, promoting the beauty and natural resources in the state, and developing sustainable living models are essential to this. 

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

We received a seven-figure gift to renovate the Heard Museum Shop. Planning is underway and construction is set to begin in summer 2022. Wholesale improvements to the shop’s cases, lighting, flooring and overall design will be a game-changer for this jewel of our community, which helps to generate $46 million annually in economic activity across the State of Arizona and throughout Indian Country. Most importantly, the shop plays a vital role in supporting American Indian artists and families. 

Name of Leader: David M. Roche
Position of Leader: Dickey Family Director & CEO
Company Name: Heard Museum
No. of Years with Company: 6
Main Local Office Address: 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: (602) 252-8840
Website: heard.org
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 1929
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix

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