Anchoring Housing with Arts Districts and Light Rail

On a Saturday morning I set out on the Phoenix light rail to visit the Heard Museum of American Indian Art and History.

A two-block walk from the headquarters hotel for the upcoming National Planning Conference brought me to the light rail heading toward the art district. One of the pleasures of experiencing this system is the art embedded in the infrastructure from sculptural seating to arresting casting of art work in railings and grills.

My trip was straightforward and took me through historic areas and new neighborhoods with condos lining the rail corridor. Clearly, the light rail has attracted more dense development and around the arts district, the condos are especially prevalent. Phoenix is definitely cultivating an urban vibe.

The Heard Museum was a revelation.

Having spent a lot of time in both New Mexico and South Dakota, I am an enthusiastic admirer of Native American or Indian art. After visiting many museums and craft markets, I found there was more to learn. The quality of the displays and the richness and range of the craft, artwork, and historical artifacts at the Heard is impressive. In fact, the Heard and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., are two museums that do an excellent job of integrating a love of artistic work with historical and cultural interpretation.

What was also refreshing is that the museum’s interest in art did not end with traditional crafts but extended to contemporary painting, sculpture, and design by Indian artists. This museum is a “don’t miss” for your trip to Phoenix.


Given the quality of museum, I am eager to explore more of the arts district. And, I am interested to read about the condo boom taking place in Phoenix. Residents are enjoying the amenities of their city.

For those of you interested in how cities are being revitalized with either an emphasis on downtowns or arts, the conference offers sessions and mobile workshops. Search the online conference program for “downtown” to see what’s on offer.

About the Author

Carolyn Torma is APA's Director of Education and Citizen Engagement.

Images: Top—Art on a Phoenix lamppost. Photo by Carolyn Torma; Bottom—2014 Indian Fair and Market at the Heard Museum. Photo by Flickr user Peter (CC BY 2.0).

March 20, 2016

By Carolyn Torma