James Pepper Henry has been named as the Heard Museum’s director and CEO. Henry comes to the Heard after a successful six-year tenure at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Alaska’s premier art, history and science institution. There, he oversaw the completion of the museum’s $110 million, 80,000-square-foot expansion, including the debut of the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center exhibition hall and the new Imaginarium Discovery Center.
“We are very pleased to announce that Jim Pepper Henry will become the new director of the Heard Museum,” said Heard Museum Board of Trustees Chair Mark Bonsall. “An extensive national search was conducted to find the person who will lead us into the future.”
Bonsall adds, “Jim brings a wealth of museum experience; he comes to us from his current post as director and CEO of the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and has also held leadership positions at several other museums, both Native and non-Indian. Jim is a sculptor in his own right and an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation. We are thrilled to announce his appointment as the executive director of our beloved Heard Museum, and very much look forward to his leadership of this preeminent institution.”
“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,” said 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 formerly served as an associate director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) where, for nearly 10 years, he managed a wide variety of American Indian community-oriented programs, services, and traveling exhibitions. Pepper Henry played a pivotal role in the establishment and launch of NMAI, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that opened to the public in 2004.
Pepper Henry served as the founding director of the Kanza Museum in Kaw City, Okla.; interim curator of American Indian Art at the Portland Art Museum; gallery director at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in Portland, Ore.; and gallery director for the Institute of Alaska Native Arts in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Pepper Henry is a member of the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma and Muscogee Creek Nation. He is co-founder and president of the Kanza Ilóshka Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of the cultural life-ways and traditions of the Kaw people. Pepper Henry is also an active American Indian traditional dancer and is co-founder of the Kaw Nation Traditional Dance Society.
He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and a recipient of the University’s prestigious Council for Minority Education Leadership Award. He is also a graduate of the Museum Leadership Institute at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California.
Pepper Henry has contributed essays to various publications including Stewards of the Sacred, co-published by the American Association of Museums and Harvard University, and Native Universe: Voices of Indian America, co-published by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society.
Pepper Henry will assume his duties on August 5.