The East Valley’s first black museum is starting out small — just three rooms in a south Scottsdale office building — but founder Edward VanDyke sees great potential.
"The more we know about the positive things groups have done, particularly African-Americans and Native Americans, the more and more we can respect each other," said VanDyke, a businessman and former owner of the Edward’s of Scottsdale restaurant.
When VanDyke moved from Chicago to Scottsdale 12 years ago, he discovered there were not enough "vehicles to foster fellowship" between races in the Valley.
His answer: The new African American Multicultural Museum, which opens today.
The main room is adorned with masks from Ghana, Egyptian paintings and wood carvings, all on loan from museum supporters’ private collections.
The museum celebrates black history, but will also highlight other cultures using themes such as food, said Linda Freundlich, the museum’s assistant director.
"Rice and tea are probably the two things people eat every day in much of the world, but it’s fixed differently," she said. By showing the similarities between cultures, and not just differences, she hopes to attract people of all backgrounds.
The museum will also hold events such as book signings, storytelling for children and a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. Its next exhibit will focus on the accomplishments of women from various cultures.
"(It) gives those who are of African-American descent the opportunity to get closer to their heritage, and those who may not be African-American an opportunity to educate themselves on the culture," said Don Logan, director of the city’s Diversity and Dialogue Office.
"I think it demonstrates and meets a need for the Scottsdale area. It certainly helps in terms of our image with the African-American community," he added.
VanDyke’s wife, Kaye, said the museum’s board decided to locate in Scottsdale because it is close to a freeway and on a bus route.
It’s an unusual location, Edward VanDyke said, because black museums are generally in ethnic neighborhoods.
He believes the community will accept it because of the strong support he’s witnessed in Scottsdale for museums and art.
"But we’ll have to wait and see if we get the reception that we hope from our brothers and sisters, regardless of race and culture," he said.
Check it out
What: African American Multicultural Museum, 617 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, (480) 314-4400
Hours: Noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; noon-5 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Sundays
Cost: Free. Donations accepted
Grand opening: Noon to 5 p.m. today