mike casey


WS: Can you tell us something about your upbringing and interest in the American West?

Casey: I grew up in South Dakota—not the West, exactly—but we lived between two Indian Reservations, the Lower Brule and Crow Creek. My family owned drugstores there and we did a lot of business with Native Americans. Their business was critical to our success. On the north side of town was what was called an “Indian School”—not a phrase we would use today—run by the Sacred Heart. My peers and I were jealous of the gorgeous facility, right on the Missouri River, with a pool and tennis courts. We didn’t realize that those kids were orphans who had had it rough. But some of them, a few, came to our high school and that’s when we got to know them.


WS: How did you get to Scottsdale and how did you become involved with Western Spirit?

Casey: I was here from 1997-2012 and met Jim Bruner through the Rotary Club. Jim was always “bigger than life” so when we moved back a few years ago, I reached out to him. My wife and I received a personal tour from Jim and Sandy, we made our first contribution, and he encouraged me to think about how I might become involved with the museum. I took an interest in being on the Board and saw the beautiful space as a perfect place to host events and bring new people to Western Spirit. My company, Hirtle Callaghan & Company, sponsors an event once a year around a subject of economic and general interest. Last November, I spearheaded a day at Western Spirit on the subject of water. We had two speakers and the event was very well attended, received, and covered in the press. Water has been a factor in the American West forever and it’s at the core of economic progress. Everybody in the Southwest has a vested interest in water. And, as I hoped, the event brought people to the museum who had never been there before.


WS: Did you enjoy Western Art growing up, and are there any pieces or exhibitions at Western Spirit that you would single out in particular?

Casey: I’ve always enjoyed Western art. I remember seeing Oscar Howe’s work at the University of South Dakota, and I have always enjoyed sculptures. There’s a monumental stainless steel sculpture in Chamberlain, South Dakota, overlooking the Missouri River. It’s called Dignity of Earth and Sky by Dale Lamphere. The piece pays tribute to the Lakota People and depicts an Indigenous woman holding up a star quilt. The sculpture rises out of the plain and it’s just a spectacular sight. At Western Spirit, I love the Crazy Horse piece by John Coleman. Something about that kind of sculpture is heroic and captivating. It draws you in.


WS: What do you hope to bring to the Board and to Western Spirit?

Casey: I hope to use my expertise in wealth management and development to help Western Spirit achieve sustainability and a strong endowment to fund operations year-to-year. Awareness and fundraising go hand-in-hand and I hope to encourage the support of those who recognize the importance of art in a community even if they themselves are not art lovers. Maybe we can turn them into art lovers… I’d like to apply for more grants and see the museum create and sponsor exhibitions that travel. Traveling exhibitions would help spread the word about Western Spirit and bring in extra revenue as well.


WS: Where do you see Western Spirit five years from now?

Casey: I’d like Western Spirit to become the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) of the Valley, a dynamic destination in the vibrant heart of Old Town Scottsdale, right up there with the cultural institutions of Phoenix. Let me give you an example: last Easter my parents were here and we took them to the museum. I figured we’d spend an hour there. We stayed for three. And we didn’t even see everything. It’s that rich and ever-changing. There’s so much to see and do at Western Spirit and I hope to be a part of sharing this special place.