Arizona Art Attack

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The First Friday art party in downtown Phoenix | Photo credit: Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
The First Friday art party in downtown Phoenix | Photo credit: Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau

By Carolyn B. Heller

A winter escape to Arizona isn’t just about sun, supper, and sharpening your golf swing. In and around Phoenix, it can also mean trying your hand at a variety of art activities. Here are five ways to experience art hands-on in the Phoenix area this winter:

Get Your Hands Dirty

Learning to paint at the Mesa Art Center | Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller
Learning to paint at the Mesa Art Center | Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller

Just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t learn something. If you’d like to hone your photography skills, make pottery, fashion glass beads with a blowtorch, or take up a variety of other art activities, check out the classes at the thoroughly modern Mesa Art Center.

Workshops here are designed for both visitors and local residents, ranging from a three-hour class to multi-session programs. Have a look at the Art Center’s performance calendar, too, which is packed with concerts, plays, lectures, and other events.

Realize Your Rock Star Dreams

Taking in some tunes at the Musical Instrument Museum | Photo credit: Musical Instrument Museum
Taking in some tunes at the Musical Instrument Museum | Photo credit: Musical Instrument Museum

Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum is the world’s first museum to showcase instruments from more than 200 countries. As you wander the galleries, listen on your wireless headset to the boom of Zambian drums, the delicate string notes of a North Korean sohaegum (lute), or the piano that John Lennon used to compose his classic “Imagine.”

On select weekend afternoons, you can take your first step toward becoming a rock star, when you learn to play some guitar chords during the “instrument spotlight” workshops (free with museum admission). This winter’s special exhibition is worth seeing, too: Women Who Rock is on view through April 20, 2014.

Tip: If you’re working up an appetite after these artistic endeavors, head for the Barrio Café on Phoenix’s Calle 16. Not only does Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza cook up some of the best Mexican food in town, but you can check also out the vibrantly coloured murals in the lane out back (such as the one at the bottom of this article).

Add Some Desert Sparkle

Summer Sun by Dale Chihuly, who is exhibiting at the Desert Botanical Garden | Photo credit: Desert Botanical Garden via Flickr
Summer Sun by Dale Chihuly, who is exhibiting at the Desert Botanical Garden | Photo credit: Desert Botanical Garden via Flickr

This winter, the Desert Botanical Garden is hosting a special exhibition featuring the works of acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly. FromNovember 10, 2013 through May 18, 2014, Chihuly’s fanciful glass works will be installed along the Garden’s trails. Want to get up close and personal with these wildly creative sculptures? The Garden has organized a number of special programs in conjunction with the Chihuly exhibition, including several hands-on photography workshops.

Go to Olive School

Sample Arizona-made olive oil during a class at the Queen Creek Olive Mill | Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller
Sample Arizona-made olive oil during a class at the Queen Creek Olive Mill | Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller

Are you more interested in the art of food? Learn about making olive oil with an “Olive Oil 101 class” at the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Canadian-born owner Perry Rea and his family produce Arizona’s only extra virgin olive oil, with flavors ranging from rosemary to Mexican lime to chocolate. These 30-minute classes include olive oil tastings, but if you’re still hungry, the mill café serves fluffy — and delicious — olive oil waffles.

Scope Out the Gallery Scene

Art at The Barrio Cafe. Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller
Art at The Barrio Cafe. Photo credit: Carolyn B. Heller

To see what’s new in the Phoenix art scene, wander downtown for Phoenix First Fridays. On the first Friday of every month from 6 to 10 pm, dozens of galleries, studios, and art shops open their doors for an evening of art exploration. You can chat with the artists, do some shopping, and soak in the lively party vibe.

Tip: During First Fridays, check out the Phoenix Art Museum, too. Among the more than 17,000 works, you’ll find everything from Western American art to European classics to contemporary creations like Blob, a weird green video installation by Tony Oursler. Museum admission during First Fridays is free. 

 

 

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