Escaping the harsh wintery weeks of a typical east-coast February to travel across the continental U.S. via plane is a dream I’ve longheld since my childhood. This past December, I received news that one of my new widget locket pieces was selected to be included in the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum’s 35th Annual Contemporary Crafts juried exhibition in sunny downtown Mesa, Arizona. What better excuse to see the gorgeous terrain of Arizona’s rugged mountain peaks and luscious, shady palm and cactus trees would I ever be handed?
Having fallen in love at first sight with the southwest, I knew right away I would have to blog about more than just the art scene of the metropolitan Phoenix and Mesa areas. The first group of buildings that greeted my husband and I as we walked outside our hotel is known as Arizona Center, landscaped with the most fabulously sunny palm trees I’ve ever seen. This center is a mecca of shops, restaurants and office spaces that function like a small sanctuary within the busier downtown area of North 3rd and East Van Buren Streets. The business women and men dress to impress here, as I noticed immediately, even though there are also young backpack-wearing students from Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus passing through this city center.
Several things jumped out at my east-coast U.S. point-of-view right away about Phoenix, but especially: the restaurants and eateries offer much healthier dining choices overall, with nearly everything being gluten-free. The first meal we enjoyed was lunch at District American Kitchen, located adjacent to the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel. Second thing: being the huge coffee nut that I am, naturally I wanted to try the Starbucks Coffee located at the Arizona Center also. Upon ordering our coffees and breakfast items, I nearly fainted when the manager of this Starbucks walked outside and hand-delivered our food to us. People seem to be extremely nice and welcoming in Phoenix, as we met several nice folks who thought nothing unusual of striking up conversations with us throughout our southwest visit. Coming from my Philadelphia frame of reference, you’d be hard-pressed to find any restaurant manager or locals to go out of their way to be this kind; Philadelphia/New York/Baltimore/D.C., inclusive.
Even though the city of Mesa is a short drive from downtown Phoenix, the closer to opening night of my exhibit we moved our home-base to Mesa. The Mesa Arts Center is actually the largest arts and museum complex in the entire state of Arizona and is owned by the city of Mesa. It is home to four theaters, five art galleries and fourteen art studios. The music venues within the Mesa Arts Center host amazing musical and theatrical acts, such as jazz musician Diana Krall who’ll be performing at the visually magnificent Ikeda Theater this April, 2014. It is also home to the Southwest Shakespeare Company. The architecturally stunning Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum (known as the MCA Museum, for short) is comprised of five different galleries. The Dobson Main Gallery is the location for the 35th Annual Contemporary Crafts exhibition juried by Independent Curator Julie Muñiz, now open through April 13th, 2014, featuring thirty-five artists from fourteen states working in fine contemporary craft media such as metalwork, jewelry, ceramics, fiber, wood and glass. More to come in an upcoming post to artdoesmatter about my observations of artwork viewed in-person opening night, as well as my additional “Art Trek” adventures in Scottsdale. Check back in soon to read Parts II and III!
All photographs in this blog entry are copyright Patricia Sullivan/artdoesmatter and may not be used without my permission. In addition, the locations mentioned in this blog post are solely my own choice of adventures, and I receive no compensation for any endorsements.