Arizona’s big draw in the spring is undoubtedly the great outdoors, but when it’s time to take refuge from the sun, three Scottsdale-area museums will make you glad you spend a bit of time indoors.
Wonderspaces – I score low on the creativity index, so confronted with an entire wall of whiteboard that demands some imagination to contribute, I am feeling less than.
This ginormous, create-your-own-artwork canvas, called “Rules” by Mexico City artist Paola Ibarra Llano, is just one of the immersive, interactive exhibits that visitors encounter at the museum, situated in Scottsdale’s Fashion Square.
A greeter explains that there will be no explanation as to the artists’ purposes or messages; these will be left up to the eyes and brains of the beholders. (The museum’s full bar may help with this.)
I eventually get friendly with a cartful of colorful masking tape and make a statement on the whiteboard. It’s difficult to be a passive observer when many of the exhibits are humorous, intriguing and so much fun.
Don’t miss “Portraits in Pink, Blue, and Silver,” an interactive, kinetic artwork that uses magnets and magic to capture, record and play back all your crazy moves.
Musical Instrument Museum – This unexpectedly grand space, opened in 2010, puts strange and wonderful instruments from the world and ancient cultures under the same roof as the artifacts of contemporary artists.
On display: A grand piano that belonged to France’s King Louis XIV (1638-1715), and Prince’s purple baby grand; a guitarra española made in Portugal (c. 1590), the oldest full-sized guitar in existence, and the guitars of Elvis, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix; and an Iranian “zendegi” kamancheh (bowed spike lute) made in the mid-1700s, and a barrel organ from the late 1800s.
“Music speaks to every person around the world in a different way and we strive to represent that,” says Sydney Rich, the museum’s media relations specialist. “Beyond the geographical representation, any art, history, music, craftsmanship, or global culture aficionado will find something remarkable about MIM.”
Kids and adults will love the Experience Gallery, where visitors can strum, bang and beat familiar and unfamiliar instruments.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – Architects and builders masterfully connected concrete, galvanized metal and textured glass to transform a former movie theater into a stunning 18,500 square feet of exhibit space. Open in 1999, the museum works with both established and emerging artists, according to Director Jennifer McCabe, and exhibitions “focus on diversity, equity, cross-cultural dialogue and inclusion.”
Our visit was enhanced by volunteer docents who complemented the information on the artwork’s signage. The spaciousness of the four galleries makes it easy to fully take in the large-scale installations and appreciate the building itself.
A quick walk northeast will bring you to the pop-culture, iconic “LOVE” sculpture by Robert Indiana. Made of polychromed aluminum (the original was steel and lives in an Indianapolis museum), Scottsdale purchased its sculpture (one of 50) in 2002. Impossible not to take a selfie at this landmark.
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