Best Things to Do in the Phoenix Area: Art and Culture Venues

Best things to do in the Phoenix area for art and culture enthusiasts

We’ve got a lot of sunshine, golf courses, hiking trails, and spa resorts here in the Phoenix Metro Area, but there’s much more for visitors to discover. I’ve compiled this quick reference guide of some of the best things to do in Phoenix and nearby communities for art and culture lovers based on those that Mr. TWS and I have experienced. In some cases, I’ve included excerpts and links to previous articles about particular venues.

For the art lover in you!

LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana at Civic Center Mall in Scottsdale, Arizona

LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana at Civic Center Mall, Scottsdale

Art and Architecture

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – 7374 East Second Street (Scottsdale Civic Center)

This is my favorite place for art in Scottsdale and I visit regularly as exhibits change.

Art by Bolivian-born artist Carolina Aranibar-Fernández at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Art by multi-media artist Carolina Aranibar-Fernández at SMOCA (exhibit ends 8/4/2024)

“The exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art change frequently (9 – 12 rotating exhibitions per year) giving visitors and residents plenty of incentive to keep coming back. So although the works that I saw when I visited may no longer be on exhibit, I know there will be new and equally eye-opening, and thought-provoking art at any time you visit. The ambiance is vibrant and knowledgeable docents in the galleries enthusiastically point out must-see works and share information as well as their own perspectives.” — Scottsdale is for Art Lovers on TWS

Phoenix Art Museum — 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix

At Phoenix Art Museum there are more than 20,000 works of contemporary and historical art in nine permanent galleries that feature the art of the Americas, Asia, Europe and Western art. and special engagement exhibitions. Special engagement exhibitions cover a wide range of art, culture, media, and fashion themes.

Painting by William Herbert "Buck" Dunton at Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

Painting by William Herbert “Buck” Dunton at Phoenix Art Museum

Don’t miss a visit to the Thorne Rooms where 20 miniature replications of European and American rooms of the early 20th century are on display. One of those is shown below.

Minature replications of early 20th-century rooms of America and Europe -- Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

Miniature replica of an ornate room — Thorne Rooms Phoenix Art Museum

Arizona Fine Art Expo (annual event January through March) — Jomax and Scottsdale Roads, Scottsdale

This annual art festival is a great opportunity to see many beautiful, thought-provoking, fun, unusual, and totally creative works by artists from here in Arizona as well as around the USA. It’s a special experience to watch artists at work and talk to them as you walk through the large number of individual galleries. The paintings, sculptures, and other fine art crafts are also available for sale, but there is no pressure at all to buy.

Artist at work at Arizona Fine Art Expo in Scottsdale, Arizona

Artist at work at Arizona Fine Art Expo

Cosanti — 6433 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Paradise Valley

“The name “Cosanti” comes from the combination of the Italian words cosa and anti which translate as “against things” in English and describes quite well the forward-thinking spirit of Soleri. Cosanti is listed as a cultural site on the Arizona Registry of Historic Places for its unusual earth-casted structures with barrel shaped roofs on the property. These structures comprised Soleri’s sculpture studio and home as well as the communal living quarters of his apprentices. Soleri’s designs were constructed with simple materials and construction techniques in keeping with his philosophy of “arcology”, blending architecture and ecology.” — Cosanti: The “Against Things” Spirit of Soleri on TWS

Soleri's Cosanti in Paradise Valley, Arizona -- one of the large bell creations by Cosanti's artists

Large Soleri bell creation by artists of Cosanti

Taliesin West — 12345 N. Taliesin Drive, Scottsdale

“Wright coined the term “organic architecture” to characterize the harmony between design and nature. That philosophy is evident in Taliesin West’s design where the buildings, grounds, and decorative touches are part of the rocky Sonoran Desert landscape.” — Nature and Architecture in Harmony at Taliesin West on TWS

Frank Lloyd Wright's Talisen West, Scottsdale, Crizona

Taliesin West

Scottsdale ArtWalk — Main Street and Marshall Way

There are over 70 galleries and art shops in downtown Scottsdale featuring Southwest and Native American arts and crafts, handcrafted textiles, decorative arts, and more. On Thursday evenings, take a stroll on the Scottsdale ArtWalk from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. along Main Street and Marshall Way to browse the galleries belonging to the Scottsdale Gallery Association that are open to the public to come in and browse. while enjoying refreshments and listening to street music.

Art and Culture Museums

Heard Museum — 2301 North Central Ave., Phoenix

“Since its opening in 1929, the Heard Museum has been showcasing unique and diverse collections of American Indian art and artifacts and currently has 40,000 objects in its 12 galleries. In addition to its ongoing collections, the museum also features special events (such as the popular Hoop Dance and Indian Fair and Market), educational programs, and changing exhibits.” — Heard Museum: A Cultural Highlight in Phoenix on TWS

Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

Heard Museum, Photograph by Jill Richards Photography

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West — 3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale

“Western Spirit is a first-class museum celebrating the art, culture and history of the American West in its galleries in the 43,000-square-foot two-story main building. From antique artifacts to fine art, its exhibits are extremely well done, presenting detailed information, compelling art and visuals, interactive displays, and more.” — Spirit Matters at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West on TWS

Sculpture by Western artist John Coleman 1876, Gall-Sitting Bull-Crazy Horse at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, Arizona

Sculpture by Western artist John Coleman 1876, Gall-Sitting Bull-Crazy Horse at Western Spirit: Scottsdale Museum of the West

Musical Instrument Museum — 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix

Music is an art! 

“Opened in 2010, MIM allows visitors to take a virtual journey around the world with its extensive exhibits of musical instruments and cultural perspectives. As you move around the galleries, wireless headphones tune in automatically to the audio of videos of the instruments being played in cultural context at performances, rituals, and festivals of cultures around the world.” — TWS A Musical Journey Arounc the World at MIM Phoenix

Musical instruments on display in one of the geographic galleries of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona

Musical Instrument Museum

Public Art 

Throughout the metro area, you’ll find great examples of public art. In Scottsdale there are many permanent and temporary works of public art (such as the LOVE sculpture in Civic Center Mall shown at the top of this post) and the works below.

Scottsdale Waterfront

Look for creative installations along the Arizona canal in Old Town Scottsdale (near Fashion Square at Camelback and Scottsdale Roads) particularly at the Soleri Bridge and Plaza where you’ll find the impressive Goldwater Bell by Soleri (shown below).

Goldwater Bell at the Soleri Bridge and Plaza at the Scottsdale Waterfront in Scottsdale, Arizona

Goldwater Bell at the Soleri Bridge and Plaza

Another distinctive work reflecting the western spirit of Scottsdale is “Passing the Legacy”, a bronze sculpture on Marshall Way near the Arizona Canal South Bridge. The sculpture depicts a vintage Pony Express rider passing mail to a modern rider representing the Old West meeting the New West.

"Passing the Legacy" by Herb Mignery -- sculpture at the Scottsdale Waterfront, Scottsdale, Arizona

“Passing the Legacy” by Herb Mignery — sculpture at the Scottsdale Waterfront

Special event tip: An annual event on the Scottsdale Waterfront held in November is Canal Convergence, the innovative outdoor artworks event representing specific themes. For the November 2024 event, the theme will be  “Reflections”.

Fountain Park — 12925 N Saguaro Blvd, Fountain Hills

To the east of Scottsdale down Shea Boulevard is Fountain Hills, known for its famous fountain at Fountain Park. The fountain is notable for its impressive height (560 feet at full pressure, only seen a few days per year), and its still impressive height of 300 feet when it goes up every day for 15 minutes on the hour between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm. Take the 1.5 mile loop walking path around the lake to admire the 35 sculptures installed in various locations. In addition to several sculptures (like those shown above) of US presidents, there is a wide variety of subjects and styles shown in the pieces around the lake.

Jefferson and Washington sculptures at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona

Presidents Jefferson and Washington portrayed in sculptures at Fountain Park

Nature and Art

Desert Botanical Garden — 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

“The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, just on the border with Scottsdale at McDowell Road and 64th Street, has five trails showcasing more than 50,000 plants and wildflowers in dramatic desert landscapes. Each themed trail highlights various characteristics of conservation and desert life.” — Wonders of Nature at the Desert Botanial Garden on TWS

But it’s not just about flora at the Desert Botanical Garden. There are beautiful displays of art along the trails and in the galleries. The Chihuly glass sculptures at the entrance (shown below) are permanent installations.

Chihuly sculpture at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

Chihuly sculpture at Desert Botanical Garden

On our last visit, Botero’s sculptures and paintings were a special exhibit.

Botero sculpture at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

Botero sculpture (previous exhibit) at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

There are many things to do in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun! We highly recommend including art and cultural venues in your itinerary.




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