Get creative!

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The weather’s too lovely for living at my laptop these days, so I headed to the Mesa Festival of Creativity with my son Christopher recently after Mala Blomquist raved about her family’s last Mirazozo experience. He gravitated towards the LEGO brick creations from guitar to cactus, even a LEGO brick portrait of artist Dave Shaddix’s father.

We chatted at length with Brian Scott of Building Bonanza, who eagerly told me about their camp, school and community programs. The Chandler-based business, started in 2009 to provide after-school programs, is run by three friends seeking to teach students life skills like “communication, teamwork, problem solving and critical creative thinking.”

After watching several families working on a community LEGO build, we explored several other hands-on activities taking place around the Mesa Arts Center where I’m often found enjoying the works of resident performing arts groups – Southwest Shakespeare Company, Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theatre and plenty more.

We watched families folding origami birds at the Bookmans Activity Area, and spied several birds that’d been created earlier and hung on trees outside the Mesa Arts Center entrance. Then discovered James Reid juggling and sharing “how to” tips with children gathered all around while a nearby stilt walker from Taylor Family Troupe exchanged plastic bowling pins with a little girl who looked mesmerized. Also a trio doing mime time donned in white.

We saw seniors choosing fabric strips to tie onto a community weaving wall — a long bit of fencing outside the Mesa Contemporary Arts museum (currently home to several exhibits) which is also sporting all sorts of signs with creativity-related quotes during the festival that runs from noon to 9pm each day through Sun, March 18. And we enjoyed music on two outdoor stages.

Most of the younger set was busy exploring “The Desert is My Playground” — a group of interactive artworks created by a team of artists and technicians led by Boyd Branch and Daniel Roth. I tried my hand at playing a cactus pipe organ, and spotted children floating paper rocks down a water feature before heading over to a portion of the MAC parking lot transformed into a chalk art canvas — where we also marveled over the design and scale of the inflatable “Mirazozo” sculpture.

We went in search of the giant “Earth Harp” after Robin, who was rocking the Arizona SciTech Festival booth, told us it was a must see — but the knee my kids have taken to calling “delapidated” wasn’t up to the task after my first attempt to find it failed. Best to hit just two more high points, I decided — sample classes in the MAC Art Studios and, of course, the gift shop.

Christopher will be the first to tell you that there’s no such thing as seeing “just two more things” in my world. Soon we were talking with one artist about musical instruments made of paint cans and another about his hanging metal work depicting Arizona’s 5 Cs. After exploring the Mesa festival, I’m inclined to lobby for the addition of a sixth — creativity.

I might have walked right by the incredible classroom and camp spaces at MAC were it not for a teaching artist who beckoned me in with a silkscreened square of fabric bearing a shamrock. Lucky call. She introduced me to Billy Jones, arts education program coordinator, who described teaching high school English to one of my friends at MAC. I assured him that he’d done good — then paused to admire works crafted by young campers.

After exploring space used to throw and fire pottery, I realized that this might be just the place I was looking for — a home for my oldest daughter, Jennifer, who’s been creating with anything she can get her hands on since she was a wee little thing. And I remembered my own ceramic works created in high school art classes back when art and science weren’t seen as dichotomous.

The Mesa Festival of Creativity is a fun place to explore the overlapping worlds of art and science, best appreciated by parents who understand the importance of unhurried, open-ended play that lets children take the lead in their own journeys of discovery. Thanks to Mala and Mirazozo for inspiring us to take it all in.

– Lynn

Note: While at MAC, you can view artworks created through MAC’s creative aging program, enjoy student art exhibitions at the MAC Art Studios and sign up for the museum shop’s new gift registry. Click here to learn more about ticketed events from concerts to theater productions — and remember that the area is also home to three additional museums. The Mesa Festival of Creativity runs through March 18. Click here to enjoy Mala’s amazing photos of Mirazozo inside and out!.

Coming up: Musings from “Lynn’s Library,” Smashed!, Art meets U.N.

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