Tag Archives: Central Arizona Museum Association

“Black Friday” meets arts & culture

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts gift shop has lots of unique items

If you’ve always shopped in traditional ways – rising early the day after Thanksgiving to get the best deals, frothing at the mouth each time a sale ad crosses your path or hitting big box retailers to snag items in extremely short supply – think about trying something different this year.

Dozens of Valley museums and performing arts venues have gift shops full of unique, affordably priced items. Think toys and games, clothing and jewelry, music and artworks – and more. Shopping in museum and art venue gift shops is more relaxing by far than tackling all those stores at the local mall. You can find a list of museums through the Central Arizona Museum Association (call ahead to see which ones have gift shops and when they are open).

I’ve been gathering gifts here and there all year each time I head to performing arts venues in my neck of the woods – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Mesa Arts Center and Tempe Center for the Arts. In years past, I’ve also shopped at holiday boutiques presented by art groups like Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Symphony.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix has all kinds of books you don't see elsewhere

In some cases, you can shop without leaving home. Arizona Theatre Company is offering a “buy four, get two free” deal on tickets this Friday – and all it takes is a call or visit to their box office. For those unsure about what to get in the gift department, places like the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix offer gift cards.

Hoodlums Music and Movies in Tempe hopes shoppers will head their way for “Indie Black Friday” (part of a nationwide “Record Store Day”) on Nov. 25, and support this year’s “Small Business Saturday” on Nov. 26. Hoodlums is part of Local First Arizona, which has designated Nov. 25-Dec. 4 “Buy Local Week 2011.”

Folks who visit the Local First Arizona website can search businesses by category – and there’s a special category for “Entertainment & Arts.” Check out the number of listings they’ve got in these art-related categories – theater (24), music (52), dance (8), art museums and galleries (40), artists and sculptors (73) and arts venues (65). They’ve got other entertainment/art categories too.

Remember places like the Arizona Museum for Youth, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Science Center when looking for children’s gifts that foster creativity and spark the imagination. Each has a gift shop full of items that blend learning with fun.

The Musical Instrument Museum gift shop has fun offerings for adults and children

If you start now, you’ll have several weeks to visit the museums and performing arts venues of your choosing. You’ll become better acquainted with the riches of your city while assuring that your gifts for friends and family members are unique rather than run of the mill.

– Lynn

Note: For additional gift-giving ideas, check out the December 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine – which features a “Local First” gift guide for families. Click here for information on finding the current issue or ordering holiday gift subscriptions.

Coming up: Family fun with holiday concerts

The Big Draw

We’re fortunate in Arizona to have several museums and organizations dedicated to preserving and sharing American Indian culture, including the Heard Museum — with locations in both Phoenix and Scottsdale.

So I was curious, during a recent trip to New York City, to see the National Museum of the American Indian. While there, I stumbled on one of their educational programs called “The Big Draw” — which featured music and dance performance, as well as drawing opportunities, for children and families.

I’m hoping some of my pictures from that day will inspire new drawing adventures in your own home or classroom — and serve as a friendly reminder to visit our own local museums, which I’m convinced are some of the best in the country.

Entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City…

One of several Big Draw participants getting tips on her artwork…

One of many families who were seated around the room drawing together…

Visitors see this foyer, where I found visitors’ art on display, as they enter…

These panels hold children’s art created during The Big Draw event…

One of several pastel works displayed near The Big Draw activity area…

Another piece of art created during The Big Draw experience at the museum…

Another art selection created during The Big Draw experience…

This piece of art from The Big Draw appears to be a sign of the times…

Click here to explore the National Museum of the American Indian, here to find other Smithsonian museums, here to learn more about the Heard Museum and here to visit the Central Arizona Museum Association.

– Lynn

Coming up: The fine art of Wall Street?

Free museum days!

Every year since 1977 museums around the globe have celebrated “International Museum Day” with free admission, special offers or admission discounts. More than 30,000 museums in more than 100 countries organize “International Museum Day” activities, according to the Central Arizona Museum Association (also known as CAMA).

CAMA describes itself as “a regional consortium of museums dedicated to fostering professional development and promoting museums in Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yavapai Counties.” The CAMA website lists more than 50 museums, and lets you search museums by name, location or type.

“International Museum Day” is designed to raise awareness about the vital role museums play in their communities. As summer months with soaring temperatures loom, they’re especially important for Valley families who seek cool places to enjoy educational and entertaining experiences together.

If you’re only visiting museums when traveling other places for business or pleasure, you’re missing some of the world’s great museums right here in your own backyard — like the Musical Instrument Museum and Heard Museum, both in Phoenix. For children, we’ve got the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Museum for Youth.

Celebrate at the MIM with reduced ticket prices -- plus free performances and demonstrations -- May 19 from 5pm to 9pm (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

Here’s a sampling of Valley museums offering special pricing for “International Museum Day” this year (with thanks to the fine folks at CAMA for putting this list together)…

Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park in Tempe offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-4pm.

Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa offers one free admission with the purchase of another (free admission must be equal to or less than the price of the purchased ticket) Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Barbara Anderson Girl Scout Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4pm.

Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix offers two-for-one admission Wed, May 18 from 8am-2pm.

Heard Museum in Phoenix and North Scottsdale offers two-for-one admission (for up to four people) Wed, May 18 from 9:30am-5pm.

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix offers $5 off admission and “a range of free performances and demonstrations” Thurs, May 19 from 5-9pm.

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archeological Park in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4:45pm.

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Scottsdale Historical Museum in Scottsdale offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-5pm.

Shemer Art Center and Museum offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-3pm.

Call ahead if you plan to tour with a large group, and remember that most offers cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. In some cases, museum gift shops are offering discounts.

Make museum visits more enjoyable by taking children when they’re well rested, letting children help decide which museums to visit and taking along items children can use to make museum visits more fun (a camera, if allowed — or paper and colored pencils for drawing what they see).

Keep visits shorter for younger children, leaving before they get too frazzled even if it means you’re unable to see everything a particular museum has to offer during a single trip. Consider buying memberships at favorite museums — which make shorter, more frequent trips economical and offer other benefits like gift shop savings.

Look for museums with hands-on activities that engage children’s bodies and minds. Choose museums for playdates, and add a picnic lunch or park time into the mix. Think museums for family get-togethers so nobody has to clean house and the turf feels neutral.

And when you need some time away from the kiddos, consider a stroll through your local museum. Museums are perfect for enjoying quiet time and peaceful reflection. Just promise me you won’t hole up there for the night…

– Lynn

Note: Always call ahead to confirm museum location/directions, days/hours of operation and ticketing information. And remember that museum exhibits are noted in both the print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar.

Coming up: A sweet theater find

Update: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is also offering free admission and special activities on Wed, May 18 for International Museum Day. And the Phoenix Art Museum has announced that their members receive free admission to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Science Center, also in central/downtown Phoenix, May 18-22 (just show your membership card).

Must-see museums for holiday visitors

Visit the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa to enjoy this bead exhibit, a special NASA exhibition and plenty of hands-on activities

Truth be told, I never met a museum I didn’t like — and Arizona is home to plenty of them, many with very focused collections ranging from beads to military memorobilia.

When friends and family visit for the holidays, it’s hard to hit them all.  So here’s a roundup of some of my favorite Valley museums…

First, in the East Valley, a double whammy of sorts…

The Arizona Museum for Youth is Mesa features permanent and visiting exhibits that are especially hands-on and child-friendly. 

It’s right next door to the Arizona Natural History Museum, which sports the best dinosuars in town as well as plenty of other kid-pleasing exhibits.

Our children couldn't get enough of the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa when they were younger

With the Mesa Arts Center and so many shops and cafes nearby, this neck of the woods makes for a lovely outing for hometown and out-of-town folks alike.

Our newest museum is truly global in nature — featuring musical instruments and music-related artifacts from more than 50 countries and regions around the world.

The Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, is located in north Phoenix but close to many Scottsdale shopping and entertainment destinations. Still, it’s located in a serene desert setting that features the beauty of open sky and native plants.

This global Musical Instrument Museum features hands-on activities, wireless audio guides, video of instruments being played in their settings of origin, a music theater and more

Here, musical instruments are coupled with the sights and sounds of people making music in their home countries and natural environments — so you enjoy a visual feast of history, culture, religion, art and more.

There’s even a large “Experience Gallery” full of diverse types of instruments, big and small, that beckon visitors to play them. It’s a refreshing change from the ‘don’t touch’ policies of so many of the museums I grew up with — and a sure way to convert folks of all ages who insist that all museums are bound to be boring.

The Heard Museum has Phoenix and Scottsdale locations that feature artwork with appeal to visitors of all ages

Arizona boasts many museums that exhibit the works of native peoples, but the single largest collection of American Indian arts and culture is housed in the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix.

It too features lovely, open outdoor spaces and items of interest to folks of all ages (including animal depictions favored by the younger set).

Thanks to the light rail system, it’s easy to travel from the Heard Museum to other downtown destinations — including performing arts venues like the Herberger Theater Center and Symphony Hall.

The Phoenix Art Museum is full of nooks and crannies that make exploring especially fun, and it features all sorts of modern technology that will update your perspective on how modern art is being created and delivered.

The RACE Exhibit at the Arizona Science Center is full of hands-on activities and interactive features

The Phoenix Art Museum is at one end of a grassy courtyard that’s also home to Arcadia Farms resturant and Phoenix Theatre — so a trip the this museum is easily coupled with taking in a show or enjoying some lovely time outdoors.

Downtown Phoenix is home to two especially family-friendly museums, the Arizona Science Center and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix — plus smaller museums like the Arizona Latino Arts and Culture Center.

The Arizona Science Center features many diverse exhibits, including one titled “RACE: Are We So Different?” All are hands-on and intriguing for both children and adults.

The Arizona Science Center is located at Phoenix’s Heritage and Science Park, home to the historic Rosson House and other smaller specialty museums. It’s also within walking distance of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

The Shuff-Perini Climber is one of many kid-friendly, hands-on adventures that await you at the Children's Museum of Phoenix

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix features hands-on exhibits and activities that are fun for even the very young.

Newer installations include a giant climber that gives children plenty of ways to use both mind and muscles.

Two other destinations of note if art adventures strike your fancy…

 There’s Old Town Scottsdale, featuring art galleries, quaint shops and plenty of restaurant choices.

Old Town is near the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art – so it makes for a full day of visual and performing arts adventures.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is one of many places to enjoy art in Old Town Scottsdale

And there’s Arizona State University, home to several museums and performing arts venues both big and small.

There’s plenty of greenery and open space at the center of campus, so you can explore various attractions while enjoying the outdoors — and find several places for food and drink.

Which museums you choose will reflect your own interests and geographical preferences, but I’m especially grateful this holiday season to live in a metropolis with ready access to arts and culture for folks of all ages.

– Lynn

Note: Learn about Arizona’s diverse museums by exploring the Central Arizona Museum Association website here. Always call ahead for days/times of operation, locations/directions and costs of exhibits/special events.

Coming up: Black Friday and beyond — arts & culture style; Art activities for airline travel with kids; Celebrating the holidays — chorale and symphony style

Art adventures: Heard Museum North

When I was a little girl, my mother used to collect owls. I suspect it started with a simple gift from a friend, but you can imagine how it grew through the years as I got my hands on various pins, figurines and art supplies.

At some point, her interest shifted to American Indian art — often acquired during trips to or through Arizona. I know very little about the pieces she gathered, but I learn a little bit more each time I visit the Heard Museum in either Phoenix or Scottsdale.

Recently I explored the Heard Museum North in Scottsdale with my son Christopher, who was in grade school when my mother died. Together we’re learning about and enjoying the art that “Nana” so dearly loved.

We took along a camera, but have since discovered that the manual focus on one of our lenses needs repair — so you’ll have to forgive some of the fuzziness in  the photos that follow.

Still, I hope you’ll get a good feel for the museum’s many offerings — and feel inspired to do some exploring of your own.

The Heard Museum North welcomes visitors with a lovely garden complete with desert plants, a water feature and statuary

The Heard Museum North Cafe features a patio where you can enjoy roasted pear salad, a hummus veggie wrap and more

The Heard Museum North features a warm and welcoming gift shop full of books, jewelry, music, artwork and more

This "Chicken Coop" display in the gift shop features Navajo Folk Art that rivals my mom's owl collection

One of the first works we encountered after entering the museum's exhibit space

This display features Hopi katsina dolls and a Hopi ceremonial calendar

Items on exhibit include baskets, paintings, prints, sculpture, rugs, katsina dolls and much more

Heard Museum North presents diverse educational programming and special events

Children will enjoy the museum’s collection of art objects featuring animals such as horses, birds and bears

It’s a particularly lovely time of year to visit the Heard Museum North in Scottsdale because the weather is perfect for enjoying the museum’s outdoor elements and other destinations in the area.

A very kind and knowledgable woman at the museum’s welcome desk told us about the Cave Creek Museum just up the road.

Some folks from Ohio  suggested we make special note of the Heard’s jewelry selection, best described as one-of-a-kind wearable art.

Take your holiday shopping list if you have one since the museum gift shop offers a wealth of unique items in all price ranges. Think teachers, children, family and friends.

Take your camera too, but make sure all the parts are in good working order.  There’s nothing like a good shot of a cactus in bloom, or a flowing rather than frozen water feature, for the front of custom holiday cards going to snowbound family and friends.

Saguaros are like snowflakes — no two are ever the same.

– Lynn

Note: Learn more about museums in the North Scottsdale area at the Central Arizona Museum Association website.

Coming up: Lynn and Christopher explore one of his early childhood favorites — the Arizona Science Center – which currently features an exhibit titled “RACE: Are We So Different?”

Military matters

I was struck Tuesday afternoon by two sentences from a press release sent by the Arizona Commission on the Arts

The first sentence read as follows: Six Arizona museums will offer free admission to all active duty personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2010…. 

The final sentence read like this: We imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts. 

I began to consider for the first time the many challenges that military families must face in enjoying the arts and culture that’s such an integral part of the country they serve and defend each day. The limits that tours of duty place on their together time. The economic hardship of wages way beneath their worth. 

I also wondered about the ways many of America’s military members and artists might be similar. Both bring passion, dedication and immeasurable hard work to their craft. Both are essential to promoting and supporting the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans—including our rights to self-expression. 

Yet both are woefully under-appreciated, often working with too few resources amidst intolerable apathy. 

Desert Caballeros exhibit features 'cowgirl' art

So I was delighted to learn that military families across the country can enjoy free admission to more than 600 participating museums thanks to the “Blue Star Museum Initiative”–a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts with Blue Star Families, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit network of families from all ranks and services including guard and reserve who work to “support, connect and empower military families.” 

Arizona museums participating in the program are: 

Arizona State Museum in Tucson. This museum, located at the University of Arizona, notes that it “holds the largest whole vessel collection of Southwestern Indian pottery in the world”–and is “the primary repository for archeological materials excavated on Arizona’s state lands.” www.statemuseum.arizona.edu 

Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenberg. The museum’s permanent collection features Native American arts and artifacts, gems and minerals, early Arizona street scenes and period rooms, and history dioramas. Current exhibitions include “Cowgirl Up!” featuring “art from the other half of the West” and “Snapshots of Early Twentieth Century Arizona: A Postcard Legacy” featuring the art of Jeremy Rowe. www.westernmuseum.org 

Heard Museum in Phoenix. This museum is “dedicated to the sensitive and accurate portrayal of Native arts and cultures” through combining the “stories of American Indian people from a personal perspective with the beauty of art.” Their collection features “art ranging from ancestral artifacts to contemporary paintings and jewelry.” www.heard.org  

Phoenix Art Museum presents "In the Mood"

Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. The museum features exhibits in four main disciplines: anthropology, biology, geology and fine art. It showcases the land and people of the Colorado Plateau with permanent exhibits in five galleries and changing exhibits in three additional galleries. www.musnaz.org 

Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix. This museum offers diverse collections including American, Asian, European, Latin American, Western American art and much more (fashion, photography, etc.). Current exhibitions include “Ansel Adams,” “Sumatra,” “Exposing Time” and “In the Mood.” www.phxart.org 

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale. The museum features innovative programming that currently includes an exhibit called “Text Messages” developed through the museum’s teen “Visions” program. Other current exhibits include “Architecture + Art: 90 Days Over 100 degrees” and “Spyhopping: Adventures with Sue Chenoweth and the permanent collection.” www.smoca.org 

Mini-Time Machine Museum. This museum displays “an entertaining and interactive array of antique and contemporary miniatures as well as enchanting artifacts” and features “over 275 miniature houses and room boxes.” The museum “styles itself as a miniature time machine” in which visitors explore “different lands and times both real and imagined.” www.theminitimemachine.org 

Sue Chenoweth work on exhibit at SMOCA

If you know of a military family who might enjoy these museum adventures, please share the word. Remember too that all Arizona families are welcome to explore the arts and culture on exhibit at diverse museums throughout our state

We could all use a little more gratitude for both the women and men who serve our country in the military and the artists who further the ideas and conversations so crucial to the freedoms we all hold dear. 


Note: Click here to find a list of all museums throughout the country participating in this program

Coming up: Museum-related careers, More Valley venues unveil upcoming seasons

Museums matter

If you think of museums as rare or irrelevant, you might want to think again. In Central Arizona alone (including Gila, Maricopa, Pinal and Yavapai counties) there are close to 100 diverse museums, according to the Central Arizona Museum Association (CAMA).

Hopi Katsini Doll at The Heard Museum

The largest museums in this region include the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Arizona Science Center, the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. Not a bad “to do” list if you’re eager to enjoy some boredom busters with your family once school lets out for the summer.

Plenty of folks have discovered the magic of museums. Consider the results of a 2006 CAMA survey revealing that 4.5 million visitors enjoy Central Arizona museums each year.

The survey also notes the economic impact of museums—which at the time of the survey had a combined operating budget of $57 million dollars and a combined number of 762 full-time employees.

Here’s a bit of nifty museum math for you…

Desert Botanical Garden Flashlight Tour

CAMA compared their annual number of visitors (4.5 million) to the total number of attendees at major sporting events during the same period (per the Greater Phoenix Economic Council).

Turns out Central Arizona museums welcomed more people than the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes combined.

National studies (reported by the American Association of Museums) show similar findings. Seems there are nearly 850 million visits to U.S. museums each year, but just 478 million attendees at all the country’s professional sporting events and theme parks combined.

Hanging Drum from Japan at the MIM

Now if only we could get our local schools to invest in arts classes and performing arts spaces with the same fervor we’ve long had for sports equipment and athletic facilities.

Museums matter in all kinds of ways.

They inspire us. Cause us to question. Give us reason to pause—or to pick up the pace. They educate us, bring us together, help us heal and offer hope. They help us express the ways we feel unique as well as the ways we strive to be similar.

A more recent study, conducted by AAM in 2009, demonstrates that “a third of US museums are always free to the public” and that “more than 97% of the rest offer discounts, special fee schedules, or free admission days.”

Hands-on activity at Arizona Science Center

Only a small percentage receive federal funding, so admissions fees and contributions are essential to keeping museums alive.

What might we lose in the absence of museums? How about the more than a billion objects our museums protect and preserve each year. Think of it as cultural hoarding—in a good way.

And what have we to gain by their ongoing presence?

The AAM notes that museums nationwide employ “as many as half a million Americans” and “contributed approximately $20.7 billion dollars to the US economy in 2008.”

Arizona Doll & Toy Museum

Museums, according to the AAM, rank “among the top three family vacation destinations.” The U.S. Travel Association reports that “trips including cultural and heritage activities comprise one of the most popular and significant segments in the travel industry.”

Seems they account for 23% of all domestic trips. And that visitors to “historic sites and cultural attractions” stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other types of tourists. Clearly, supporting our local museums is a great way to boost the economy so intertwined with each of our lives.

I don’t suppose they’d let me write in a little something today when I go to cast my vote on “Prop 100”–more support for museums and cultural facilities wouldn’t be a hard sell in these parts, given the way the arts have enriched the lives of each of my three children and our family experiences as a whole.

Arizona Natural History Museum

The U.S. Conference of Mayors considers museums “critical to the quality of life and livability of America’s cities.” The non-profit arts and culture industry generates more than $116 billion dollars in economic activity each year—as well as supporting more than 5.7 million full-time jobs. Reports show that the industry “returns over $12 billion in federal income taxes annually.”

The AAM notes that “governments which support the arts on average see a return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.” Sounds like just the opposite of what happens at my house. For every $7 we invest in our teens, we’re lucky to see even $1 head back our way.

More fun at the Arizona Science Center

Support our local museums. You’ll learn cool stuff. You’ll make fun memories with your kids. You’ll meet other folks who care about arts and culture. You’ll discover neat classes and summer camp options. You’ll support our local economy. You’ll have fun. You’ll make a difference.

Museums matter, and so do you…


Note: Today is International Museum Day, so it’s the perfect time to explore a museum with friends or family. Feel free to comment below to share tips with other readers for enjoying family museum time.

Coming up: How museums contribute to education, Theater camps gear up for summer, Family drama “Broadway” style

Museum matters

On any given day, you’ll likely find a good 2.3 million of your fellow Americans marveling their way through one or more of the country’s 17,500 or so museums, according to the American Association of Museums

Stop monkeying around--let's celebrate International Museum Day!

If you’ve enjoyed a trip to the Phoenix Zoo lately, you can probably guess which type of museum wins the national popularity contest. It’s the perennial favorite of young and old alike: the zoo.

Second in popularity, according to the AAM’s “2006 Museum Financial Information Survey,” is the science/technology museum–something you’ve likely surmised if you’ve ever enjoyed a day at our own Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix.

Rounding out the top three are the country’s arboretums and botanical gardens–something we enjoy several of here in Arizona. Think Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix’s Papago Park. Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior. Even the Arboretum at Arizona State University in Tempe. 

Chidren’s/youth museums rank fourth, and again we enjoy several choices in Arizona–including the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Fifth in overall popularity nationwide are natural history/anthropology museums. Arizona has the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, the Deer Valley Rock Art Center and many more. 

Surprisingly, art museums rank just sixth. You’d never know it based on the popularity of our own Phoenix Art Museum and the wealth of smaller art museums throughout the Valley and state–including the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the ASU Art Museum, the Shemer Arts Center and others.

Seventh in popularity are nature centers, like our own Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix–where families can enjoy

Who says museums are for the birds?

activities like animal encounters, bird walks and spring nature story times.

General museums rank eighth in popularity nationwide–followed by specialized museums, historic houses/sites and history museums. 

Arizona offers spectacular choices among specialized museums from the new Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix to the Bead Museum in Glendale. 

Historic houses and sites in Arizona include the Arizona Capitol Museum, the Rosson HouseMuseum at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix and more. 

History museums abound in Arizona–including the following museums featuring the histories of local cities and towns: Cave Creek Museum, Chandler Museum, Gilbert Historical Museum, Mesa Historical Museum, Scottsdale Historical Museum and many others. 

You may have gathered by now that I’m looking at a “cheat sheet” of sorts in rattling off the names of these Arizona museums. It’s the “Museum Listed by Type” page on the Central Arizona Museum Association website. 

Jump on the CAMA website to learn about special offers and admission discounts available around the Valley in celebration of International Museum Day (May 18th is the special day, but museum specials vary so check individual museums for details). 

Hey--I can see lots of museums from way up here!

You’ll find savings and special promotions for museums such as the Arizona Military Museum, the Arizona Museum for Youth, the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, the Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Pueblo Grande Museum, the River of Time Museum, the Rosson House Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Superstition Mountain Museum, Surprise Historical Society and the Bead Museum.

A few quick tips as you’re heading out the door to explore…

Call ahead to verify location, hours and admission pricing.

Be sure your child is well rested and has had plenty to eat/drink.

Take along a camera to capture museum memories.

Bring your ‘gift list’ for upcoming birthdays, graduations and other special occasions so you can hit the museum gift shop for unique gift items.

Most importantly, tell a friend what you see so they can enjoy the fun too! 


Note: I’ll have more to share tomorrow on why museums matter–culturally, economically and beyond. “On Exhibit” listings of exhibits and gallery showings around the Valley are always available online at the Raising Arizona Kids magazine online calendar.

 Coming up: Preview of “In the Heights” at ASU Gammage

Photos: Christopher Trimble (at the Phoenix Zoo)

Musings on Mother’s Day

James’ mother nicely shared with us that she “really doesn’t need anything for Mother’s Day.” Many of us find that “less is more” as time goes by, although I find it hard to believe that a grandmother can ever have too many homemade gifts.

Through the years we’ve made plenty of them—photo albums loaded with pictures and favorite quotes or notes from the kids, homemade candles and glycerin soaps, hand-painted vases and trinket boxes, bouquets of tissue paper and pipe cleaner flowers, and more.

But this year my mother-in-law suggested we simply make a donation to charity on her behalf, graciously trusting us to make the choice about which cause we’d like to support while honoring her special day. There are oodles of options given my children’s diverse interests, including nature and wildlife, civil and human rights, and AIDS/HIV awareness.

James’ dad is often recognized for his contributions to higher education so we’ll keep that in mind for Father’s Day. But I’m leaning towards a museum membership for his mom. Museum memberships are something moms can enjoy alone, with family and with friends.

For a truly memorable Mother’s Day, consider taking your special moms to a museum. Sometimes the greatest gift of all is time together, enjoying new experiences that create lifelong memories. Take a camera along to capture the fun for après-museum scrapbooking.

Some museums have cafes or restaurants where you can treat mom to a special meal or dessert. The Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix has both Arcadia Farms cafe and lush grassy grounds perfect for picnic celebrations.

River of Time Museum Shop

Remember too that many museums have museum shops filled with a variety of unique gift items—some whimsical, some nostalgic, some humorous, some elegant, some practical. The Phoenix Art Museum, for example, has everything from jewelry and books to kitchen utensils and family-friendly games.

Sarah Weber, president of the Central Arizona Museum Association, was kind enough to put out the call to member museums asking for Mother’s Day gift suggestions for our readers.

Here’s a sampling of items they shared with me…

Arizona Capitol Museum in Phoenix. Turquoise jewelry. Copper bracelets. State seal brooches, donkey pins and elephant pins with crystals. Cactus jams and jellies. Books on notable Arizonans (past and present). www.lib.az.us

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix. Various items related to rocks, fossils and minerals. Jewelry. Books. Decorative items (such as amethyst towers). www.admmr.state.az.us

Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg. Contemporary Navajo jewelry. Glitterflops (high-end flip flips with leather uppers and Swarovski crystals). Cowgirl hats and “bling” cowgirl shirts. www.westernmuseum.org

Mesa Historical Museum in Mesa. Wallace and Ladmo DVDs. Items featuring historic citrus labels from Arizona citrus companies. Aprons, bonnets and other pioneer-theme items. www.mesahistoricalmuseum.org 

More River of Time Goodies

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills. Southwestern jewelry and pottery. Handmade silk scarves. Coffee table books. Books on history, wildflowers, cooking and more. www.riveroftimemuseum.org

Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. Collection of books by or about women who had great influence on the people and places of the early West. Gardening, cooking, home décor gifts. T-shirts and turquoise. Pottery and pendants. Christmas ornaments and cacti. www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org

Information about these and additional museums, including the newly-opened Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, is available through the Central Arizona Museum Association. Please check with individual museums for gift shop hours and offerings before visiting.

Remember too that many performing and visual arts venues—including the Mesa Arts Center, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Tempe Center for the Arts—have gift shops featuring everything from original art to fine jewelry. Some venues and museums even offer catalogues and/or online shopping.

Making museums a part of your Mother’s Day celebration is a great way to support the arts in Arizona (and local businesses whose wares are featured in museum gift shops). You can even bring mom along and let her choose her own special gift.


Update: The day after this post was published, I had the opportunity to visit the museum shop at the Phoenix Art Museum, where patrons were enjoying special Wed. eve free admission hours (check museum website for details). Here’s a list of some of my “fun finds”: Exquisite boxes with inlaid burl and other materials in assorted sizes (perfect for jewelry, special desktop items and such), Ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arranging) note cards, “Furoshiki” (traditional Japanese wrapping cloths), Turkey baster complete with bright orange turkey (plus blue whale ice cream spade, white mouse cheese grater, red porcupine scrubber, orange monkey peeler and more), Bright yellow “Swiss cheese” doorstop complete with holes, Andy Warhol theme plasticware, Tres chic trash cans, Funky spins on your boring old ‘to do’ notepads, Magnetic Poetry Kits-Artist theme, Unique wearables (scarves, “Fear No Art” & other T-shirts, purses), Art-theme jigsaw puzzles (Jackson Pollock, Monet, Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Diego Rivera), Pens and paperweights, Art prints and posters, Soleri bells, Reading glasses, Bridge and playing cards, Luggage tags & travel accessories and plenty more. They also have an extensive offering of books, music and DVDs. Just a few of the books I noticed–The DC Vault, Weird Arizona and Shoe Design. Couple the latter with a gift card for shoe shopping and you’ll win points for thoughtfulness and creativity! I just happened to be at the Phoenix Art Museum, but I know from visiting many other museum shops that each has its own special offerings, so keep both our best-known museums and your smaller neighborhood museums in mind each time you shop for parents, children, teachers and friends.

Note:  Single or season tickets for theater, music or dance performances also make terrific Mother’s Day gifts

Coming up: A weekend of dance delights

Today’s tidbits: ASU Herberger School of Theatre and Film presents “Interrobang” as part of their New Works Series featuring the works of emerging artists in the MFA graduate school cohort. See “And What She Found There,” which examines questions about the nature of theatre and performance, tonight (May 4) at 7:30pm at the Lyceum Theatre at ASU’s Tempe campus. Tickets: $7.

MORE MUSEUM NEWS: Save the date! The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presents “From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide” Monday, May 10, at 7pm with Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the museum’s Director of Research and Projects, Committee on Conscience. Event is free and open to the public but reservations are requested at www.ushmm.org/events/templesolelaz, 972-490-6300 or southwest@ushmm.org. Event takes place at Temple Solel, located at 6805 E. McDonald Dr. in Paradise Valley.


Picture this: Photography exhibits

My son has always been a keen observer, so it’s no surprise he developed an interest in photography fairly early in life. It’s the perfect avocation for someone equally smitten with technology and the natural world.

We’ve long enjoyed walks through our neighborhood and community with camera in hand—photographing everything from various textures of tree bark to assorted convolutions of cacti.

We enjoy looking at the photos we’ve taken together through the years. Some are framed on walls or bookshelves. Some are filed on our computers. Some have been fashioned into scrapbooks.

One of my favorite holiday gifts was a photo book of our cat that Christopher put together using Snapfish. Another was a book titled “100 Days in Photographs” featuring photos of “pivotal events that changed the world.”

It’s nice to balance the experience of taking your own photographs with appreciating the photographs of others.

What better way to expose your child to a multitude of interesting shapes and colors—plus subjects and perspectives—than to enjoy photography exhibits together.

It can be as simple as choosing a coffee joint, such as Mama Java’s in Phoenix, that rotates the photos of local artists on its walls.

More formal exhibits are available at many an Arizona museum—easily researched via the Central Arizona Museum Association website.

Here’s a brief sampling of current exhibits (make haste since many are nearing their final days)…

Face to Face: 150 Years of Photographic Portraiture. Phoenix Art Museum Norton Photography Gallery. Through Jan. 10th (this Sunday). Includes more than 60 portraits “by some of the great portraitists and photographic image-makers of the 19th, 20th and 21st century.”

Mexico, the Revolution and Beyond: The Casasola Archives, 1900-1940. Arizona State Museum at The University of Arizona. Through Jan. 16th. Features the photography of Agustin Victor Casasola.

John Gutmann: The Photographer at Work. The University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography. Through Jan. 31st. Features the work of a German-born artist and art teacher (who fled the Nazis in 1933 and settled in San Francisco) whose work focuses on multiculturalism.

I love these types of exhibits, so ripe for reinforcement.

I might, for example, couple a visit to the John Gutmann exhibit with a reading of Anne Frank’s diary or the writings of recent immigrants from Asia or the Middle East. After viewing Casasola’s work, I might contact Advocates for Latin@ Arts & Culture to learn about other opportunities to enjoy Latino arts and culture. After seeing the Face to Face exhibit, I might engage my children in making our own exhibit of family portraits (photographed, painted, whatever…).

Future photographic exhibits (featuring primarily works from the Center for Creative Photography) coming to the Valley include:

Ansel Adams: Discoveries. Phoenix Art Museum Steele Gallery. Jan. 31st to June 6th. The exhibit will feature 120 photographs (including many taken in the Southwest and in our national parks)—plus photographic equipment, proof prints, negatives and more.

Exposing Time. Phoenix Art Museum Norton Photography Gallery. March 6th to June 27th. The exhibit will feature the work of five 20th century American photographers as they document change (in people, in places, in perspective) over time.

These are just a few of the many opportunities Arizonans have to explore the fine art of photography. Stay tuned for future posts listing other photographic exhibits and opportunities.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for photo collections in your local community—at temples, synagogues and churches; at community colleges and universities; at community centers and museums.

As I often tell my children—the secret to finding is looking.


Coming soon: Photo-based art projects for families, Great places to take photographs with your kids, Favorite books featuring photography