Tag Archives: Irish Cultural Center

Once upon a shamrock

Images of three leaf clovers are popping up all over as Valley families with Irish roots prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland. A nifty PBS “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” multifaith calendar says he’s “credited with spreading Christianity in Ireland and abolishing pagan practices in the fourth century” — noting that he used the shamrock to “explain the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.”

Turns out lots of religious holidays happen this month. March 8 was Purim in Judaism, Holi (the festival of colors) in Hinduism and Magha Puja Day (honoring Buddha’s birthday) in Buddhism. Scientologists celebrate the birth of founder L. Ron Hubbard on March 13, and Christians follow the March 17 celebration of St. Patrick with “Saint Joseph’s Day” in honor of “the earthly father of Jesus” on March 18.

I’m no Irish scholar, but I’ve got a Scotch-Irish spouse and green eyes that protect me from the pinch, and something tells me St. Patrick would have expected more of people than a day spent pub crawling. So while others are trolling for green beer, consider exploring family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day fare with an arts and culture twist.

Families can enjoy Irish music, dance and more at the Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day parade first held in 1983. Its purpose, according to the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix, is “to preserve and enhance the heritage and traditions of the Irish Culture as well as share that culture with the citizens of Arizona.” For some it’s “a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.”

This year’s parade begins Sat, March 17 at 10am — with a parade from the Irish Cultural Center to Margaret T. Hance Park,  where the rest of the day’s activities unfold. I had a great time at last year’s festival seeing parents carting green-clad children around in decorated strollers and wagons, and watching older couples getting “jig” with it as Irish dance music floated from stage to the lovely lawns just right for dancing.

Remember, as you’re celebrating Irish arts and culture, that the Irish are but one of many groups to immigrate to America — something profoundly illustrated near the end of the musical “In the Heights” when the sign over a business sold by a Latino couple comes down only to reveal an earlier sign from a business run by Irish Americans. Circles of lifes of life, circles of culture — all worth celebrating.

The Phoenix Symphony performs “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” Sat, March 17 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. Families can “follow and interact with Sam-I-Am” as he rhymes his way through the classic Seuss tale told by folks from The Phoenix Symphony and Valley Youth Theatre. Best to read “Green Eggs and Ham” rather than eat them.

Folks seeking authentic Irish fare can head to a little neighborhood joint in Scottsdale called Randy’s, or hit the MIM Cafe at the Musical Instrument Museum – where the chef often sets the mood for celebrations of holidays and world culture with special menu items created with fresh Arizona-grown ingredients.

The MIM presents a five-piece acoustic Irish band called Trotters Wake Thurs, March 15 at 6pm. I’m told they perform “new and old Irish drinking songs, rebel songs, ballads, and traditional instrumental tunes” on acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle and electric bass. Or hit the MIM between noon and 3pm to enjoy Tramor/Overseas performing traditional Welsh music with bagpipes, flutes, whistles, mandolins, guitar, percussion, storytelling and dance. Then tour the museum’s collection of European instruments to learn more about materials used in making bagpipes and such.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix art studio, open from 10am to 3pm, is featuring arts and crafts with a St. Patrick’s Day vibe through Sat, March 17. Think shamrock hats, lucky leprechaun wands and green playdough. They’re also celebrating artists Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali and continuing ongoing projects like painting a giant rocket, playing in the puppet theater, and exploring plenty of books and toys.

You’ll find oodles of other fun activities in print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar — including St. Patrick’s Day events presented by Lakeshore Learning Stores, Local Lily, Shamrock Farms and Hubbard Family Swim School.

I’ll be celebrating by revisiting the works of great Irish writers like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and finishing a dark little work by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. Now that our three kids are in college, we can indulge our drive to spend more time on reading and reflection.

Those of you with younger children can seize St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to read with your children about Irish history and culture, or to remind them of the many gifts immigrants continue to bestow upon our country.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity. — George Bernard Shaw

– Lynn

Note: If your arts and culture organization is offering a family-friendly event or activity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, please comment below to let our readers know. Click here to learn more about submitting event information to our calendar editor.

Coming up: Dancing with the real stars

Family-friendly festivals

I first attended the Scottsdale Arts Festival more than a decade ago when my children were very small. They loved tagging along for all sorts of reasons. The chance to see paintings, sculpture and other works of art. Hands-on arts and crafts projects. Fresh air and sunshine. Even the chance to people and pet watch.

This year’s Scottsdale Arts Festival takes place March 9-11 outdoors at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Folks who attend can experience the works of more than 180 artists from across the country, more than 20 bands and entertainers and a dozen “gourmet” food trucks.

Natalie Irish will be creating artwork with kisses during the Scottsdale Arts Festival that runs March 9-11

Also “one eye-popping art project made of kisses and you” — plus a host of interactive art projects and an Imagine Nation kids area.

The festival runs Fri/Sat 10am-6pm, and Sun 10am-5pm. Children under age 12 are free and students pay just $5 to attend (single tickets for others are $7).

The Mesa Festival of Creativity also kicks off on Fri, March 9 — but it runs through Sun, March 18. It’s being held Mesa Arts Center, and though admission to most events is free, there is a $5 charge to take a “Studio Sampler” class or explore the “Mirazozo” sculpture.

Folks who attend the Mesa Festival of Creativity can add their strand to a community fiber arts project, create an origami bird to help fill trees surrounding MAC, play a giant “Earth Harp,” watch an artist couple painting with break dancing, create a work of chalk art, help build a giant LEGO structure and more. Festival hours are noon to 9pm.

The Tucson Festival of Books takes place March 10 & 11 9am-5:30pm on the University of Arizona campus. The festival features dozens of authors, illustrators and storytellers — including Caldecott and Newbury Award winners. Also entertainment including music, dance and more — much of it with a multicultural vibe. There’s also a special children’s area.

The Irish Cultural Center presents their 29th annual “St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Faire” Sat, March 17 10am-6pm, beginning with a parade up 3rd St. from the Irish Cultural Center to Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix. The festival features “music, dancing, piping, a beer garden and dozens of vendors selling artifacts and food” – plus a children’s area. Dress as you will but know that anything other than green will stick out like a five-leaf clover in a field of shamrocks.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents another festival next month. Their “OrigiNation: A Festival of National Cultures” April 14 & 15 noon-4pm will “celebrate indigenous cultures of Arizona, Australia and New Zealand.” The free event features an arts and crafts market, arts and crafts exhibits, children’s activities and workshops, and more. It’s being held in conjunction with the center’s “Discovery Series.”

– Lynn

Note: The Heard Museum also holds several festivals each year, so watch their website for upcoming events as well. And click here if you’d like to learn more about the Red Shamrock Foundation, an Iowa-based organization supporting patients and families who have been through cancer treatment.

Coming up: Another Arizona Centennial, Art meets refugee, Music experiences for the very young

Christmas concerts

Normally we follow a strict “no talk of Christmas until after Thanksgiving” rule at our house. It’s a reflection of the philosophy we embrace year round — First, give thanks.

But I discovered, while researching Christmas concert options, that several are fast approaching – and decided to run with the Christmas music vibe a bit early this year.

The Phoenix Children's Chorus performs Dec 3 in Higley

The Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix presents “An Irish Christmas” with song, dance and more Nov. 27. www.azirish.org.

The Phoenix Symphony presents “Holiday Pops” Dec. 2-4 and “Family Holiday Concert” Dec. 3 at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Valley Youth Theatre performers are taking part in the pops concert. www.phoenixsymphony.org.

Mesa Arts Center presents a Heritage Academy Performing Arts Dept. holiday concert Dec. 2, the “Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour” Dec. 14 and “Holiday Pops: Salt River Brass” Dec. 18. www.mesaartscenter.com.

The Phoenix Children’s Chorus presents “Start the Season with Song” Dec. 3 at Higley Center for the Performing Arts. www.higleyarts.org.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a “Christmas Concert” Dec. 4 at Velda Rose United Methodist Church. www.cgc.maricopa.edu.

The Orpheus Male Chorus presents “Holidays with Orpheus” Dec. 4, 11 and 13 at various Valley locations. www.orpheus.org.

The Sonoran Desert Chorale presents “Passage of Joy! Noel!” Dec. 10 (Mesa) and 11 (Paradise Valley). www.sonorandesertchorale.com.

Center Dance Ensemble presents “Spirit of the Season” with Jeffrey Hatrick and Nicole Pesce Dec. 12 at the Herberger Theater Center. www.herbergertheater.org.

The Blind Boys of Alabma perform Dec 10 in Scottsdale

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents “Go Tell It On The Mountain: The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show” Dec. 10 and “Big Voodoo Daddy’s Wild and Swinging Holiday Party” Dec. 21.  ww.scottsdaleperformingarts.com.

Rosie’s House presents their “Holiday Concert” Dec. 12 at Central United Methodist Church in Phoenix. www.rosieshouse.org.

Tempe Center for the Arts presents “Performance with a View: SaxMas Morning” featuring the ASU Saxophone Studio Dec. 13 and “Lakeshore Jazz Series: Phoenix Boys Choir Christmas Tour” Dec. 23. www.tempe.gov/tca.

Mesa Community College presents a “Songs of the Season” concert and reception Dec. 16 at MCC’s Red Mountain campus. www.mesacc.edu.

The Phoenix Boys Choir presents “Spirit of the Holidays” Dec. 16 at the Virginia G. Piper Performing Arts Center at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix. www.boyschoir.org.

Actors Theatre of Phoenix performs a concert version of “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 24 at the Herberger Theater Center. www.actorstheatrephx.org.

Several Valley groups are performing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix — click here to read a post featuring their holiday concert options.

If your Valley arts organization is presenting a Christmas concert not noted here, please comment below to let our readers know — thanks!

– Lynn

Note: For a comprehensive list of family events for the holiday season, check out the December issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine and click here to visit their online calendar.

Coming up: Holiday dance delights, Three nights in Bangkok, Circle time

Another glimpse at “Glee”

Cheerleaders get a glimpse of a new foreign exchange student on Glee

During the first season of the FOX television series “Glee,” I watched every week with my youngest daughter Lizabeth, then a junior theater major at a Phoenix school for the arts. She’s been a fan of the show throughout, despite the fact that “Glee” lost me during the second season after storylines left me feeling like “House” had a tighter grip on reality.

But I decided to give “Glee” another shot this year, recording (and eventually watching) a recent episode titled “Pot of Gold” — a reference to the Irish heritage of a new character named Rory Flanagan who croons Kermit the Frog‘s “Bein’ Green” while remoaning the bullying he experiences each day. Damian McGinty got the “Rory” gig after winning a competition titled “The Glee Project.” He’s less fascinating by far than the new “House” character Dr. Chi Park, but gets more solos.

I’m giving “Glee” another chance this season, despite some shortcomings it’s hard to shake — the miraculous appearance of costumes without the people who design and build them, props like “Lucky Charms” that fuel faulty notions of nutrition, bizarre boundary issues between birth parents and adopted children, and songs that seem to glorify risky behaviors.

Assuming that “Pot of Gold” was more than a flash in the pan, the third season of “Glee” promises to be an art advocate’s dream — complete with dialogue and plotlines addressing sexy topics like school budgets and political engagement. When the school’s cheer coach rallies for cuts to arts funding as part of her campaign for Congress, a blue-collar “Glee” parent gathers arts support from local businesses and decides to throw his own wrench into the ring.

The school’s production of “West Side Story” is saved and a fierce storyline is born. I’m expecting future episodes to further illucidate issues at the core of arts funding for students — the tanglible academic and career benefits of arts training, the value of funding arts to the same extent as athletics, the role of arts in creating engaged citizens who vote and volunteer in their communities.

It’s easy to pick on the media when we think they’ve gotten it wrong, but more productive perhaps to notice and praise the times they get it right. I’ll be paying careful attention to “Glee” this season, hoping they’ll continue giving voice to the arts at a time when far too many seek to silence it altogether.

– Lynn

Note:  Click here to learn more about arts advocacy in Arizona, and here for information on Disney’s “The Muppets” being released on Nov. 23. For information on “The Glee Project” (including auditions), click here. To learn more about McGinty’s “Celtic Thunder” gig, click here. And click here for information on Irish arts and culture right here in the Valley.

Coming up: A “Star Trek” tale, Fun with animal art, “Dance dad” takes on “Dance Moms”

Update: “Glee” fans might want to keep an eye on the Facebook page for Actors Theatre of Phoenix, where details about an upcoming auction featuring several “Glee” items (including a signed script and a signed cast photo) will be posted in coming days.

Get a Q!

When the morning news turned too vitriolic last week, I knew just who to turn to – Elmo. The furry little puppet with the ever-happy face never fails to cheer.

But I’ll be enjoying puppets of another sort today as Lizabeth and I head out to see Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Avenue Q” — a Broadway musical with mature content and “full puppet nudity” you might not want to share with your little ones.

There are tons of competing activities out there this weekend — from the Scottsdale Arts Festival to the Ostrich Festival in Chandler. I’m making my choice about what to hit based on where the teen taxi takes me.

Lizabeth has a volunteer gig with “QSpeak” this afternoon, so I’ll be taking her there before heading out for a few art adventures of my own. Then we’ll meet back at Phoenix Theatre for the matinee performance of “Avenue Q.”

I’ll need to be quick, however, because there are quite a few things I’m eager to experience — including today’s “Devoured” event at the Phoenix Art Museum, just a short stroll from Phoenix Theatre.

Then I’m off to enjoy the quaint and quiet grounds of the Japanese Friendship Garden, where I’ll take some photos to share with you later as I preview their upcoming events — including the “Children’s Day Kite Festival” and “Zen Garden Music and Art Festival.”

Next I’ll experience some quintessential Irish fare at the Arizona Irish Festival, also taking place downtown. Think Irish food, music, dance and all-around merriment — plus another opportunity to whip out my camera.

If I haven’t yet inspired you to get out and enjoy the Arizona sunshine, perhaps you’ll find something else that strikes your fancy by browsing through today’s family-friendly events listed in the online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

I suppose I should quit now and get on with my plans — quixotic though they may be. I certainly don’t want to quibble with my teenage daughter over whether or not the teen taxi will be running on time today.

– Lynn

Note: I came home with lots of photos, some of which are included in a slide show at the end of this post (“Avenue Q” logo courtesy of Phoenix Theatre). Watch for another post coming soon with some of the many adorable children who attended this year’s Arizona Irish Festival — as well as a future post with more highlights from the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Coming up: Charlie Sheen “is only for now”

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What’s your weekend style?

Maybe you’re a fan of festivals. Or marvel at all things multicultural. Or believe that reading books is best of all.

Whatever your weekend style, there’s plenty to enjoy in Arizona this Labor Day weekend — including a rich variety of arts events and experiences.

Your style: Art adventures

“Epeolatry: The Worship of Words” at the ASU Step Gallery in Tempe. Sept 3 (noon-3pm; free). National multi-media group exhibition curated by Intermedia BFA candidate Bucky Miller.

First Friday” artwalk throughout more than 70 galleries, art-related spaces and other venues. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Trollies leave Phoenix Art Museum for those who prefer to ride between venues.

Your style: Festival fare

Red Rock Music Festival” at the Sedona Creative Life Center. Sept 3-5 (times vary; youth and 3-day discounts). Music from Bach, Vivaldi, Gershwin — and plenty of Latin jazz.

Fiesta Septiembre” at the Wickenberg Community Center. Sept 4 (11am-6pm; free). Photography exhibit, folk dancing, mariachi music, arts and crafts, and kids’ activities.

Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Guild Craft Festival” at the Pine Community Center. Sept 4 & 5 (times vary; free). 75 artist booths, raffle and kids’ activities.

Flagstaff Art in the Park Labor Day Show” at Wheeler Park. Sept. 4-6 (times vary; free). Arts and crafts, live music, kids’ activities.

Your style: Multicultural marvels

“Multi-media photographic art of Stacie Schimke” at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy a traditional Irish meal by chef Frank Hand for just $10.

The Fine Art of Fine Print: Newspaper Sculpture and Costumes” at Galeria 147-Arizona Latino Arts and Culture Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy exhibit opening plus live entertainment including music, dance, painting and spoken word poetry.

Your style: Museum musings

Sandcastle Summer Send Off” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Features live music, sandcastles, cool drinks and ice cream — plus free general admission (including “Cezanne and American Modernism” exhibition).

“Free admission” to downtown Phoenix museums on the Artlink “First Friday” map. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm). Includes Heard Museum and Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Your style: Saving solutions

Into the Woods” at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Sept 3-5 (times vary). “Theater Works” is offering half-price adult tickets during Labor Day weekend.

The Foreigner” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. Sept 3-5 (times vary). Student tickets just $10 for opening weekend with “STU” code.

Your style: Creative writing connoisseur

“First Friday Poetry” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 3 (7pm; free). ASU Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing event featuring Lois Roma-Deeley.

“Curiosity Day with Curious George” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (10am; free). Family event celebrates 70th birthday of monkey Curious George with costume storytime, video presentation, tasty treats and fun activities.

“The Pirate of Kindergarten” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (noon; free). Family event features award-winning children’s illustrator Lynne Avril (her 60 + picture books include the “Amelia Bedelia” stories).

“Club Read: Windblowne” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (2pm; free). Tween/teen event best for ages 8-12 includes free pizza, author chat via “Skype” and more

Whatever your style, you can always find family-friendly events listed online at www.raisingarizonakids.com.

–Lynn

Note: Please consult with venues before attending to confirm date/time, location, age range, price and such.

Coming up: A good knave is hard to find

Photo: www.rainbowweekend.org

Scottish night or Irish night?

Lizabeth rocking her Childsplay t-shirt at The Greenshow

I faced plenty of tough decisions during a recent trip to enjoy the Utah Shakespearean Festival with my daughter Lizabeth.

Khakis or denim? Apple tart or summerberry tart? Scottish night or Irish night?

Every Monday through Saturday evening at 7pm, festival patrons can enjoy “The Greenshow”–featuring “the spirited song, dance and costumes of Shakespeare’s day.” The event is free and fun for all ages.

Festival fare features folk music and dance

The Greenshow sets the mood for evening performances at the Adams Shakespearean Theatre with storytelling, juggling, fiddling and comedic fare on the green and courtyard area surrounding the spectacular outdoor performance venue.

Lizabeth and I went nearly every night we were there and enjoyed the alternating “Scottish” and “Irish” themes–as well as Elizabethan sweets and treats (and my nightly double espresso on the rocks).

The Greenshow cast consists of several young actors–many of whom are B.F.A. candidates in the musical theatre program at Southern Utah University (site of the annual festival).

Carter (Ratsby) & Adams (Scum) earn every laugh

Performers Payden L. Adams and Tony Carter routinely steal the show with their “Scum & Ratsby” back-and-forth of jokes, jabs and jest.

Other highlights include traditional Scottish and Irish dance, fiddle and song–even music ala the washboard.

Another crowd favorite is The Greenshow trivia quiz–during which young attendees are invited to raise a hand if they’d like to come on stage and answer a question for the cast.

A future performer at The Greenshow, perhaps?

Cast members choose a child to join them for a simple trivia question. The nights we attended it went something like this…

Q: How many tamborines did the four girls use during the show?
A: Four (four tamborines hang within feet of the cast at this point)

Q: What’s your favorite food here at the Festival?
A: Suckers

The Greenshow features guitar, fiddle, washboard & more

Winners–which include every child who participates (there’s just a single player each evening)–have their photo taken with the cast (then sent via e-mail to the proud parents).

One night we were delighted to see a little girl from Tucson join the cast onstage (though the photo above is of another lovely participant who stole the spotlight the one evening I had my camera in tow).

The Greenshow is but one of many activities above and beyond the rich assortment of Shakespearean works you can enjoy at the festival–which also include backstage tours, repertory magic, literary seminars, production seminars, play orientations, curtain call lunches and more.

Scottish night at The Greenshow

Other festival and area events include a cabaret featuring festival performers, exhibits at the Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery, The Wooden O Symposium, the Cedar City Fall Arts Festival and the Shakespeare Competition (also affiliated with Southern Utah University).

I wasn’t able to photograph every activity we enjoyed, which will likely come as a relief to both festival cast members and the talented creative and technical team members it takes to make all this Shakespeare seem so seamless.

To learn more, or enjoy festival pictures from the pros, visit the Utah Shakespearean Festival online. Better yet, jump in the car and head to Cedar City for a one-of-a-kind family-friendly vacation.

–Lynn

"Blood Royal" performed by the Southwest Shakespeare Company opens Sept 9th at Mesa Center for the Arts

Note: Arizona’s own Southwest Shakespeare Company, one of several resident companies at Mesa Arts Center, opens their 2010-2011 season on Sept 9 with “Blood Royal”–an original adapatation of William Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” trilogy by Michael Flachmann. The work, directed by Jared Sakren, runs through Sept 25 in MAC’s Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse Theatre. Details/tickets at www.swshakespeare.org. Learn more about The Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix at www.azirish.org and The Caledonian Society of Arizona in Scottsdale at www.arizonascots.com.

Coming up: Beyond crayons and classrooms, Musings on museums and Mountain Dew, Dancing with vampires and sugar plum fairies, Arizona’s own festivals featuring Scottish and Irish fare

More art in unexpected places…

We stopped by a little coffee shop in Phoenix called Hob Nobs the other day when we got downtown early for a theater rehearsal. We chose Hob Nobs so we could thank them for donating coffee for a recent event at Lizabeth’s school. Once I stopped drooling over the mesmerizingly moist chocolate cake in the display case, I realized I was surrounded by intriguing paintings, photographs and glass art—even a wall nearly covered with stained glass that reminded me of my mother’s Tiffany stained glass collection. The art was so captivating that I forgot all about the cake. (Some ever so humble paintings just a few inches tall and wide were my favorites because they made me want to run right home and whip out my own paints and brushes.)

There’s another little coffee-house, Mama Java’s, we like to hit when we have a hankering for art and espresso or Italian sodas. (We discovered it when Lizabeth had dance classes almost daily at the nearby studios for Ballet Arizona.) Their walls offer a casual setting for a rotating display of paintings, photographs and more. I love this joint because for years it’s been a non-intimidating way for me to expose my children to diverse artwork and ideas. (They also make a mean iced Americano and have a back room wall plastered with posters for all kinds of cool things you might not hear about elsewhere.)

A trip to Mayo Clinic in north Scottsdale might not sound that appealing, but it’s another favorite haunt of mine when I’m in the mood for art. Their lobby features rotating displays of photographs and paintings, plus sculpture and even a volunteer piano player. I can get my art, music and walking fix all in one place. (The gift shop is fun too!) Plenty of other hospitals and medical facilities take pride in their visual arts offerings too.

When Christopher took photography classes at Scottsdale Community College, we discovered that their art building foyer often features displays of some really remarkable student art, and that the hallway is often lined with photographs by some truly gifted students. I’m planning to explore the art buildings of a few more community colleges, as well as the many art resources at ASU and our other state universities. (We always enjoy the exhibits inside the ASU Gammage lobby when we’re there to enjoy shows in the Broadway Across America series.)

I recall being struck by the artwork on display at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix—both massive paintings and compelling sculpture—back when our children were younger and Valley resorts made a popular place for poolside birthday parties. I’m also on the hunt for other hotel artwork since I suspect this is another unexpected place to find art in the Valley.

Most people hit the library in search of books but may not realize many libraries also feature interesting arts exhibits. We’ve taken in some spectacular paintings and photographs at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. (It’s just blocks away from the Phoenix Art Museum so you can enjoy double the fun!)

It’s also close to Margaret T. Hance Park (Deck Park), where you’ll find both the Irish Cultural Center and the Japanese Friendship Garden—both of which feature opportunities to enjoy visual and performing arts. (Check the Japanese Friendship Garden website for an Anime Cartoon Contest they are holding in conjunction with the Burton Barr Central Library.) The COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, located near Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, offers some lavish art as well.

Many cultural centers also offer annual festivals that include both visual and performing arts. Your child can enjoy a diverse selection of visual arts in a myriad of media during Valley festivals and fairs, which include the Tempe Festival of the Arts (coming in December) and the Fountain Festival of Arts & Crafts (coming this weekend).

When my children were just toddlers, I took them to Gymboree classes at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, where we also enjoyed impressive displays of everything from complex quilts to tranquil paintings. I’m told that students at the elementary school on site now display their artwork there as well. No doubt the Valley is full of temples, synagogues and churches full of unique works of art that we would really benefit from exploring further.

Now that my children are older, their tastes have turned more off-beat, so we appreciate funky little theaters and arts venues where we can find original art. One of our favorites is Chyro Arts Venue in Scottsdale, where photos, painting and mixed media works grace the walls (right above the sofas they move into rows for seating during theater or band events). Another favorite you might file under “alternative” is the art and theater scene at the annual Phoenix Fringe Festival.

We’ve even found art at the Arizona State Capitol—where children’s artwork exhibited by Young Arts Arizona, a non-profit organization that works with at-risk youth, lines the long hallway you can walk between the executive tower and the legislative chambers. We spent a lot of time there when I was a lobbyist in the non-profit sector. And, wouldn’t you know it, we found a mean grilled cheeseburger there too (although you have to sacrifice your cell phone reception to enjoy it, so that’s a mixed blessing).

Drop me a line in the comment section below and tell me about unexpected places to find art (and cheeseburgers) in your neck of the woods. I’d love to check them out too…

–Lynn

Coming soon: Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Art Awakenings, First Friday Phoenix