Tag Archives: Arizona Museum of Natural History

Right on Target

I’m feeling the love for Target these days knowing that Valley families will be able to enjoy several museums for free thanks to the store best known for its bullseye.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix presents “Target Free First Friday Nights” the first Friday of every month through 2012. Your next opportunity to enjoy free admission to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is Fri, March 2 from 5-9pm.

Three venues located with three blocks of each other in Mesa are part of “Target 3 for Free” — which features free admission on the first Sunday of each month through May 2012.

Mesa Contemporary Arts, located at the Mesa Arts Center, dedicates a special area to children’s art activities and offers a free performance in MCA’s outdoor courtyard on “Target 3 for Free” days — which include Sun, March 4.

Another participant, the Arizona Museum of Natural History, has a new exhibit titled “Rulers of the Prehistoric  Skies” in addition to its permanent collection.

The “3 for Free” program in Mesa also includes the Arizona Museum for Youth, which currently features an exhibit called “Wings It! Things That Fly!” Think airplane cockpit simulator, butterfly puppet theater, paper plane launcher and more.

Big or small, it’s nice to support the businesses that supports arts and culture in our communities.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Target partnerships with educators and arts organizations in your area

Coming up: Beyond paint by numbers, All aboard the digital bookmobile!


Musings on Main Street

We often strolled the main streets in Tempe and Scottsdale when our children were younger, but rarely made our way to Mesa. Nowadays, I often make my way down Main Street heading to and from the Mesa Arts Center, which is home to both visual and performing arts venues.

I paused one day to enjoy a relatively new bevy of small shops and businesses, plus longtime favorites like Linton-Milano Music, and found Main Street bustling with families enjoying the sculptures, friends chatting over coffee and folks supporting local fare from vintage clothing to used books.

I remembered playing I-Spy with my kids when they were little, calling out things that they could look for during all those drives between home, school and lessons. Red stars. Yellow cars. Round signs. White animals. Flashing lights.

So when I walked along Main Street in Mesa, I imagined doing a treasure hunt for various types of sculpture. If you’re game, give your kids some themes to look for, then see that they come up with.

Sculptures in Mesa include a trio of children playing baseball, a pair of boys playing on a tire swing, and more. Challenge your children to find a tool, a fish, a book, an orange and a newspaper. Even Humpty Dumpty and a high heel shoe.

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Consider these photos a cheat sheet of sorts. They’ll help you get the lay of the land before you head out with young explorers. When you go, take some drawing materials along. There are plenty of benches and places to sit and sketch your many finds.

While you’re there, check out the many museums located on or near Main Street — Mesa Contemporary Arts at MAC, the Arizona Museum for Youth and the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

Click here to learn more about Mesa’s permanent sculpture collection and find a map you can follow as you explore public art along and around Main Street.

— Lynn

Coming up: Peace out

The fine art of dinosaurs?

The Arizona Museum of Natural History opens a new exhibit about flying reptiles in February (Graphic image by Mike Ramos)

When the Arizona Museum of Natural History opens a new dinosaur-theme exhibit in February, families will enjoy new opportunities to learn about pterosaur groupings and diversity. Pterosaur is a fancy word for flying reptile, by the way — a little factoid I picked up during earlier museum adventures with my once dinosaur-enamored son.

Today he’s the proud keeper of a leopard gecko named “Sunny,” who seems to like lounging under his little lamp more than flying. Just one more thing to be grateful for this New Year, I suppose. Christopher and I have been visiting the Arizona Museum of Natural History together for nearly two decades now.

This hanging pterosaur will be part of the First Flight exhibit (Photo: Kathy Neenan)

When their “First Flight: Rulers of the Prehistoric Skies” exhibit opens next month, we’ll be able to explore not only flying reptiles, but also the evolution of flight from insects to birds and bats thanks to assorted narrations, fossils, casts and paleo-art.

Ed Mack is building a lifesize pterosaur for the exhibit (Photo: Kathy Neenan)

Even a lifelike Pteranodon sternbergi created by artist Ed Mack. I’m told that exhibit volunteers are busy building everything from “rock blocks” to puzzles — plus lifesize replicas of the reptiles themselves. Let’s hope Sunny doesn’t get wind of it and expect his own miniature monument.

The "First Flight " exhibit is being built in-house (Photo: Kathy Neenan)

The “First Flight” exhibit will include various sections dedicated to topics like pterosaur anatomy, feeding strategies and babies. Consider reading up on pterosaurs with your little ones before you go. That way they’ll have fun learning new facts while gaining confidence sharing what they already know.

These fingers or toes help to demonstrate pterosaur anatomy (Photo: Kathy Neenan)

The museum shared a bit of “Pterosaur 101” with me so you’ll also be in the know before you go. Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to achieve self-powered flight. They had both distinctly-shaped thin hollow bones and membranous wings that were likely flexible and able to change shape during flight.

I’m told that the actual mechanical details aren’t completely understood by paleontologists, so there’s ample room for multiple arguments and opinions. What do you think? Did the evolution of flight take place from the ground up or from the trees down?

You’ll find plenty of answers, and intriguing questions too, as the Arizona Museum of National History continues exploring the fine art of dinosaurs.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn learn more about current and upcoming exhibits at the Arizona Museum of Natural History, and here to learn about public art exhibited on museum grounds.

Coming up: Exploring Mesa’s Main Street, Movie meets message

This post was updated 1/7/12 to amend the exhibit’s opening date

Wings & things

Wing It! opens next month at the Arizona Museum for Youth

Inspired by Childsplay’s upcoming world premiere of “With Two Wings,” I went in search of other fare with a “wings & things” twist.

My first fun find was an exhibit coming to the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa next month for a Feb. 5-May 6 run. It’s called “Wing It! All Things That Fly” — and it’ll feature “artwork that showcases our collective fascination with the creatures, inventions and fantasies” that allow us to fly. My money is on the espresso machine.

Also “Rulers of the Prehistoric Skies,” coming to the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa this month for a Jan. 21-Dec. 30 run as part of the city’s overall “Mesa Takes Flight” centennial theme. The exhibit, which is currently being built in-house, focuses on flying reptiles — but it will also explore “the evolution of flight from insects, the true first fliers, to birds and bats.”

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix presents several events and exhibits featuring winged creatures. There’s the “Spring Butterfly Exhibit” in the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion March 3-May 13, “Mariposa Monarca” Sept. 29-Nov. 25, and “Birds in the Garden” Mondays and second Saturdays (7am May-Sept. and 8am Oct.-April).

Arizona Opera performs Madama Butterfly this month

For an altogether different sort of butterfly fix, head to Symphony Hall in Phoenix for the Jan. 27-29 performance of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” by Arizona Opera. It features Shu-Ying Li, and will be sung in Italian with English subtitles. There’s a 1pm matinee on Saturday for those who prefer daytime outings.

The “Imago Theatre: ZooZoo” performance at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts takes place that same afternoon, Jan. 28, at 2pm. It’s described as “a fun-filled cross between a circus, vaudeville and zoo.” Think leaping frogs, acrobatic worms, prancing hippos, playful polar bears and mischievous penguins. Talk about typecasting.

Folks who do the “ZooZoo” can stay after the show for a 3:30pm post-show workshop — a collaboration with the Phoenix Zoo that’s “free and fun for the whole family.” The “Mask & Movement” workshop, part of the center’s Arts-Connect program, will be held in the venue’s Dayton Fowler Grafman Atrium.

Imago Theatre performs ZooZoo in Scottsdale this month

Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior presents a “Bird Sit” with Rick Wright on Jan. 12 at 8:30am. Guided birdwalks resume Feb. 4 with the Arizona Audubon’s Cathy Wise as well as John Ray. Bird walks are scheduled for Feb. 26; March 3, 11, 17 & 25; and April 7, 8, 21 & 22.

There’s even a little something for the grown-ups who like a bit of beer with their bird FAQs — every third Thursday of the month at the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix. Talk about wings & things…

— Lynn

Coming up: Shakespeare meets the Middle Ages, Museum “sneak peek,” Trauma transformed by imagination

Get out, get art!

Perhaps this painting will inspire you to enjoy some art fun under the Arizona sun

Families eager to enjoy outdoor adventures this weekend can add a little art to the mix by attending “The Gathering” in Lichtfield Park. It’s a Native American art festival taking place at Scout Park — with free admission for children 12 and under.

Never fear if you missed the event on Saturday. It also runs Sunday, Jan 9, from 10am to 5pm. “The Gathering” features artists who specialize in painting, sculpture, beadwork, carving, basketry, pottery, photography and more.

Main stage performers include hoop dancer Tony Duncan and guitarist Anthony Wakefield — in addition to Grammy Award nominee and Native American Music Award winner Aaron Winter. Click here for details and a discount coupon for adult tickets.

Those of you who missed Saturday’s “MACFEST,” presented by the Mesa Arts and Cultural Festival, will have plenty of other opportunities to experience this free celebration featuring live music, works of local artists and more.

“MACFEST” takes place each Saturday this year through April 30, from 10am to 4pm, in downtown Mesa on Main and Macdonald Streets. This puts you within walking distance of two of Mesa’s kid-friendly museums — the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Arizona Museum for Youth.

Remember too that you can always find indoor fun at the Mesa Arts Center, which is home to several performing arts companies who offer a diverse assortment of music, dance and theater (including the Southwest Shakespeare Company).

To enjoy an outdoor all-arts weekend, couple a Saturday “MACFEST” with a “Sunday A’Fair” in Old Town Scottsdale. “Sunday A’Fair” takes place Sun, Jan 9, from noon to 4pm at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall — as well as nine other Sundays through April 3.

Each “Sunday A’Fair” features a free outdoor concert and the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of arts and crafts made by local artists — as well as hands-on art activities for children and families. You can purchase food there, or bring your own picnic basket (with blanket/lawn chair) along.

Admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which I often enjoyed with my three young children (now young adults), is free during “Sunday A’Fair” — and you can also enjoy the eclectic gift shop at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. 

Treat your children to the artwork of fellow youth by taking them to explore the “Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky” exhibit at the “young @ art Gallery” located inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It runs through Mon, Jan 17.

The Scottsdale Civic Center Library is also located at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, and is open Sundays from 1-5pm. The library is a lovely bit of architecture to behold, and features a giant fountain pen and ink well sculpture just outside the entrance. It’s a fun way to introduce your children to the quills used long before texting messages by cell phone took hold.

The “Sunday A’Fair” on Jan 16 is part of Scottsdale’s 2011 celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — which they’ve dubbed “Peace & Community Day.” Featured entertainers will include Walt Richardson & The Peaceful Warriors, who promise a “classy mix of folk, rock and reggae,” and Nancy Gee, performing “sultry ballads and classic standards” from the world of jazz.

Stay tuned for word of other MLK Day celebrations, and drop me a line if your community offers outdoor art adventures that you’d like to share with our readers.

— Lynn

Note: For a comprehensive listing of family-friendly events throughout the Valley, visit the daily calendar of Raising Arizona Kids magazine online. Always check event details — including dates/times, locations, admission fees and such — before attending.

Coming up: Conversations with a 5th grade arts advocate

Art adventures: Arizona Museum of Natural History

When the rain started falling last Thursday, I knew it would be the perfect day to hit a museum or two. I headed out with my 21-year-old son, Christopher, to explore two Mesa museums — including the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

We first explored the museum when Christopher was a very young child, so I was eager to see how he’d enjoy it as an adult. Turns out we weren’t the only grown child and parent pairing at the museum that day — but there were also younger children and what appeared to be a group of students enjoying a field trip.

I always seem to make the funky finds first, as evidenced by the first picture I’ll share below — capturing one of three metal dinosaur sculptures you’ll find outside one side of the museum. Once you enter the museum, you’re greeted by those giant dinosaur skeletons that kids find so fascinating.

Here’s a photo essay of sorts that’ll give you a glimpse into the diverse nature of the exhibits at the Arizona Museum of Natural History…

An outside sculpture garden features whimsical dinosaur art

This might explain why some folks simply call it "the dinosaur museum"

This baby hangs from the ceiling just over the entrance to the main exhibits

Turns out this museum boasts much more than an impressive dinosaur collection

Bronze casting of a Tucson meteorite relocated to the Smithsonian in 1863

One of three paleographic maps exhibited in "Origins" courtesy of Ron Blakey

Crystal displayed in an area featuring minerals and cool Arizona mineral facts

These babies look a lot like bookends I admired in the museum shop

This area experiences "flash floods" complete with thunder & lightning

This dinosaur femur looked to be nearly as long as my son is tall

Baskets of giant puzzle pieces help children enjoy hands-on learning

This would be fun for children to replicate at home with clay and found objects

Several areas in the museum replicate prehistoric habitats and extinct creatures

Pieces like this petrified wood blur the line between nature and art

'Buettneria perfecta' lived in Arizona during the late Triassic period

Christopher was delighted to find (and photograph) this 'Mesozoic' gar fish on exhibit

There's a spacious area for children to read and create museum-inspired artwork

Some of the dinosaur images colored by young visitors to the museum

If your child enjoys reading dinosaur books, consider a trip to the museum gift shop

The museum store has affordable books, toys, jewelry & other gift options

Other fun finds at this museum include this stagecoach

We also stumbled on an exhibit about Arizona and the movies

Check out the old-time jail cell -- always a favorite during field trips

I found this Santa impersonator hanging in the museum gift shop

Remember the many fine museums of Mesa, and the rest of the Valley of the Sun, as you’re enjoying time with friends and family this holiday season.

Today’s museums are anything but boring and stuffy. They’re full of hands-on activities, creative uses of new technology and spaces that keep learning fun.

— Lynn

Note: If you have a favorite Valley museum you’d like us to explore, just drop a line to rakstagemom@gmail.com. Stay tuned for news of the Tolerance and Holocaust Museum coming to Chandler. Click these links to learn more about the Arizona Museum Association and the Central Arizona Museum Association.

Coming up: The fine art of acrobatics

Photos: Lynn Trimble, Christopher Trimble (meteorite, crystal, shark and gar fish)

Walk a mile in my shoes

Yesterday was a half-day for my youngest daughter, Lizabeth, who attends a school for the arts in downtown Phoenix, so I decided to hit the area a bit early with my son, Christopher, and his nifty camera.

We've long enjoyed this sculpture located near Phoenix Theatre

I ended up covering only a mile or so in distance, yet I managed to explore all sorts of art offerings. As we approached the Phoenix Art Museum, we saw a sculpture that’s been located for some time near Phoenix Theatre.

This sculpture joined the Phoenix Art Museum collection on Dec 12

It’s quite different from the sculpture that recently took up residence on the lawn outside the Phoenix Art Museum. You can see it up close as you enter the museum or find it by looking through a peek-a-boo window of sorts along a wall that faces Central Ave.

Kids will love playing 'peek-a-boo' with this giant red dinosaur

Walk just across the street and you’ll discover a charming performing arts venue — the “Playhouse on the Park” located in the towering Viad Corporate Center. It’s used by several community groups for an interesting assortment of theater productions and other performance fare.

The Viad tower is home to Playhouse on the Park

Hop on the metro or stoll just a few blocks north and you’re at the Heard Museum — where I always seem to find both plenty of diverse exhibits and oodles of interesting events. Think hoop dancing contests, Indian markets, student art shows, films and more.

I've always enjoyed the architecture of the Heard Museum

This weekend it’s the “NU (Native + You)” event, taking place on “Free 3rd Friday Evening,” Dec 17 — from 6-9pm. The spacious grounds of the Heard Museum will be “filled with light from luminaria and candles” and guests can enjoy both music and traditional Apache storytelling (by Ken Duncan).

One of many sculptures you'll find in and around the Heard Museum courtyard

Cash bar. $5 taco bar. Classical guitar music. Vocal performance by the Xavier College Preparatory Honor Choir. There’s plenty to enjoy — just check the Heard Museum website for the fine print on what happens at which times. And, says the Heard, feel free to bring the kiddos.

Heard Museum grounds are especially lovely when bathed in luminaria and candlelight

There’s free admission to the museum and Berlin Gallery, and the gift shop will be open for those still doing their holiday shopping. Think rugs, jewelry, folk art, baskets, children’s books, holiday ornaments and more. Or shop for yourself –the good folks at the museum store won’t blow your cover.

This time of year, the Heard Museum gift shop features Christmas trees with ornaments crafted by American Indian artists

The Valley has several cities where walking just a mile or so will take you all kinds of exciting places. Watch for future art adventures as I head east, and west, in search of more places you can enjoy music, dance, theater and art.

— Lynn

Note: Stay tuned for more photos of our adventures at the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum in Phoenix (the Heard Museum also has a Scottsdale site). If your child loves dinosaurs, check out the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa.

Coming up: New Year’s celebrations — some for families, some for grown-ups — but all with an arts twist, The fine art of dinosaurs, Growing up with Childsplay, “New Kid” comes to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Walk a mile — Mesa style

Photos: Lynn Trimble