There’s a little winding road that runs behind the Burton Barr Central Library, a branch of the Phoenix Public Library system that’s located near Central Ave. and McDowell Rd.
Perhaps you’ve seen the giant bronze sculpture sitting there—“Giant Panda and Maternal Love”—presented to Phoenix by the Chengdu Municipal Government in September of 1996.
Nearby are a couple of buildings housing something wonderful you might never have heard of before.
It’s the Phoenix Center for the Arts, which is part of the city’s parks and recreation department, “brings together students, volunteers and professionals of all ages and skill levels who are passionate about the arts.”
Center materials also note that they offer “a full schedule of classes and programs in the visual and performing arts.”
I recall one of my daughter’s taking a music class there while in elementary school, and realizing at the time that this is one of the city’s many hidden cultural treasures.
I was impressed then, as I am now, by the breadth and depth of their offerings—as well as the diversity of folks we encountered there.
If you’re living in a little pocket of the city where everyone else looks a lot like you, you’ll see the Valley through all new eyes after spending time at this center.
The Phoenix Center for the Arts has several amenities, including the 215-seat Third Street Theater, four classrooms and a multipurpose room within the main building, a visual arts studio (with “creative space for photography, ceramics, metal and painting”) and an art gallery (one of many stops on Phoenix First Friday art tours).
Their gallery exhibit “Arte Latino en la Ciudad” opens tomorrow, May 7. “Ambitions: Teen Art Show” opens June 4, and “Extravaganza Kids Summer Show” opens July 2.
They also offer several performing arts programs, including:
The Phoenix Center Youth Theatre—which helps actors ages 8-18 develop audition, rehearsal and performance skills through plays and musicals.
City Jazz—which helps musicians ages 10-18 to learn, improvise and perform jazz through two 18-piece big bands and combos.
The Phoenix Children’s Chorus—which helps singers in second grade through high school to learn the basic elements of choral singing and performance skills.
Adult classes include glass, metals, photography, painting and drawing, ceramics, special-interest workshops and performing arts (music, dance, theater). The center notes that “resident artists and guest instructors are professionals in their fields.”
Youth classes include visual arts (clay, painting, drawing, ceramics and balloon art), theater (thespian series, improvisation and full-scale productions), music (guitar, piano and voice) and dance (hip hop, salsa and jazz).
During a quick review of their summer schedules I noticed adult classes in printmaking, mat cutting, pottery throwing and belly dance–plus children’s classes in urban dance rhythms, spoken word poetry and voice. (There are dozens more.)
The center’s description of “special interest classes” for youth really caught my eye, noting that offerings “run the gamut from babysitting to juggling and mime.” Seems these bear a remarkable resemblance to some of our more frenzied days on the parenting front.
The Phoenix Center for Youth also offers “special programs and events” that include a visual arts holiday sale and a visual arts mentorship program (which pairs youth with the center’s resident artists).
I dropped by last night to check it out for myself. The visual art building was abuzz with several adult classes, full of students working their craft and enjoying lively conversations.
Next door in the performing art building I enjoyed the bold and beautiful sounds of a jazz rehearsal (somewhere there’s surely a security camera tape of me whistling and doing some serious toe-tapping).
I watched part of a youth theater rehearsal along with two fellow stage moms sitting on some steps off to one side of the rehearsal space—then checked out the green room bustling with children, staff and parent volunteers readying for opening night of Schoolhouse Rock (read tomorrow’s post for details).
Remember the Phoenix Center for the Arts as you’re making your own summer plans.
Perhaps this should be the year you finally honor that yen for bending metal or fusing glass, join a girlfriend for drawing classes, or challenge your partner to a friendly photography duel.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to let the kids take a couple of classes too…
Note: The City of Phoenix offers a rich variety of additional parks and recreation programs, many focusing on arts and culture. Learn more at http://phoenix.gov/parks/. Registration for summer classes opened May 1 and classes can fill quickly, so make haste if you’re eager to get involved. Check with your local city governments as well to see what hidden treasures await in your own lovely habitat.
Coming up: Arts and culture from Valley libraries, Friday preview of weekend events (including dance, film, theater, music and more)
Today’s tidbits: Enjoy contemporary dance performed ala runway fashion show as Scorpius Dance Theatre presents “catwalk” at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre tonight at 7:30pm. Performance features “15 dancers, 8 choreographic works, 5 independent designers and 1 hot urban boutique.” Tickets $25-$30 at 602-254-2151. Info at www.scorpiusdance.com.