Tag Archives: Tempe public art

Truckin’ through Tempe

I found myself “truckin’ through Tempe” today while searching for a new installation of public art along Mill Avenue. Six utility boxes between Rio Salado Parkway and 7th Street have been painted by artists whose designs also grace new library cards for Tempe Public Library patrons.

I spied the “Sonoran Afternoon” utility box painted by Bud Heiss on Feb. 4 first, because it’s on the same corner as the Shoe Mill — my favorite haunt when new shoes beckon, and a splendid place to fondle handbags I can scarcely afford.

While making my way up Mill Avenue to check out other utility boxes, I stopped to chat with a woman named Susan who was playing her violin along the street — but was soon distracted by a painted truck whizzing past so quickly I couldn’t catch a photo.

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I turned my attention to exploring other shops in the area — including a charming hole-in-the-wall bookstore called Old Town Books that reminded me of taking my babies to Changing Hands Bookstore back when it occupied a similar space along that very strip.

While there, I spied a book about Helen Keller — reminding me that “The Miracle Worker” opens later this month at Scottsdale Community College. I’ve no young children to buy such books for anymore, but snapped a picture that’ll help me rekindle memories of reading to my children when they were small.

I also lingered over artwork and furnishings with a vintage/retro vibe at Loft a Go Go, a shop I’ve been eager to explore since spotting it one evening on a hurried walk from parking structure to Stray Cat Theatre. Its diverse offerings include all sorts of goodies plastered with the likenesses of Elvis, Audrey and Marilyn.

I spotted a few more painted utility boxes in my travels, and one of the unpainted variety that made me appreciate the others even more. Colton Brock’s “Mill District” work is located near the light rail stop most convenient for folks eager to explore the Mill Avenue District.

Dawn DeVries Good’s “Be the Good,” painted on Feb. 6, sits at the corner of 6th Street and Mill Avenue. I’m saving others for another trip once my bum knee is on the mend. They include Lucretia Torva’s “Tempe Shine,” Oliverio Balcells’ “Tempe Roots” and Linda Parker’s “Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake.”

I was about to head home when I spotted the painted truck again — parked and perfectly primed for an impromptu photo session. As I suspected, it was covered with assorted paintings, each bearing the name and city/state of its creator. There was just a single catch — it was a beer truck. While I snapped photos, a driver for Crescent Crown Distributing did his delivery thing. To the restaurants, not the nearby dorms.

Then, after a successful dig for more parking meter change, I made one final stop — to a brick building called Hackett House that was once Tempe Bakery. Hackett House is home to the Tempe Sister Cities program, so folks who hit their gift shop or cooking classes can help a worthy cultural cause in the process.

I spotted all sorts of rabbits, chicks and other fare with a whimsical Easter vibe. Even a trio of ceramic “see, hear and speak no evil” bunnies. Also Raggedy Ann dolls, tiny tea sets in charming picnic baskets, richly textured scarves, accessories for wine lovers and glass flowers to hold birthday candles. Even plenty of bobbles and bling for those thinking ahead to Mother’s Day.

I’ve been truckin’ through Tempe for a good twenty years now. First pushing a stroller. Now strolling with camera in hand. It never gets old — thanks to book stores, beer trucks, bunnies and beyond.

— Lynn

Coming up: Sunday at Seton, Conversations with local artists, Poetry meets drumroll, A prophet tale

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Touching history

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Plenty of little ones were touching history during my recent visit to the Tempe History Museum. One mom looked on as her daughter pretended to ride various old-time vehicles spied in the museum, and another watched her son give an impromptu performance on a small stage near a pair of grown-ups enjoying a computer presentation of ASU’s role in preserving biodiversity.

The Tempe History Museum, dubbed the Tempe Historical Museum until completion of its renovation two Februaries ago, was founded by the Tempe Historical Society. They first opened it to the public in 1972. It was housed at the time in the east wing of the Tempe Public Library, which has since become the museum building. The museum also operates a restored Queen Anne Victorian house called the Petersen House Museum.

Folks who approach the library near the corner of Southern and Rural Roads will see the word “MUSEUM” in giant silver letters. Each of the letters is six feet tall and five feet wide — and weighs more than 500 pounds. The powder-coated metal is 3/4 inch think and has an anti-graffiti finish.

While planning renovations, the museum worked to include several “touch points for a good exhibit” — including ease of wayfinding and layering of information. Also lighting both comfortable for visitors and consistent with conservation requirements.

It’s clear when strolling through the museum that they achieved several additional goals as well — integrated multi-media, a personal connection with visitors, visual presentations well-matched to content, effective educational strategies, recreational value and multiple perspectives in terms of age, race and such.

But don’t tell the little ones that. Let them think it’s simply a cool place to find totem poles, old-fashioned vehicles, dress-up clothes and a play pit called Little Devil’s Stadium filled with soft colorful shapes. There’s plenty of interest to adults as well, and places to sit and linger over books or keep an eye on the kiddos.

The main exhibition hall includes several theme areas designed to demonstrate the ways Tempe is distinct, diverse and dynamic. There’s “College Town,” “Building Our Community,” “Living Together” and “Surviving in the Desert.” Those of you who’ve been in the Valley for a while will recognize several familiar faces — including that of Colleen Jennings-Roggensack of ASU Gammage — among those gracing giant hanging squares inside the museum.

The museum’s Community Room currently houses an Arizona Centennial photo exhibit, curated by local photographer Dick George, which “tells of the people, events and trends that have shaped Tempe over the past 100 years.” Its Changing Gallery features an exhibit about the history of rodeo and a trio of Arizona brothers, the Finley boys, who hailed from a ranching family and rose to national rodeo fame from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The Tempe History Museum also offers two online exhibits — “Doors to the Past: Preserving Tempe’s Architectural Heritage” and “Buffalos, Bulldogs & Bowl Games: 100 Years of Football in Tempe.” I’ll have to tell my hubby about that last one since attending bowl games was a family tradition before he headed off to college in California. Our daughter Jennifer, a student at Arizona State University, would get a kick out of all the museum’s nostalgic Sun Devil fare.

The February calendar for the Tempe History Museum looks plenty fascinating. This month’s “Third Thursday Night Cafe at the Museum” features Bruce Rittman sharing a bit about harvesting lipids produced by photosynthetic bacteria for biodiesel production. A concert celebrating Black History Month takes place at the museum Sat, Feb. 25 at 6pm. It’ll feature gospel, folk, jazz and soul tunes — and a reading of MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech” by Elmer Green. Also works by artists in the black community.

The museum hosts a monthly series of lunchtime talks presented by the Tempe Historical Society, and a special concert for children and families takes place next month. Folks can click here to learn about these and other upcoming events at  the Tempe History Museum.

When you visit, make time to explore artwork exhibited at the Vihel Activity Center adjacent to the museum, where you can also pick up information about all sorts of programs and activities presented by the City of Tempe, and the Tempe Public Library. The library is home to an entire floor dedicated to children, youth and families.

In a single outing, you can touch art, literacy and history.

— Lynn

Coming up: Time at the Tempe Public Library, Exploring Scottsdale’s Little Red Schoolhouse

Photos: Lynn Trimble