The sprawling Superstition Mountain Range has been inhabited for more than 9,000 years, but its landscape has remained the same until relatively recently. In the 19th century American settlers moved in, driven by rumors of a bountiful gold mine. The Lost Dutchman Mine spawned a range of new settlements alongside existing American Indian sites here. Though the mine's inhabitants?and the cowboy hats they wore?are long gone, their story lives on at the Superstition Mountain Museum, a 12.5-acre interactive outdoor museum and nature walk dedicated to preserving the area's history. Full-scale recreations of 19th-century buildings include a stage-coach shop, barber shop, 20-stamp gold ore crusher, and the church-turned-film museum Elvis Memorial Chapel. Each building transports visitors back in time with the help of exhibits featuring authentic artifacts and documents such as ancient rock samples that reveal local geology, or art and household items depicting American Indian life.
In 1975, Jay Kogan's parents opened up a store that was literally a hall of frames—just a small store stacked with thousands of frames. At the time, they had no idea that that tiny corridor would expand to 12 locations throughout the greater Phoenix area, all still run by the Kogan family. Today, their shops have more than 4,500 custom frame options along with mats of all colors and textures, as well as seven glazing choices and expert assembly. They can answer framing questions and frame everything from documents and artwork to posters and small 3-D objects such as sports memorabilia and very still grandmothers.
When they custom-produce frames, the family cuts their mats exactly, miters frame corners precisely, and installs flawless glass. Or, since the stores' walls are lined with ready-made frames, customers can walk in and find what they're looking for quickly. Since installing framed art is an art unto itself, they also offer hanging services with an eye for placement and ability to install in difficult spaces.
Mesa Arts Center curates artistic goings-on inside a sleek structure filled with four theaters, five art galleries, and 14 art studios. Graced by the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Bill Cosby, the stages of the facility's theaters showcase a cultural cocktail of live music, Broadway, dance, and comedy performances. Grooming the next generation of artisans with the help of advanced equipment, seasoned instructors teach everything from acting and beading to woodworking and welding during art classes tailored to both kids and adults.
For inspiration, students and visitors can stroll through the galleries of the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum for glimpses at a revolving selection of contemporary art from international artists. Speckled with gardens, shapely architecture, and colorful lighting, the facility’s modern grounds welcome guests for everyday visits or annual events and festivals.
Self-expression and imagination have no age limits. That's the idea behind Arizona Museum for Youth, a gathering place for youngsters to explore art and their own creativity. Rotating exhibitions, which have included glow-in-the-dark portraits and bead art, showcase that stimulate children's imaginations as well as the sense of sight. Guests can follow the spark of inspiration and create their own magnum opuses during art classes or in the museum's interactive play area, Artville. Decorated with giant-size paint brushes and other art equipment, Artville presents kids with a colorful array of play stations and even a performance arts center to stage productions of Waiting for Go Dog Go.
SunDust Art Gallery is truly a family-run operation—Ron Floyd, a retired university art professor and a recognized abstract artist, opened the 5,000-square-foot gallery with the help of his wife Mary Lou Floyd and son Chris Floyd. Opened in 2009, the studio's initial goal was to provide the Southwest's eclectic and often-unnoticed artists a home, and today it has grown to encompass a gallery collection that regularly features many such artists and mediums for which the region is well known, such as sculpture, jewelry, and photography. Throughout his long career as an art professor, Ron learned to teach students how to overcome artistry's intricacies, and he now operates out of SunDust's studios with accessible painting and drawing classes.