Step beneath the domed, packed-mud ceiling of a traditional Navajo family dwelling. Weave a Yavapi burden basket. Explore a secluded garden filled with bronze sculptures of women in prayer. By immersing visitors in Native American artifacts and artworks, the Heard Museum's exhibits strive to illuminate the cultural legacy of Arizona’s indigenous peoples. The collections emphasize first-person accounts of Native cultures, not only through artwork, but also in interviews with Native Americans, portraits by Navajo photographers, and monthly lectures. In addition to showcasing historical artifacts, the Heard Museum exhibits contemporary American Indian artwork. Like a ballerina trapped on a carousel, exhibits rotate often, and have included collections of Native American bolo ties, Hopi pottery, and 20th-century paintings depicting Native ceremony. Passing on cultural traditions to future generations, the staff educates children with tours, and brings Native American presentations and curricula to area schools.
Although classrooms can be vibrant centers for learning, they’re usually stocked with pencils and notebooks instead of a forest of suspended green noodles or a flying bathtub with wings. At the Children's Museum of Phoenix, both of these engage young minds alongside other hands-on exhibits that have earned the museum a glut of awards, including a place among Parents magazine’s 10 Best Children’s Museums in 2011. The museum fosters creativity and skill development in children from birth to age 10 with open-ended play activities that range from bouncing orbs in the Grand Ballroom to building forts with a wealth of safe construction materials, instead of mom’s favorite sheets and a nail gun.
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the museum can be found in the atrium, where the Schuff-Perini Climber soars high into the air. Created from standard building materials, found objects, and out-of-context items such as its flying bathtub, the structure entices youths and inspires their imaginations. Another impressive contraption makes up the Whoosh! exhibit, where children feed scarves into a jumble of tubes that suck the fabrics up to heights of 20 feet before spitting them out to float gently down and be caught in waiting fingers. At each of these exhibits, a baby zone keeps the tiniest museum-goers safe, and they can find a space especially for them in the Place for Threes & Younger.
A prominent surgeon and Phoenix mayor, Dr. Roland Lee Rosson commissioned his 2,800-square-foot home in 1895. Fashioned in the Eastlake style of Victorian architecture, the 10-room dwelling included five fireplaces. These days, his abode serves as Rosson House Museum, where docents lead guests on 45- to 60-minute tours of the structure's restored interior. Along with glimpses into life during Arizona's late territorial period, visits include admission to Victorian-themed exhibits at the nearby Heritage Gallery. Besides public tours five days a week, Rosson House Museum hosts frequent family activities.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an international preservation organization based in Chicago, was founded in 1989 to preserve the masterpieces of the greatest architectural pioneer of the 20th century. Frank Lloyd Wright developed a truly American style of architecture known as the Prairie School, creating what he called "architecture for democracy." His brilliant designs redefined the concept of space so that people could live and grow in organic environments, connecting physically and spiritually to the natural world without having to wrestle a cougar to prove their worth. The Conservancy's mission is to preserve and maintain the original splendor of Frank Lloyd Wright's remaining structures, which, when peered at through Wright's signature stained-glass windows, shed light into the architecture of a bygone era that has influenced modern American design. Since its inception, the Conservancy has worked with more than 150 FLW structures and has organized the nomination of 11 Wright structures and log cabins built from pretzel sticks to become immortalized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Conservancy is able to circulate knowledge of the nation's vibrant architectural heritage and the importance of conservation through guided tours of famous Wright buildings, an annual conference, and by publishing SaveWright, a biannual magazine, and eBytes, an electronic newsletter.
A center for the arts in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, the Shemer Art Center and Museum was originally built as a small home in Arcadia in 1919. Over time, it was expanded by various owners who added bedrooms, a kitchen, and a garage until it was finally converted into an art museum.
Recently named one of the 21 Points of Pride that make Phoenix unique, this nonprofit now reaches out to local residents with a bevy of art classes, exhibitions, and programs. Classes in the garage-turned-studio teach students how to paint landscapes on canvas, build ceramic models, and apply printmaking techniques to blank pages, and one-off workshops bring in local artists to share their knowledge of topics such as digital photography and jewelry-making. Regular exhibits display works by Arizona artists and poets, and a sculpture garden creates a tranquil setting for experiencing large-scale art and much-larger-scale negative space on the center's grounds.
A kaleidoscope of multichromatic blossoms and emerald leaves bursts from the soil, blanketing 65 acres of desert landscape at Desert Botanical Garden. Diverse walkways flanked by more than 1,200 types of cacti, succulents, and wildflowers educate visitors on the importance of protecting the environment and not hugging every plant they see. In addition to the garden's more stationary organisms, some of which go home with local green thumbs during biannual plant sales, numerous avian and insect species make their homes amid the thriving greenery.