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.
Today, Monet, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Frida Kahlo all live in the same building thanks to the Phoenix Art Museum, which houses an eclectic collection of works from across the world. Exhibits stretch across 200,000 square feet and the museum's core collection holds more than 17,000 works of American, Asian, European, Latin American, and Western-American art from classics to moderns. Beyond paintings, a walk through the exhibits reveals modern sculptures, photography, and thousands of garments from Europe and America. And unlike the expressions in Gilbert Stuart's portraits of George Washington, the face of the museum is always changing.
More than 400 exhibits have rotated in and out of the museum since it opened over a half-century ago. Phoenix Art Museum also hosts regular events, including lectures, film screenings, and educational workshops that many sculptures secretly listen in on free of charge.
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.
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.
The Arizona Science Center crams four levels of interactive exhibits and activities, a five-story IMAX theater, and the Dorrance Planetarium (featuring the first NanoSeam dome ever installed in a science center) into one amazingly educational facility. Test your gray matter's mettle with the applied-science activities of Get Charged Up!, which lets you take yourself on a pulley-powered chair ride, catch some Zs on a bed of nails, or construct your own electrical circuit or Doomsday device. Inquisitive minds can also experience the full force of a miniaturized Mother Nature in the Forces of Nature exhibit and donate screams for scientific study in Goosebumps! The Science of Fear.
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