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Scottsdale, the Vibrant Art Capitol of Arizona

Maybe it’s the Southwestern light or the creosote-scented air after a desert rain. Maybe it’s the technicolor sunrises and sunsets or the strength and beauty of the ubiquitous Saguaro cactus. Perhaps it’s the independent, free spirit of this Southwestern city. For many reasons, Scottsdale has always inspired creative expression among artists working in all mediums, from ancient Puebloan potters to today’s cutting-edge installation artists.  

OUTDOOR INSPIRATION AWAITS

In a destination that embraces creativity and also boasts 330 days of sunshine, it’s no wonder art is found on nearly every street corner. Explore Scottsdale’s creative spirit every Thursday during the nation’s longest-running Artwalk. The Arts District, in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, is a pedestrian-friendly stretch of fine galleries, home to many of Scottsdale’s 70 galleries and museums. Regardless of your age and budget, you’re sure to see something that catches your eye; it could be a traditional bronze sculpture, contemporary painting or piece of Native American jewelry. Whether clad in cowboy boots, sneakers or stilettos, you’ll have the opportunity to mingle with artists, gallerists and art enthusiasts while sipping wine and nibbling appetizers.

When strolling the streets of Scottsdale, you’ll notice striking statues, dramatic fountains and other large-scale public works — 50 in all. Scottsdale Public Art Program, includes two notable permanent public artworks, Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture outside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and “Knight Rise Skyspace” at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, a skyspace created by internationally celebrated earth and light artist James Turrell.

Another downtown attraction is artist Donald Lipski’s “The Doors,” a series of 29-foot-tall mirrored panels arranged to create a walk-in kaleidoscope effect. Just around the corner is the Soleri Bridge and Plaza. Built over the Arizona Canal, the prominent waterfront feature is the only bridge ever constructed by the late famed architect and designer Paolo Soleri.

In 2014, Scottsdale Public Art unveiled a 20-foot, stainless steel and LED-lit galloping horse at WestWorld of Scottsdale. “Impulsion” by Arizona artist Jeff Zischke beat out 200 other designs for the nationally recognized equestrian center. Another equine-themed installation, the “Water Mark” is both an innovative flood control project on the award-winning Scottsdale Greenbelt and an artistic triumph. A series of five 14-foot high aluminum horse heads gleam under the city’s famously sunny skies. During monsoon rains, water emphatically gushes from the creatures’ mouths.

THE FESTIVAL LIFE

Scottsdale is home to a series of high-profile art festivals that showcase local, national and international talent under balmy winter skies. Canal Convergence, a multi-day event on the Arizona Canal, features hands-on activities, live music and performances. Past installations have included paper cranes hanging from Soleri Bridge and oversized flower blooms perched on the waterway.

Established in 1971, Scottsdale Arts Festival annually attracts tens of thousands of casual and serious art collectors to the lush gardens and beautiful public sculptures of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall in March.

Hailed as “one of the premiere art events in the West” by Art & Architecture magazine, the Celebration of Fine Art is a 10-week gathering that begins in January and brings together 100 artists. Beneath a white tent, visitors interact with the artists and watch them work.

UNDER-THE-RADAR FINDS

Cosanti, just north of downtown Scottsdale in Paradise Valley, is the former home of architect and designer Paolo Soleri, a hidden gem that offers a firsthand look at the artists who are continuing Soleri’s work by firing bronze and ceramic bells onsite each morning.

Just minutes north of downtown Scottsdale, a series of adobe structures along the Arizona Canal dating back to the 1930s house an artists’ compound and galleries. Cattle Track is a haven for writers, dancers and artists like Fritz Scholder, renowned for his contemporary American Indian works, and Philip Campbell Curtis, known for his surrealist paintings and desert landscapes. Cattle Track has also recently developed a partnership with the brand new Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa and artists will participate in talks, lectures, exhibitions and live performances on property.

SHOWSTOPPER HOTELS

Some of Scottsdale’s finest resorts boast impressive art collections that are free to browse whether you are a resort guest or curious daytripper. Home to a museum-quality, $25 million art collection, The Phoenician offers a free, self-guided audio tour of more than 20 works of European and Native American art. Highlights on the tour include Allan Houser’s “The Future” bronze sculpture, a 17th century French tapestry found in the Lobby Tea Court, and fine antiques such as a Louis XVI commode from the estate of former Texas Governor John Connally. 

Considered by many to be the best preserved mid-century hotel in the U.S, Hotel Valley Ho, offers expert-led architectural walking tours of the buildings and grounds. Designed by Edward L. Varney, an apprentice of iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this restored 1950s gem has hosted Hollywood luminaries such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, as well as modern-day stars like Hugh Jackman, Katie Perry and Jamie Foxx.

The Hermosa Inn is a boutique hideaway originally built in the 1930s by famed cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee as his art studio and residence. As an homage to the creative spirit of the inn’s founder, the resort plays host to an award-winning Artist-in-Residence series, seasonal art walks that teach guests about Megargee’s works and a $2 million art installment of sculptures and paintings from Figarelli Fine Art.

Throughout the historic JW Marriott Camelback Inn, lovingly referred to as Bill Marriott’s favorite resort in the Marriott portfolio, you can see the bronze statues of the late sculptor Dave McGary. McGary’s detailed work depicts strikingly realistic renditions of Native Americans, and is found in museums and private and public collections around the world. 

MUSEUM MADNESS

The Old West meets the New West at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which opened in January 2015. The two-story, 43,000-square foot museum showcases historic and contemporary works from all 19 western states. Through permanent and rotating interactive exhibits, the five galleries take a storytelling and interactive approach to the rich cultural and artistic heritage of this continuously evolving region.

The vision of Robert Ulrich, former CEO of Target, Musical Instrument Museum is a masterpiece that awes music lovers of all generations. More than 5,000 instruments are displayed from nearly every country in the world, including traditional instruments and those made famous by musicians like Elvis, John Lennon and Carlos Santana. Conclude your visit in the 300-seat MIM Music Theater, with its state-of-the-art acoustics, which attracts internationally known talent.

Designed by famed local architect Will Bruder, the downtown Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is a stylish space with five ever-changing galleries devoted to art, architecture and design. Explore the galleries and enjoy an evening of dynamic programming that ranges from improv workshops to wine and bingo nights.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is a masterpiece in and of itself, but in 2016, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation announced it would reveal some of the American architect’s most prized possessions during a Private Collections Tour. Step behind the scenes for an exclusive look at Asian artifacts, handcrafted Pueblo pottery and stunning Buddha busts. This collection is very fragile by nature and is rarely seen, but during select dates, you can view these cultural gems and learn the story of their significance.

NATIVE AMERICAN TREASURES

Arizona has the largest concentration of Native American tribes in the nation. Native Trails, presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, hosts a series of free American Indian performances every January through April. Held on the outdoor amphitheater at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, each noontime performance features costumed tribal members playing flutes, gourds and drums and hoop dancing.

At the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch Native American Learning Center, an ongoing collaborative venture with Native artists and educators. Take a self-guided tour that includes depictions of day-to-day life on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, efforts to preserve the languages and the significance of art such as jewelry textiles, pottery and carvings.

Talking Stick Resort’s Cultural Center showcases distinguished artwork from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, including paintings, sculpture, metal work, ceramics and basketry. Also housed at the resort is a permanent exhibition of historic photographs from the collection of Jeremy Rowe Vintage Photography dating back to 1880.