While art and architecture may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about visiting the Phoenix area, it will leave a lasting impression on you once you’ve seen the rich experiences to be had here.
During your visit to the Phoenix Convention Center, take some time to explore the surprising secrets and treasures of its public artwork. From soaring sculptures to vibrant desert hues, here are just a few of the gems you’ll find on your stroll:
- Art is a Guaranty of Sanity: the giant mirror sculpture by internationally respected sculptor Louise Bourgeois’ displays the Brobdingnagian table mirror’s polished face cut into spider web-like shapes and back undulating in wave-like ridges.
- Arizona Beach: featuring whimsical stone images set in raked sand by Tucson artist Hirotsune Tashima, it displays a diver partially buried head first in sand, a partially submerged bikini-clad woman and man in an inner tube among desert inhabitants.
- A Moment at the Narrows: check out this series of terrazzo floor murals by Tempe’s Troy Moody, a display of multi-colored stylized rock formations and sky that suggest Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon.
- Southern Exposure: the creation of brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre, these whimsical massive idols of metal, glass and resin stand guard over elements from Southwestern cultural objects.
- Outside the convention halls you’ll find Social Invertebrates, by sculptor Tom Otterness. The giant polished bronze desert insects—a millipede, a walking stick and a scorpion—have tiny people swarming over them and the millipede sports shoes on its many feet.
- The Earth Dreaming: a collection of several huge murals of shards and broken china by Isaiah Zagar line walls outside the North Building.
- Across Monroe to the East, stands the beneficent bronze statue of Pope John Paul II, his arms spread wide toward Halo, a massive metal crown of intertwined agave leaves suspended from the North entrance created by artists Kim Cridler and William Bennie.
Just a short stroll from the Phoenix Convention Center is the walkable arts district of Roosevelt Row. Known locally as RoRo, the area’s galleries and businesses feature rotating displays of artistic contributions from renowned artists. You’ll find murals and sculptures, a stylized tunnel and street art capturing the heart of the desert city.
Fill your soul with theater, dance and music featuring the Arizona Opera, Arizona Theatre Company, Ballet Arizona, the Phoenix Symphony, the Orpheum Theatre and myriad other live events on offer in Phoenix’s many art venues.
From Mid-Century Modern to Art Deco, castles to Victorian houses, Phoenix is more than just adobe and stucco desert dwellings. Check these out:
- M. Evans House: Known as the “Onion Dome,” the 1893 Queen Anne cottage-style structure was former home to Dr. J.M. Evans. The J.M. Evans House later became the Territorial Insane Asylum and in 1976, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today it houses the Arizona State Archives and Public Records.
- Luhrs Tower: At 14 stories tall, the Luhrs Tower stands as a perfect example of Art Deco architecture. Located opposite CityScape, Luhrs Tower was erected in 1929. The facade might be familiar because it appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho.
- Westward Ho: For 50 years, the 16-story Renaissance Revival building with its ornate, scrolled masonry and concrete façade was Phoenix’s premier luxury hotel and haunt of John F. Kennedy, who liked to hold meetings in the Turquoises room. Completed in 1928, the 208-foot building was then the tallest in Arizona. Now converted to HUD housing, architecture lovers still enjoy its iconic exterior.
- P Morgan Chase Bank: At the corner of 44th Street and Camelback Road, this building is commonly referred to as “Flintstones Bank.” It’s prehistoric-meets-futuristic aesthetic, distinguished stonework, circular floor plan, and dendriform columns were designed by Frank Henry in 1968. Originally, The J.P. Morgan Chase Bank served as a branch space for Valley National Bank.
- Gammage Auditorium: Frank Lloyd Wright’s only public building in the state, Gammage Auditorium was initially commissioned in 1957 by ASU president Grady Gammage, was designed at the end of Wright’s life assisted by William Welsey Peters, and completed after Wright’s death. The eight-story building took 25 months to build and was completed in 1964.
- Phoenix Financial Center: Sitting at Central and Osborn, the Phoenix Financial Center is one of Phoenix’s most iconic buildings. Developed by David H. Murdock and designed by architect W. A. Sarmiento, the center features two adjacent rotundas with a southern exposure curved tower constructed in 1964. Its adjacent twin was never completed.
- Asbury United Methodist Church: Endearingly known as the “cupcake chapel,” the Asbury United Methodist Church was theoretically designed by architect Mel Ensign to resemble a crown. You can drive by the chapel at 1601 W Indian School Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85015
- Mystery Castle: Situated at South Mountain Park, the onetime residential “castle” was built by Boyce Luther Gulley of Seattle. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he moved to Phoenix for his health, but missed his family terribly, so he built the unique structure for his daughter, Mary Lou Gulley, who loved to build sand castles on the Seattle beach. Unfortunately, Boyce Gulley died before his “princess” could move in, but when she eventually did, as an adult, she shared her “home” by giving guided tours until she passed away in 2010.
- Taliesin West: architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert. He lived there from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today, it functions as the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and is open to the public for tours. Taliesin West is located on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale.
Ancient Art and Archaeological Sites
Prehistoric and historic archaeological sites abound within the city of Phoenix and nearby. You’ll find them in the downtown area, along the desert rivers and washes, and in the mountain preserves. Important archaeological sites to visit include:
- Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park
4619 E. Washington Street, Phoenix AZ 85034 • (602) 495-0901
- Huhugam Ki Museum
10005 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85256 • (480) 850-8190
- Arizona Museum of Natural History
53 N. Macdonald St, Mesa, AZ 85201 • (480) 664-2230
- Cave Creek Museum
6140 East Skyline Drive, Cave Creek, AZ 85331 • (480) 488-2764