The Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona is a performing arts venue and art museum. The campus is comprised of the Ikeda Theater, the Piper Reparatory Theater, the Farnsworth Studio Theater, and the Nesbitt/Elliot Playhouse. Outdoor venues include the Alliance Pavilion Stage and a sculpture garden. There are two studio buildings, and the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum. In total, the downtown campus comprises over 200,000 square feet.

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The Arts Center offers a wide range of Broadway shows, concerts and other performances, as well as classes, lectures and workshops. Collections at the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum include contemporary fine art and crafts. The craft collection includes glass, textiles, fiber and metal arts, jewelry, basketry and papermaking. There are approximately 500 works in the museum’s permanent collection. Shows at the Mesa Arts Center include classical music performances, contemporary dance and ballet, jazz, comedy and theater. A speaker’s series includes author’s talks and live public radio recordings.

A National Geographic Series invites speakers to share their adventures in partnership with National Geographic. Resident companies at the Arts Center include Ballet Etudes, Arizona’s best training and performance company for young ballet dancers. The Mesa Encore Theater, East Valley Children’s Theater, and Southwest Shakespeare Company make their home at the Arts Center, as well as the Sonoran Desert Chorale, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, and the Symphony of the Southwest.

History: The Mesa Arts Center was established thanks to the initiative of Wayne Brown, mayor of Mesa from 1996 to 2000. At Brown’s urging, the city issued a ‘quality of life’ bond in 1998 to provide funding for the Arts Center. In 2000, Brown left office yet continued to fundraise for the $95 million center through its opening in 2005, raising an additional $4.5 million from the private sector. The Arts Center is managed today by the Mesa Arts Center Foundation, a non-profit organization. Additionally, a Museum and Cultural advisory board makes recommendations on cultural activities, City Council policies, and how to best support the Arts Center.

Ongoing Programs and Education: The Mesa Arts Center offers once weekly public tours of the campus which includes the theater, studios and museum, there are also docent-led tours of the museum only. Tours are free for school groups; reservations are required. Family Art Packs is an art education program designed to interact with the current contemporary art exhibits at the museum. The Art Packs are tote bags full of games, books, puzzles and activities. Each includes an ‘Art through the Spyglass’ guide, an activity booklet that guides families through “spy” activities in the galleries, and highlights particular works of art.

The center provides guides for talking to children about art, as well as curriculum guides for grade school aged visitors. Public classes at the Arts Center range from theater and dance programs for children to art business workshops for professionals. Adult classes are available in ceramics, glass blowing, sculpture, drawing and photography, as well as movement, theater and dance. Intergenerational classes are available which allow families to enroll together. Outreach programming includes Project Lit, a literacy program that utilizes the arts to encourage exploration-based learning among Mesa valley youth. Jazz from A to Z is a program in partnership with the University of Arizona that offers Jazz workshops, clinics and performances for young people. Student Shows targeted towards youth make theater and the performing arts accessible to students, while Community Connections provides arts programming to community members of all ages, including seniors.

Past and Future Exhibits: Past exhibits include the 38th annual Contemporary Crafts Show. The juried exhibit of 52 works represented artists from 19 states in a variety of media including ceramics, metals, wood, jewelry and basketry. 2015’s “10 Pick 10” celebrated the Mesa Center’s 10th anniversary with a selection of paintings by influential Chicano artists from Cheech Marin’s personal fine art collection. Upcoming exhibits include Slang Aesthetics! which runs through January 2018. The exhibit showcases the work of Robert Williams, a Los Angeles based conceptual realist who incorporates icons of marginalized culture into his works, such as pin ups, hot rods and tattoo art. After Party is an upcoming exhibit of paintings by the New York based artist Julie Heffernan, who creates scenes of slowly degrading luxurious fantasy worlds. Upcoming musical performances include Kenny G, the Beach Boys and Tori Amos. Theater performances for 2018 include The Graduate, Romeo and Juliet and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

One East Main St Mesa, AZ 85201, website, Phone: 480-644-6500

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