Arizona Treasures

March 20, 2013

Museums, Musical, SC Guide

by Valerie Summers

Inspired by the beauty of the Arizona desert, Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most acclaimed az1architects in the world, designed his winter camp on a site at the base of McDowell Mountain which commanded a view of the entire Valley of the Sun in Scottsdale.  Arizona’s desert held a special appeal to renowned architect.    The area was virtually uninhabited, a perfect site for what the creative, forward thinking architect imagined for building himself into the life of the desert…bold, expansive and raw.  Thus Taliesin West, a name chosen from his Welsh heritage meaning Shining Brow, was created by the master as the winter home for him and wife Olgivanna. It has become one of the west’s most visited attractions.

az22They were a social couple who entertained lavishly and in high style.  Their Saturday night parties required formal dress.  On the other hand Wright believed that the environment was the best teacher.  In following this belief, several of the rooms, including the living room and bedrooms were truly indoor/outdoor spaces with the fourth wall open to the elements. Lloyd and his wife slept in adjacent, separate bedrooms, both modest in size and designed with one side which could be opened completely for a lot of fresh air and whatever else might venture in.  In Lloyd’s sleeping quarters, two twin-sized beds separated by a wooden divider, alerted his architectural students, his wife and staff as to his availability.  Apparently, if he was resting on the outside bed, he did not mind being interrupted.  The inner sleeping area signified “Do Not Disturb.”
Wright emphasized the living space of his compound and diminished the practical spaces of ImageTaliesen West such as bathrooms and hallways.  His genius extended  beyond architecture to his design of furniture and lighting throughout Taliesin West.  His appreciation of other art forms including paintings, sculpture and music is an integral part of the complex highlighted by his extensive collection of the  creations of sculptor Heloise Christa which grace an outdoor patio.  The Music Pavilion, decorated in Wright’s favorite color, Cherokee Red, the largest building in the complex, provides stadium seating for 100 plus guests who were treated to musical performances including those of Symphony Orchestras.
The acoustically superb Cabaret Theatre designed with no right angles, was predominantly used as a movie theatre.  The unique angled seats were designed for the comfort of guests taking into consideration how one might cross their legs and stretch an arm out to the side while viewing the films.  Sheer genius.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s unique vision and values are exemplified in Taliesen West.  Although the summer home he designed for the Kaufman family, Falling Waters, remains his most famous creation, Taliesen West endures as the most personal expression of his work. He followed the philosophy of the father of Taoism, ”The reality of the building does not consist in roof and walls but in the space within to be lived in.”
The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture continues its year ’round program requiring on-campus residency for those fortunate few who are selected to follow in the master’s footsteps.

ImageThe list of the Phoenix/Scottsdale cultural and architectural attractions continues to grow.  The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), a recent addition to the art scene boasts more than 15,000 instruments and artifacts from more than 200 countries in its collection. The two year old state of the art MIM enjoys the unique distinction of being the first global museum of instruments in the world.  In addition to presenting a cornucopia of musical sounds, it offers a feast for the eyes in its architecture and displays of more than 5,000 instruments and artifacts representing more than 200 countries by regions of the world.
Wireless headsets kick in as visitors approach the various displays – no need to punch in corresponding numbers.  Guests are treated to the sounds of the various instruments from the most primitive to the most modern while viewing the exhibitions with accompanying videos.

The first Steinway piano accompanied by a narrative of its Imageconstruction was among the special displays highlighting iconic American manufactures of musical instruments.  Several times during my visit, guests were treated to an impromptu recital on the great Steinway on the gallery’s first floor welcoming anyone to play.  Further along, another hands on opportunity is offered at the Experience Gallery where visitors may try their hands at playing various instruments such as guitars, gongs, drums and some exotic looking unfamiliar sound makers.
Not to be missed is a walk through the nostalgic MIM Artist Gallery housing instruments played by famous musicians including John Lennon’s Imagine piano.  Music which entertained millions throughout the years features instruments played by Paul Simon, Black Eyed Peas, the Jonas Brother and many jazz greats.  There could be no better venue to enjoy a regularly scheduled concert than at this unique gallery dedicated to the appreciation of all music.
Phoenix’s cultural mecca highlights the stunning Phoenix Art Museum and adjoining theatre complex surrounding welcoming green space where children play, people lunch under the shade of umbrellas while others find quiet areas for relaxing.  This popular gathering place often serves as a venue for art and music events.
ImageEntering the spacious, modern museum lobby, a unique display of what appears to be hundreds of black butterflies and moths cluster along the walls of the entry into the exhibit area.  The temporary presentation, Order, Chaos and the Space Between is part of the contemporary Latin American Art exhibit called Black Cloud, 2007, by Carlos Amorales.
Nearly a dozen different galleries house the art of Europe, Latin American, American and Western American, Modern & Contemporary and Asian all beautifully displayed.  An extensive collection of the works of Old Masters and Modern Geniuses include the works of Monet, Kahalo, Rivera, Cassatt, Remington, O’Keefe and Kasuma to name a few. The Art of Philip C. Curtis, founder of the Phoenix Art Museum and renowned Arizona artist is featured in its own gallery as is the photography exhibit.  Throughout the exhibition space helpful explanations are posted to ensure a quality experience for the viewer.  In the Renaissance Gallery, it is suggested that the viewer  be aware of perspective, balance and iconography, offering a more in-depth appreciation of the exhibit.
A gallery dedicated to Fashion features American and European garments, shoes and accessories Image (2)from the 18th century to the present.  Trends of past and present created by world renowned designers grace the displays.
One of the most charming displays is situated in the Thorne Miniature Rooms, a grouping of perfectly detailed miniature rooms replicating historic American, English French and Italian interiors.
In addition to works of art of all kinds and from a variety of eras, the modern gallery houses an education center, research library, special gallery for families and children, an eclectic museum shop and delightful restaurant.
ImagePhoenix and Scottsdale are home to many famous architectural gems including the spectacular Arizona Biltmore Hotel, its design often credited to Frank Lloyd Wright who did act as a consultant.  The credit, however, belongs to Albert Chase McArthur.
Close by, the Wrigley Mansion Club, open to visitors with reservations, presents guided tours offering insight into the genius of William Wrigley Jr. Guests enjoy a spectacular view of the area from the home Wrigley originally built as a gift for his wife.   One of the most delightful highlights of the tour is hearing a portion of Rhapsody in Blue performed by George Gershwin on one of the two existing Steinway player pianos.
World class architecture is ubiquitous in the neighboring cities of Scottsdale and Phoenix.  Even the walls lining the highways are artfully finished.   And everywhere, the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright has made its everlasting mark.

Images:  Valerie Summers

1.  Taliesen West

2. Open-air bedroom of Olgivanna Lloyd Wright

3. Music Pavilion at Taliesen West

4. Musical Instrument Museum display

5 . The making of a Steinway

6. Carlos Amorales’ Black Cloud

7. Aweate by Louis Philippe Ferbert

8. The Arizona Biltmore entrance


Taliesin West

Musical Instrument Museum                                                                                                                    

Phoenix Art Museum

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