For several weeks, visitors to ASU Art Museum have crossed paths with something unexpected — an enormous live snake, living on the third floor.
But museum officials aren’t calling experts to trap the reptile. Instead, Diablo, the 7-foot-long yellow anaconda, is a welcome guest, playing a crucial role in late artist Juan Downey’s 1973 piece, “Anaconda Map of Chile.”
“Diablo gets fed in there. He sleeps in there. He has water. He’s basically living on a map of Chile, which was Downey’s native country,” says museum spokeswoman Deborah Sussman Susser.
The piece — which alludes to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, an outfit financially involved in the 1973 overthrow of Chile’s democratic government — was immediately censored when it debuted in New York City.
This show of Downey’s work marks the first time since then that the piece has been shown in the United States with a live snake.
“Artforum” magazine recently selected the show as one of its must-see “Picks.”
Families will get a special chance to view Diablo Saturday, when the museum hosts free activities geared to kids.
“One of the crafts is creating your own ideal home for Diablo, so we’ll be talking about what kind of environment he requires,” says Susser.
Children will also make hats to wear in a museum parade and explore the stages of video production. In the video workshop, they’ll plan and act out their own scenes, drawing inspiration from exhibits and devising props from craft materials on hand. The footage will be compiled into a short video. Children will get a copy of their movie, for free, via email.
In another activity, kids will use unconventional materials to create musical instruments, then play in a “recycled” orchestra.
Susser says the day is designed to get people engaged with art, not just looking at it on a wall or pedestal. “... (A)rt is something that helps you think about the world in new and interesting ways, and that’s always valuable. It helps people think about themselves in different ways, and that’s great for a child — to reveal to them how broad the world is and how creative they can be,” she says.
Diablo will be on view every day except Sunday and Monday through Dec. 31; after that, he’ll go back to his home with Phoenix Herpetological Society’s Russ Johnson.
ASU Art Museum’s First Saturday for Families is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 51 E. Tenth St., Tempe. Admission and activities are free. For information, call (480) 965-2787 or visit asuartmuseum.asu.edu.