The great thing about the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum isn’t that it houses expansive galleries chock full of pieces of famous modern art. The great thing is that it doesn’t.
The museum — selected by readers as “Best Museum / Art Gallery” during “2013 Best of East Valley” voting — boasts only three galleries, and this small space allows for a more intimate, more manageable museum experience.
- 2013 Best of East Valley: Read up on all 71 winners, online now!
“I like to think that it’s a place for everybody,” says curator Patty Haberman. “We try to do interesting, exciting things. We’ve done a show with low-riders; we’ve done a show with motorcycles; we did a show about tattoos ... We are contemporary, but I think it’s a place for people to come and experience a lot of different kinds of art.”
From Spring 2013 through the summer, visitors are able to take their time strolling through the “American Dream” exhibit, which features a diverse group of artists’ take on the American spirit. The gallery that shows “American Dream” also houses “Bipolar,” two installations that present the subject of mental illness, as well as “Now Playing Everywhere,” a display of the expansive art and photography collection of Arizona collector Stephane Janssen. The second gallery shows “Arizona Catalyst” and “Creature, Man, Nature,” both displays presenting contemporary art made by Arizonian artists. The third gallery takes a fun turn, focusing on colorful portraits of dogs by another local artist in “The Dogs of Ron Burns.”
The museum prides itself on its openness, presenting art accompanied by ample explanation of the pieces, so the average visitor can get a sense of what the artist is trying to convey. Another aspect that contributes to the museum’s accessibility is its price — it’s free to the public.
“Not everybody has a master’s in art history and can understand the significance (of a certain piece),” says associate curator Tiffany Fairall. “We want to talk to people on their own level and make it interesting for them.”
Location: Mesa Arts Center; 1 E. Main Street, Mesa
Information: (480) 644-6540 or evtnow.com/mesacontemporaryarts
Honorable Mention: Arizona Museum of Natural History (Mesa); Arizona Museum for Youth / i.d.e.a. (Mesa); Gilbert Historical Museum (Gilbert); SunDust Gallery (Mesa)