Another Side of Arizona: Art, History, and Culture
Only one thing is better than an outdoorsy visit to Arizona, and that's an outdoorsy visit with some art and culture added along the way! Luckily, this couldn't be easier in the Grand Canyon State. Arizona is overflowing with traditional art, dance, music, architecture, and more. From discovering the rich cultural history of the area that stretches back 12,000 years to looking ahead to what’s next in a changing modern environment, there's a lot to take in. Dive into the endless options with these suggestions.
Learn about the past
Navajo Nation Museum
Located in Window Rock on the border of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation Museum is an excellent welcome on your journey into Arizona. You can spend the entire day browsing all 54,000 square feet of displays and exhibitions in this huge epicenter of Navajo culture and art.
The motto of the Heard Museum is “Advancing American Indian Art,” and the organization does just that. Based in Phoenix, this stunning cultural center is regularly referred to as one of the top places to explore in the state. Spend some time perusing the exhibits, or better yet, plan your visit around the annual Indian Fair and Market or the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest both happening in March.
Museum of Northern Arizona
If your travels take you through the beautiful San Francisco Peaks region near Flagstaff, the Museum of Northern Arizona offers a must-see deep dive into the area’s past. Detailed exhibits provide insight as to just how complex and diversified the Colorado Plateau heritage is. Stop by during the museum’s Heritage Festival in July for an up-close look at local artisans honing their crafts.
Discover the present
Pine Creek Lavender Farm
While Arizona has a bustling viticulture scene, there’s a different sort of buzz happening at Pine Creek Lavender Farm: honey bees! Located just under two hours from Phoenix, this family-owned and -operated farm produces three varieties of lavender, each with unique properties and that thrive in the mountainous terrain. A herd of neighboring elk frequents the farm, making the visit a delight for both your senses and your camera lens.
As with many urban areas, Arizona is seeing a surge of colorful murals adorning alleyways and business exteriors. A self-guided tour in Phoenix or Tucson provides a plethora of photo opportunities and a way to connect with the artistic culture of the Grand Canyon State. Looking for art off the beaten path? Don’t miss Benson, Arizona. This small town boasts a stunning display of nearly 40 huge murals featuring some of Arizona’s greatest highlights, including Kartchner Caverns State Park, wild mustangs, and more.
Few avenues are more artistic than the opera. For those who enjoy belting it out in baritone, the Arizona Opera offers a myriad of ways to partake. Not only can you experience live performances in person, but those who are opera-curious can get acquainted in a welcoming, online environment. Arizona Opera offers many digital resources, including a podcast and a YouTube series appropriately named, “Loud!”
Consider the future
Basketweaver Iva Honyestewa
While the skill of basket weaving may have originated in the past, we think Iva Honyestewa’s evolution of technique and artistry solidly belongs in the future. She is one of only two Hopi artisans (the other being her niece) weaving the “pootsaya,” an intricate technique with deep, community-focused significance. This innovative design, complete with bold colors, is drawing attention in the artisan community, and we can see why!
Arcosanti Cosanti Foundation
A unique undertaking to promote environmental accountability and reimagine high-population communities, the Acrosanti Cosanti Foundation was built in 1970 with both eyes firmly fixed on the future. The goal of the nonprofit is to experiment with and develop “arcology,” a term that refers to sustainable urban growth. Translation? You can be one of 50,000 annual visitors to go on a tour, enjoy hiking trails on the property to the sound of tinkling wind bells, or take a creative, hands-on workshop.
The above story was written by Whitney James and created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.