Air Apparent, ASU Tempe Campus

Artful Adventures Abound in Tempe

By: Arizona Office of Tourism

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This creative hub in the heart of Greater Phoenix, touts Broadway shows, local public art, live music, creative projects by children and more.

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Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

Creativity lies in the DNA of Tempe, Arizona, a spirited college town in the heart of Greater Phoenix where originality and imagination are celebrated. Its art helps set the city apart, and attracts travelers wanting something a bit different.

Art can be found throughout this fun-loving city, from murals on the sides of buildings, to bus stops transformed into trees, and utility boxes given to local artists as a canvas for expression. In addition to the creative expressions along city streets and sidewalks, visitors and locals alike can find an array of entertainment all year long, including Broadway shows, dance performances, local theater and art exhibitions.

Arizona State University Tempe Campus

The Arizona State University (ASU) Tempe Campus, one of the largest universities in the nation, sits in the heart of Tempe. There are hundreds of exhibitions, performances, live music events, public art and much more to experience on campus, including the work of emerging artists attracted by the top-ranked programs of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

ASU Gammage, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world and a top-touring market for Broadway. Upcoming shows include Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Color Purple and Les Miserables.

ASU Art Museum features works by contemporary artists, with a focus on Latin American art. The museum hosts the largest collection of Cuban art in the U.S. and an award-winning print collection. Exhibitions change seasonally and admission is always free. On Creative Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 26, 2018, museum ambassadors guide children in an art-making activity.

Visitors walk into Air Apparent, a public art space at ASU Tempe Campus

The ASU Tempe Campus is home to more than a dozen works of public art from sculptures to murals. One of the most accessible artworks is Air Apparent (pictured above), designed by renowned artist James Turrell. Visitors can walk into the space and observe the sky through a frame. It is most dramatic at sunrise, sunset or after dark when the frame encircling the top of the artwork changes colors.

Just north of ASU’s campus, you’ll find another significant part of the local art scene. The ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center in downtown Tempe houses one of the largest collections of 20th century and contemporary ceramics. In addition to displays from the museum’s extensive permanent collection, it hosts three to five exhibitions a year that showcase important movements and notable artists.

Tempe Center for the Arts

Located on the south shore of Tempe Town Lake, Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA), sponsored by Northern Trust, is a destination for art lovers. The visually stunning building serves as a community gathering place where visitors can enjoy dance, music, theater, comedy and visual arts. On Friday and Saturday nights, Edge Happy Hour offers live music, food and cocktails.

The center also houses several resident performing arts groups. Lakeshore Music brings renowned jazz musicians to Tempe throughout the year. Scottsdale Musical Theater Company produces some of the most beloved musicals, and Stray Cat Theatre focuses on thought-provoking, irreverent and edgy material. Childsplay is a professional theater company for young audiences, producing plays based on original works and children’s literature. Those interested in less youthful fair can enjoy performances by CONDER/dance, Desert Dance Theatre and Arizona Wind Symphony.

Take note of the art pieces incorporated into the building’s design. The commission of works by regional and national artists includes the vibrant carpeting in the lobby, the fireplace and the reflecting pool. A sculpture garden next to the gallery showcases beautiful works of art and views from the lake.

Public art in Tempe

As a testament to how important art is to Tempe residents, one percent of the city’s total annual capital improvements budget provides funding for the Municipal Arts Fund to advance all types of art throughout Tempe, including public art projects.

A leisurely Tempe bike ride turns into a sensory experience when public art is incorporated into the pathways. Bridges become something to observe instead of just a place to cross over.

Strolling along Tempe Town Lake’s five miles of pathways, you’ll be inspired by the words and pictures created by artists and authors. Words Over Water, created by Karla Elling, Alberto Ríos and Harry Reese, is a collection of words and images on 600 granite tiles installed on the wall around the lake. The tiles create a sense of history, community, imagery and humor that is accessible to everyone who visits the waterfront.

You’ll find art displayed throughout downtown Tempe as well, such as the large U.S. Post Office on Mill Avenue whose windows were converted into a gallery space, showcasing works by local artists in rotating exhibitions.

Save time to catch the newest addition to downtown’s arts scene, “She Tempe,” a public art project commissioned by the Downtown Tempe Authority. Eight local female artists created custom works of art that are installed on news racks along Mill Avenue. Each news rack has a map so visitors can take a self-guided tour of these unique, colorful works of art.

For more information about visiting Tempe and experiencing the city’s arts and culture, visit or call (800) 283-6734 or follow on social media: @TempeTourism.

Brought to you by the Tempe Tourism Office, (800) 283-6734,

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