Photo credit: Andrew Pielage Photo credit: Andrew Pielage

How could you not be interested in spending a few hours exploring a museum dedicated to preserving Native American art?

One of the most common criticisms of Phoenix is that the city has no culture. True Phoenicians know that is simply not true, and these Arizona institutions prove it. 

From a world-class musical instrument museum to a ballet company run by a near-legendary dancer, discover these six Phoenix cultural powerhouses. 

Arizona Opera

Multiple theater locations

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The Falling and the Rising | Photo courtesy Arizona Opera

Arizona Opera is dedicated to keeping the rich history of opera alive in the modern era. Since its founding back in 1971 (when it was known as the Tucson Opera Company), the company has produced over 200 operas and concerts.

In the upcoming season, look forward to performances of “The Falling and the Rising,” “Tosca,” “The Sound of Music,” and “The Magic Flute.” The Arizona Opera also created an original opera called “The Copper Queen,” which debuted in January of 2019 and was made into a feature-length film.  

Fun fact: Arizona Opera has produced Richard Wagner’s German opera “Ring Cycle” twice—an achievement that only four other companies in North America have accomplished. 

Ballet Arizona

Multiple theater locations

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Founded in 1986, Ballet Arizona is a professional ballet company that is made up of about 30 dancers. The dancers are under the direction of noteworthy choreographer Ib Anderson. Anderson was a principal dancer who was led by George Balanchine—largely considered to be the father of American ballet—and danced with the New York City Ballet for more than a decade. Anderson joined Ballet Arizona as the artistic director in 2000.

According to its website, Ballet Arizona is dedicated to celebrating classical dance while also showcasing innovative works. In the next few months, the company is performing “Cinderella,” “Giselle,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Contemporary Moves.”

Don’t miss: Ballet Arizona is also home to a dance school where pre-kindergarteners to senior citizens can take classes. 

Heard Museum  

2301 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix 

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An assortment of Yup’ik masks made by Alaskan Natives are displayed at the Heard Museum, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Phoenix. Nearly 64 years after his death, French artist Henri Matisse has become one of the few non-Native Americans to have an exhibition at the Heard Museum dedicated to Native culture. The little known intersection of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists and the Inuit people is at the heart of a show opening Monday at the Heard Museum. “Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit” will feature Matisse portraits, which have not been displayed in the U.S., and masks made by Alaskan Natives who influenced Matisse.
An assortment of Yup’ik masks made by Alaskan Natives are displayed at the Heard Museum, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Phoenix. Nearly 64 years after his death, French artist Henri Matisse has become one of the few non-Native Americans to have an exhibition at the Heard Museum dedicated to Native culture. The little-known intersection of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists and the Inuit people is at the heart of a show opening Monday at the Heard Museum. “Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit” will feature Matisse portraits, which have not been displayed in the U.S., and masks made by Alaskan Natives who influenced Matisse. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Central Phoenix’s Heard Museum is dedicated to preserving Native American art. The museum includes 12 galleries, outdoor sculpture gardens, a contemporary art gallery, and a shopping center.

Signature exhibitions at the indoor/outdoor museum include “Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories,” “American Indian Veterans National Memorial,” and “HOME: Native People in the Southwest.” As part of HOME, see 500 Hopi katsina dolls and more than 2,000 items, including pottery, baskets, textiles, and beadwork. The museum also offers rotating exhibitions.

From now until Oct. 31, see unique native American jewelry made before World War II as part of the “Southwest Silverwork” special exhibition. 

When to visit: The Heard Museum offers free admission every first Friday of the month (except in March) from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Musical Instrument Museum or MIM Center 

4725 E. Mayo Blvd. in Phoenix 

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jacob porumb, jonathan porumb, emily porumb
Jacob Porumb, 5, left, listens to Elvis Presley music, along with his sister Emily Porumb, 3, middle, and twin brother Jonathan Porumb, 5, of Surprise, Ariz., as Elvis Presley’s last guitar he played live in concert, far right, is on display now at the Musical Instrument Museum Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Phoenix. The 1975 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar is the one Elvis played during his 1977 tours, including his last concert on June 26, 1977, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Founded by former CEO of the Target Corporation, Bob Ulrich, the Musical Instrument Museum or MIM Center is dedicated to musical instruments and is one of a kind.

On the first floor, guests can see a plethora of artifacts from famous musicians. See items like Elvis Presley’s and Johnny Cash’s guitars and Roberta Flack’s 1922 Steinway piano in the Artist Gallery. The first floor is also home to an Experience Gallery where you can even play a handful of instruments. Peer inside an expansive window to watch as staff preserve instruments in the Conservation Lab. The first floor also hosts a special exhibition like a retrospective on Woodstock’s 50th anniversary. Upstairs, visitors can check out 4,300 musical instruments on display that are from all over the world. 

Don’t miss: Seeing a show at the MIM Music Theater, the museum’s 300-seat music venue that hosts more than 200 artists annually. Fittingly, the acoustics are superb. 

Phoenix Art Museum 

1625 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix 

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For more than 60 years, the Phoenix Art Museum in Central Phoenix has brought world-class art to the Southwest.

The sheer diversity of art here is impressive. The museum houses more than 20,000 objects from all over the world in its permanent collection. Highlights include the Thorne Rooms that replicate interior design from centuries ago, photography, modern art, fashion and Western art.

One interactive art exhibition includes “Fireflies.” Step inside this mirrored room where you’re immersed in a room filled with LED lights that change colors and brightness. It’s mesmerizing.

From now until Dec. 4, see bright, colorful paper dresses that were a fashion trend as part of “Generation Paper: Fast Fashion of the 1960s.” 

When to visit: Every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., the museum participates in Pay What You Wish Wednesdays. On the first Friday of the month, from 3 to 9 p.m., general admission is free as part of First Fridays. Special exhibitions require tickets. 

Pro tip: You’ll want to purchase tickets online to avoid a $2 surcharge you’ll incur if you buy tickets on-site. 

Taliesin West

12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. in Scottsdale 

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While this one is more like metro Phoenix rather than Phoenix proper, we had to include it. Iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright called Scottsdale’s Taliesin (pronounced “tal-e-s-en”) West his winter home for over two decades until his death in 1959.

The home was built entirely by Wright and his apprentices and is touted as being one of the American architect’s most personal creations. Wright crafted the home using desert masonry or “local rock set in wooden forms and bound by a mixture of cement and desert sand,” according to its website. The property has deep historical roots. Taliesin is even a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Today, this site serves as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Guests can learn more about this place via guided or audio tours where tour-goers can learn more about the design of individual spaces like Wright’s offices, private living quarters, and theaters. Note the use of the color red located throughout.

Even if you’re not an architecture buff, Taliesin is worth your time. There simply is no other place like it on Earth. Plus, the sweeping views of Scottsdale with Wright’s unique architecture framing them are breathtaking. 

Pro tip: If you’re looking to experience the property in a different way, Taliesin features a variety of programming, including yoga classes, guided hikes, and Friday night movies, among other offerings.

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