Originally founded in 1987 as the tourism arm of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, Experience Scottsdale became a standalone organization in 2001. The organization has more than 40 full- and part-time employees, along with a volunteer board of directors composed of local hospitality and tourism industry leaders.
Located in Scottsdale's popular Old Town district, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) features the most compelling modern and contemporary art, architecture and design from around the globe. Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA's minimalist building (an ingenious renovation of a former movie theater) includes a public "skyspace" by the acclaimed artist James Turrell (one of only a handful in the world), where visitors can experience the ever-changing light of the desert sky. SMoCA also presents a wide variety of changing exhibitions, educational programs, docent-led tours and special events for adults and families.
If you’ve been exploring old Town Scottsdale, you may have noticed the translucent curved glass wall that marks the museum’s entrance, designed by James Carpenter Design Associates. The building by Phoenix-based architect Will Bruder, who also designed the Henkel headquarters here in Scottsdale, was intended to compliment the adjacent Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and completed in 1999. It features four galleries and a multi-use space called the SMoCA Lounge.
The area inside the glass wall is the museum's sculpture garden, which is free and open when the museum is open. What you find inside may not be what you expect when you hear “sculpture”-- a tall, oval-shaped structure that visitors can enter. The dome-like ceiling features an oval-shaped opening through which visitors can observe the sky. The opening frames the sky like a picture frame, and contains colored lights which can shift the viewer’s perception of the sky’s color (the best time to see this is sunrise or sunset.) This is “Knight Rise,” a 2001 piece by Arizona-based artists James Turrell, one of a handful of “sky spaces” he’s built around the US and Europe. Turell is also known for an unfinished project he began in 1970s, transforming an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, New Mexico into a huge sky observatory.
The museum is part of Arts Scottsdale, a non-profit that also curates over 100 sculptures and public art pieces around town. For serious urban explorers, they offer “Cycle The Arts,” a 10-mile bike tour of the collection.
Cover image: Experience Scottsdale.