/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on January 12, 2010 at 6:18 am
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Stroll Through Scottsdale’s Civic Center Mall

There’s nothing better than setting out to do something new and ending up finding more of an adventure than you anticipated. This happened to me when I went to see Unexpected Wegman, an exhibit of William Wegman’s, known for his photographic portraits of Weimaraner dogs, at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.


The Yearlings, a sculpture in Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.

in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art or SMoCA (map) as referred to by locals, was founded in 1999. This is a small museum with five galleries dedicated to presenting exhibitions on contemporary and modern art, architecture, and design.

Another great building designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, the architect who designed the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, SMoCA is minimalist in design and actually a renovation of a former movie theater.

Unexpected Wegman on view through January 24 offers a variety of whimsically portrayed subjects in different media —from prints, to flipbooks, to video. He has taken his wildly popular photographs of Weimaraners and hand drawn images around them. I believe it’s his light-hearted approach that makes these animals more human. For instance, in one of his famous images of his dog Man Ray he draws images around the dog to make him look like a painter with an easel and paintbrush, another a fisherman in a vest holding his pole and still another version of the dog as a basketball player in uniform.

For kids, they’ve set up an area where they can write a cinquain, a five-line poem that describes a person, place, or thing. There are also pictures of animals with glass over the photos so kids can take the colored markers provided and draw on the glass. I saw sunglasses on a tiger, a hat on an ostrich and a mustache on a pig. It’s their chance to use their creativity and make a quirky design like Wegmans.

Strolling Around the Plaza
Once I left SMoCa I wasn’t really sure what to do. I already knew that the museum is right across from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (map) a great venue for different types of theatrical plays, music and dance, but typically you only visit the center when you have tickets for a particular performance.

I decided to walk around the Civic Center Mall, (map) which I now know is over 21 acres of beautiful open space. It’s home to the Scottsdale City Hall, Civic Center Library, Police and Court buildings and the convention bureau. But more importantly, it is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and see different sculptures, flower and cactus gardens and fountains. There’s a lagoon with swans and an outdoor amphitheater where many performers and special events take place.

            stroll_fountains    stroll_bischoffs

Speaking of special events, on Saturdays, the Civic Center Mall hosts the Old Town Farmer’s Market. Browse the market for unique gifts and local produce and sample tons of specialty food, many Arizona made. Considered to be one of the best farmer’s markets in The Valley, I can see how the location is ideal for shopping at the many boutiques and galleries surrounding the Mall.

Starting this month, Sunday A’Fair is a free afternoon mini-festival that offers concerts and performers by local entertainers, arts and crafts for sale and docent-guided tours of the sculptures on the Mall. It’s not uncommon to see people picnicking on the lawn. If you’re not able to bring your own snacks, Arcadia Farms has a booth to sell food and beverages.

It sounds a bit like what is depicted in A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, a painting by George Seurat. Sunday A’Fair is scheduled for certain Sundays of the month, so check their site for specifics.  I’m looking forward to returning for one of these events.

Restaurants and Shops Galore!
There are small specialty shops, galleries and a variety of restaurants that will appeal to anyone in your group. I recommend having a brew, either a microbrew or a cup of java at Orange Table Café.

Patio of AZ88

Patio of AZ88

A great little place to kickback and enjoy a large variety of microbrews, wine and cocktails. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. This would be a great place to have a beverage before or after a show at the Performing Arts Center.

If you’re interested in a little fancier fare, you’re in luck. Because of my stroll, I found Pepin’s an authentic Spanish restaurant that features live Flamenco dancers and Salsa dancers, the very trendy AZ88 that I’m dying to try and Pure, a not-so-average sushi place. This is Pure’s second location in Scottsdale. I’ve been to their other location and they’ve got a great menu and some specialty rolls that are sure to please any sushi lover.

I had no idea these restaurants were tucked back in this area. I can’t wait to see another performance so I can take advantage of one of these great restaurants.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
As I continued walking, I found the Scottsdale Historical Museum and wonderful courtyards. I also noticed the very contemporary building designs blended in with the traditional Southwestern stucco and brick. I envy the people who work in the surrounding office buildings. With all the courtyards, picnic areas and open lawn, they have endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

          stroll_citybldg    stroll_courtyard

The Mall deadheads into Main Street which is the area’s Arts District. Even more galleries, souvenir shops and restaurants take over this area. It’s a haven for tourists with the Scottsdale Trolley and horse carriage rides taking passengers to various spots around Old Town.

I guess the moral of the story is that you never really know what’s right in front of you unless you explore it further. With the best weather of the year from now till May, I look forward to exploring more unknown gems around Phoenix. It’s a fantastic way to be a tourist in your own town.

7374 East Second Street, Scottsdale

Directions to SMOCA

$7 Adults
$5 Students
FREE 15 and under
FREE on Thursdays

Summer Hours:
(May 26 – September 7)
Closed Monday and Tuesday

FREE Thursday
closed on major holidays

Fall and Winter Hours:
Closed Mondays
FREE Thursday
10 AM – 5 PM

The museum is located near the corner of Drinkwater Blvd. & 2nd Street, adjacent to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Take advantage of the free parking garage on the

Related places:
  1. A
    Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
    View Details and Book
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