Mesa Arts Center

Even the cheap seats are great at this award-winning theater complex, the largest in Arizona.

Mesa Arts Center, the state’s largest visual arts complex, is home to five galleries, four theaters and 14 studios. The center’s cultural activities include theatrical and musical performances, art exhibitions and classes.

This cultural hub of three buildings was created in 2005 in a remarkable architectural complex in the heart of Mesa. According to the architects, the jagged angles, glass walls, colored glass canopies, colors and materials are a reflection of the character of the Sonoran Desert. The complex itself is more like an oasis, with plenty of trees, exotic gardens and water features.

Although the program is ever changing, the focus of the arts center is constant: to inspire audiences with engaging cultural experiences that are diverse, relevant and accessible. In 2012, the Mesa Arts Center received prestigious recognition from the International Association of Venue Managers with a “Venue Excellence Award.” Its service to the community is what made it beat the famous Sydney Opera House in Australia in the finals.

From an intimate 99-seat theater to a huge theater with 1,600 seats, the venue’s theaters are as diverse as its performances. You can book seats for classical and popular music, dance, comedy and family shows. Head to the studios for art classes. The center’s exhibition space is divided into five galleries that showcase the work of up-and-coming and established artists in painting, sculpture and ceramics.

Allow some time to stroll along the “Shadow Walk,” a promenade in the center’s inner courtyard. It was designed to best display the shadow patterns created by foliage, trellises and overhead canopies under the intense sunlight of the desert. Occasional performances, lunchtime concerts and exhibits are presented here.

Situated in downtown Mesa, the arts center is 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Phoenix, south of the Salt River, which is a 40-minute drive. It is open every day. There is no evening program, but your ticket includes a discount at many surrounding restaurants as part of the Eats + Arts initiative.

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