Living and working in Mesa, Arizona has often been a trip to the Wal-Mart or Superstition Shopping Center as you can find almost anything you want or need between the two stores. Mesa is a large city bragging a population of over 400,000 people. It is the third largest city in Arizona and growing. Modernized with rapid transit systems e.g. railway transits and modern environmental friendly Metro busses, this city has it all. Primarily recognized as a retiree city for many and also a part time or seasonal home for those who live in the colder climates of our country, Mesa is a multicultural city that has much to offer even those who live here. Twenty miles east of Phoenix, this city is a Mormon established metropolitan which is evident by the large Mormon Temple located downtown.
Rarely did the two of us venture off into the deep heart of the downtown area as it was just never really thought of being exhilarating or even eye-catching since we drove down the main street almost daily and knew what every building looked like without any special interest. Being totally ignorant to its real natural beauty, we came face to face with the splendor of the downtown area when we decided that today was a great day to walk and look at the downtown stores up close and personal.
Walking a mere twenty minutes to the corner of the downtown blocks designated for both Mesa residents and tourist to enjoy, we began our sightseeing with the Mesa Contemporary Arts Center. The building, a segment shaped of contemporary art in designed with a style that is hard to describe but attractive just the same had wings that resembled the sails of a ship. Their shapes and layout had functionality attached to it as it was obvious as these “sails” provided shade for those who enjoyed walking the outdoor paths to the art center’s exhibits replacing the traditional shading or roofing used for such a purpose.
Surrounding the Mesa Contemporary Art Center were three museums and art galleries, we were in awe of the natural setting hidden so well from the city’s own residents unless they get out of their cars and walk the shaded corridors designed to keep you cool. Walking in a cool 73 degrees on this January afternoon, it would be wise to carry a bottle of water during the spring and the summer as the temperature in the summer reaches an average of 105 degrees and an average of 66 degrees in December. Be prepared for unseasonal heat waves or cold spells as we have experienced a few times but as a general rule, it is always acceptable for those who live in the desert sun.
The streets were clean and the traffic was light as we turned from Center to Main Street heading east. The architecture was modern but it had a flavor of traditional but not the colonial style type of designs. The theme was certainly contemporary and the buildings reflected those inferences as we strolled at a leisurely pace window shopping as we went. Reminiscent of the flavors found in other cities such as Scottsdale, or San Diego, but not quiet so, the designs of each and every store appear to be traditional in design with a light of prettiness that made you appreciate the mere existence of such fine art. The tall palm trees provided a background that was California style but the mood was relaxed and pleasant as strollers walked by with smiles and an occasional hello greeting you as if you were a tourist visiting the city. Walking around you will notice that the corners in some areas are decorated with date trees bearing the date fruit and sour citrus trees lining the sidewalks for a six block area.
Every corner had a street exhibit and every display had a message or explanation of its existence. All together, there are approximately 36 pieces of sculptured art displayed within the downtown block, indoors and outdoors. Each one is positioned so you could sit down on one of those green metal benches or stand there and admire the artist’s talent with a moment of relaxation and visual bliss. Impressed with the six foot tall bronze sculptured mother bear feeding her bear cub, it was certainly an impressive labor of love for the art. On the other side of the street was a giant bronze pig called “Big Charley Black” and further down the street going back to the north side of Main was a large sculpture called “Hot Bread” depicting a woman sitting on a bench sharing lunch with another figure dressed in a uniform and cap. The other sculptured figurines or shapes were just as interesting and attractive to enjoy as the streets are besieged with artists talent and works of energy to please those who appreciate art work. Surely, one must take the time to enjoy such a peaceful moment as we did when we decided to get off the couch and walk to a place we had traveled through at least a thousand times but never bothered to stop and relax.
This downtown district reflects and expresses the feelings of the artists that participated in the design and the shaping of both the buildings and exhibits so proudly displayed throughout the downtown neighborhood every day of the week. As an added flavor, there are “block parties” scheduled with special events every other Friday as all shops, cafes and businesses agree to remain open until late in the evenings so that shoppers can shop and tourists can come to enjoy themselves, listen to good bands or music. Without a doubt, as you take in the ambience of the vendors selling their arts and crafts along the sidewalks you must appreciate the essence of a genuine kind and polite scene in the middle of the Arizona desert.