Arizona Heritage Center

Writer: Lara Piu


Tucked in the heart of Papago Park’s ancient rocks is Arizona Heritage Center, where you can travel through time, gain a new appreciation of Arizona’s natural resources and enjoy desert views as you wander the grounds.

Home to Centennial Museum, the center celebrates more than 100 years of central Arizona history through its exhibits and programs. Now through early next year, it’s also home to the Phoenix Phabulous History Mural, a series of indoor murals that thoughtfully and creatively tell the story of Phoenix.

“The Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park is excited to welcome both patrons and new visitors to see the Phoenix Phabulous exhibition as part of the center’s vast collection of photos and displays telling the story of our Valley’s people and their dreams,” AZ Heritage Center director Tawn Downs says. “The local mural artists engaged with this collection are excited to meet the public and share their stories during five hosted presentations.”

Using large painted murals — 16 in total — the installation breaks the local history down into nine time frames, depicting the early Hohokam period through Phoenix’s imaginary future.

The collection was launched by native Phoenician and business leader Carole Poore in 2013. To date, the murals have traveled to more than 12 Valley public gallery spaces. With Hugo Medina as curator, they were created by 16 local artists, including Angel Diaz, Damian Jim, Katharine Leigh Simpson and Justin Queal. The artists combined major time periods with Phoenix events, landmarks, leaders, issues and urban legends, many of which are also reflected in other museum displays.

“The collection reflects commitment by talented local artists to learn about, and then illustrate the unique and dramatic story of Phoenix,” Poore says. “The murals create opportunities to show the fortitude it took to create a desert community, and our storytellers share fascinating personal stories about their connections to our city and aspirations for its future.”

A mural created by artist Darrin Armijo-Wardle offers a glimpse into the life of the city’s founding pioneers, water stewardship, and perseverance to build a community while surviving hot weather and periods of drought and floods.

Other murals feature the introduction of air conditioning, a shift from agriculture to industry after World War II, the development of Phoenix’s high-rises, the city’s emergence as a key player in the Southwest Metropolis, and the city’s higher education, bioscience and urban core revitalizations.

As part of the installation, the center will host a storytelling series that will feature authors, local artists, historians and Arizona celebrities. Several other special events and exhibits are also planned this year:

July 13: Sonoran Silver Exhibition: An exhibit celebrating the 25th anniversary of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Learn about this beautiful natural treasure through photos and displays.

October: Footprints on the Desert:Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona: An exhibition featuring Frank Lloyd Wright’s life and work in Arizona, and his lasting legacy. Exhibition developed in collaboration with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

October: Spirits and Spirits Festival: An outdoor festival featuring distilled spirits and a variety of spooky spirit-themed entertainment. Food trucks, local distillers, wineries and craft breweries, ghost stories and more!

January 18, 2018: Phoenix Phabulous: Closing reception featuring Phoenix News Celebrities.

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