It’s commonly understood that the best way to explore a new place is to go straight to the locals. Each week in the Urbanist, we take that wisdom one step further by seeking out not just locals but local experts — those who are especially well-versed in their cities’ newest and most noteworthy scenes — to give us insider recommendations. This week, we asked artist Julio César Morales, curator of the ASU Art Museum at Arizona State University, for his picks in Arizona’s capital city.
“I cannot tell you how beautiful and magical the light is when it reflects on the surrounding mountains of Phoenix. Visionary artists such as Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Fritz Scholder have been influenced and created phenomenal bodies of work after their time in Arizona. Phoenix itself is like a mirage. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and becoming more and more progressive. In the past five years, we have seen a shift in leadership within the valley museums in a good way. There are more diverse exhibitions at the once stuffy Phoenix Art Museum, Scottsdale Contemporary Art Museum, and Heard Museum. It’s not just white men painting shows.”
His Other Musts
“Flagstaff is just a gem and central point for departure to Grand Canyon or other Southwest destinations. It’s a two-hour drive away and always 25 degrees cooler than Phoenix. My favorite locations include the pristine Painted Desert, which goes from the Grand Canyon National Park to the Petrified Forest National Park, and the amazing Sunset Crater Volcano. I sometimes think the Grand Canyon is overdone and you can get a similar experience at Painted Desert and Crater Volcano that’s less crowded. At Crater Volcano, you can hike on the dormant lava on the Lava Flow Trail. Lava’s Edge Trail is another great hike. It’s about two miles each way — you walk up the volcano and back down. The Painted Desert has a phenomenal visitor’s center with a mini museum of fossils and artifacts and the views of the canyon are super breathtaking, all the colors.”