We stopped in Scottsdale Arizona as it was on our way to other Arizona sites. Our main reason for stopping was to visit Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. And while we were there, we also checked out other things to do. But first, Taliesin West.
We have always been in awe of Frank Lloyd Wright and his architecture. What better place to learn more about him and his philosophy than here. Located in the foothills of Scottsdale, Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home. He built it in the late 1930s to escape Wisconsin winters and for health reasons and wintered here until he died. While here, he created an architectural school to teach his apprentices his architectural philosophy. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site that visitors can tour.
Wright designed this masterpiece out of local materials. He embedded his structures into the desert landscape, trying to preserve the environment as much as possible. He created buildings that fit into, rather than sitting atop the landscape, used local materials, and relied on natural light to the extent possible. As with many of his other buildings, he designed the interior furniture as well as the buildings themselves.
This wonderful tour takes you inside the house and studios and gives you insight into Wright and his philosophy.
You can find our overviews of Taliesin East, Wright’s mid-west summer home, studio, and school as well as several of the other Wright buildings that we have visited here.
This 13-acre art and architecture complex is located well outside the Scottsdale center. An art-loving architect purchased the land in the 1930s for $100 and began inviting aspiring artists to live and work rent-free in rooms on the property. The program expanded to take over the entire barn and a couple of other buildings that house and accommodate studios that today consist of more than 10 artists and 6 architects.
As you walk in, one of the artists will take you on a guided personal tour of the art complex and the studios, each of which is dedicated to different media and displays selected art.
- A carpentry studio is for furniture makers who have also made a small race car and a small plane;
- A blacksmith shop for metal artists;
- A pottery studio.
Other studios are adapted to the needs of the specific artists. They include jewelry, printmaking, pencil drawings, oil painting, acrylic, photography, and a discipline called needle felting in which the artist meticulously pulls bunches of dyed wool threads through fabric to create designs, some of which are two dimensional and others in which the wool extends beyond the surface, creating the impression of 3D.
Outside is an old VW bus in the center of a courtyard that appeared to have a number of interesting modifications. It was the home and studio of a peripatetic metal artist who drove around the country creating metal sculptures. He adapted the bus to suit his particular needs such as by adding a bed. He installed artistic touches on and throughout the bus. For example, he replaced the driver seat with a tractor seat, created a computer station in place of the passenger seat, and even created a pee pipe, which allowed him to urinate while driving.
And since we were in Scottsdale Arizona, we also spent some time in the town itself. Among the most interesting, at least to our tastes, included:
- Art District. The arts district is a two-block area in Old Town that is lined, wall-to-wall, on both sides of the street with galleries and interspersed with an occasional restaurant). We saw art that ranged from antiques to 19th century western to modern and contemporary, and most eras in between. Every Thursday night they have a nightly art walk, which they claim is the old continuous art walk in the country. While we were not there on a Thursday, we did have a pleasant time going into the galleries that were open.
- Historic Old Town. Scottsdale promotes the 9-block historic old town area as filled with art, dining, and nightlife. They forgot that historic and old suggests that it also has old historic buildings. Wrong. Or maybe they were hiding the old historic buildings on our trip. The oldest building we found was an adobe mission built in—get this—1933. While the pre-1950 buildings appeared to be limited to a small handful, the area did have an incredibly hot bar scene particularly on the Saturday afternoon we visited, a day which admittedly included several March Madness games.
- Museum of Contemporary Art area. This also turned out to be a bust, due to no fault of the museum. We were too late to make it into the museum before closing and thus were unable to see visual artist James Turrell’s “Knight Rise”—our primary reason for wanting to visit. Our plan to visit a nearby public culture garden was similarly derailed—this time because the park was being remodeled and public sculptures were temporarily removed.
Tempe is a short 9-mile drive from Scottsdale. As we happened to be in the area on the opening day of the Tempe Festival of the Arts we made a short detour to check it out. The juried event had more than 300 artists (chosen from over 500 applicants) who manned displays in tents spread across several central Tempe streets. Virtually all forms of art were represented: pencil sketches, pen and ink drawings, prints, oils, acrylics, photos, glass, textiles, and sculptures made from wood and metal—virtually everything except for audio, video, and digital which are impractical in this type of venue. We browsed through all the booths and even ended up buying a piece. And what is an outdoor art fair without food, wine, beer and spirits, and children’s section? A nice way to spend a few hours.
Our one meal in the area was dinner at The Salt Room. We started out at the bar while waiting for our table with a nice bucket of steamed Littleneck clams in dashi broth. Moving to our table, we shared entrees of very good fried Blue Point oysters and decent, but somewhat dry large, grilled shrimp. Both entrees came with a choice of potato (we both chose baked) and salads, where Tom was introduced to a very tasty, sinfully rich Francona dressing which consisted of spicy mayonnaise, tarragon, and a Sap Sago Swiss cheese. While we were disappointed by the wine selection (delivery problems resulted in their being out of the one wine we hoped to enjoy with dinner), we did end up with a 2019 Mer de Soleil Silver (a light, unoaked chardonnay) which worked with our food.
Courtyard Old Town. The only reason to stay here is for the location as it is a few walking blocks to Old Scottsdale. Other than that, the hotel does little to spoil its guests. Parking is $12 even though city parking is free nearby. No freebies like breakfast. The rooms are OK but nothing special. Toilets are the older ones that are very low to the ground. No USB ports by the bed. The hairdryer is an older cheap model. OK, so the hotel is penny-pitching in spite of what seems to be a fairly expensive room. But it also doesn’t cost a hotel anymore to have friendly staff. The front desk personnel did us a favor to check us in. We can only imagine what people without a lot of Marriot status run into. Next time we will find another place.