Museum of the West: Art, Artifacts and Architecture

Scottsdale, “The West’s Most Western Town,” also boasts True West magazine’s 2018 Reader’s Choice winner of the nation’s Best Western Museum

There’s a timeless fascination for the American West of the post-Civil War era endlessly romanticized in movies and ballads and art.

Celebrate a goodly selection of those movies with a visit to Scottsdale’s Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Displayed through September 16 from the museum’s permanent Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History is the inaugural exhibition of more than 100 Western film posters and lobby cards — dating from the 1890s to the mid-1980s. Rotating exhibitions will feature others of the 5,000 items that memorialize the cowboys, Native Americans and history of the movie industry as well as the power of the West’s cultural legacies. Other movie posters, lining the walls of the orientation theater, help set the mood for the short video presentations on the art and history. 

Fine art is a strong focus throughout the museum, starting outside its doors with statues that include Diamond Bloom by contemporary artist Curtis Pittman. Paintings and bronzes of iconic Western images by premier artists include Thomas Moran, Alfred Jacob Miller, Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. Vintage photos by noted photographer Edward S. Curtis are wonderful examples of “gold tone” prints in addition to adding to the historical record of their time.

While the art also expresses history, other items expressly represent historical events. These include a presentation-style pipe tomahawk that belonged to Captain Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and artifacts associated with explorer Kit Carson.

Other memorabilia of the West fill the 43,000-square-foot, architecturally awarded building. Showcased within a set straight out of an old Western movie is everything from hats to spurs, including chaps in amazing textural variety, sheriff’s badges and handcuffs, saloon gambler paraphernalia, and a seeming forest of saddles. 

Check your knowledge of famous people as you, first, peruse the faces greeting you along the Heritage Gallery — and then refer to their bios provided behind the photos. 

Interactive pieces include creatively themed games, such as a Chutes & Ladders, Western landscape version, that contribute to the museum’s goal of immersing guests in the essence of the American West. Already an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West will gain additional resources through its recent partnership with Arizona State University. 

Scottsdale’s Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale
(480) 686-9539

A Sampling of Current Special Exhibitions

Western Edge: Humor and Playfulness in Contemporary Western Art
Through Sept. 9, 2018
Presented in partnership with the Scottsdale Gallery Association, this exhibition features a selection of emerging artists of the Greater Western region who are pushing the boundaries of contemporary art. (Located in the Derek Earle Emergence Gallery)

The Art of Joe Beeler: A Western Original
Through Oct. 28, 2018
This major retrospective exhibition pays tribute to Joe Beeler, a founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America, which is recognized as one of the most influential artists’ groups in the nation’s history. 

A Spotlight on Contemporary Hopi Ceramicists and Katsina Doll Carvers
Through Nov.  25, 2018
On exhibit for the first time, this exhibition showcases the remarkable artistry detailed in 59 ceramics and 11 katsina dolls by some of the most outstanding contemporary Hopi artists. 

Confluence of Cultures in the American West: A Selection of Contemporary Artists from the Peterson Collection
Through January 13, 2019
Themes include mountain men, Native Americans, cavalry and settlers, buffalo, and the friendship and tensions between mountain men and Native Americans. 


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