The Mesa Arts Center

If this is your first time to the Mesa Arts Center you are going to be amazed at all the things for you.

There is a modern art museum, various art studios, a gift store, and the main theater building.

The main building actually is the roof for 4 different theaters.

The architecture is busy with interesting sights.

Look up and you can see the shade canopies.

Look down into the subterranean art museum and waterfalls.

Wander around and check out the water features that are so refreshing to watch. The sounds of splashing water seem to cool you. Here are the headwaters of the stream that winds through the center of the Arts Center:

Water Stream at the Arts Center

What happens at the theater building?

The Mesa performing arts here are spectacular! For example, you can see Shakespeare played in the theaters by the Southwest Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare plays are best in a smaller venue so you can hear what the actors say on the stage.

And the Mesa Arts Center main theater building houses 4 theaters ranging from very large to very small intimate theaters. The theaters are excellent for plays and performing arts depending on the size of the audience.

What goes on inside the Art Studios?

Want to make your own art? Curious about wheel ceramics, blowing glass, or drama? Here's what you can discover at the Art Studios.

Where is the art museum?

There is a modern art museum called the Mesa Contemporary Arts. It’s mostly below ground level so you only see what's on top. Like an iceberg.

You can see unique and interesting structures and studios along with some artistic cacti landscaping and unique water features.

bubbling waterfallbubbling waterfall

Cactus with colorful glassCactus with colorful glass

What is a must-see event every year?
The Nutcracker Ballet in the Ikeda Theater

The main building actually houses a series of three theaters and a playhouse. The big one is the Ikeda Theater.

The Nutcracker 2007 was presented in the Ikeda Theater.

The Nutcracker at the Mesa Arts Center is a remarkable show. It’s one of those majestic holiday treats that will put a smile on your face and make you feel proud of the local talent.

You have been to theaters before, so what’s so special about this one?

It's close to home. The Mesa Arts Center is easy to get to if you live in the southeast valley. You don’t have to drive to Phoenix and hassle with the one way streets and crowds.

When you drive around Mesa downtown there are huge parking signs on the roads pointing you to easy parking.

You get the feeling this area wants to attract YOU, the customer.

We arrived at the Mesa Art Center about 15 minutes before the show, paid 5 bucks to park right behind the place, and got in with plenty of spare time. It’s that convenient.

The Ikeda Theater is resplendent with golden lacquered curved wood surfaces and copper guard rails, very nice to look at and the acoustics are spectacular. You can easily hear every pluck of a harp, the crisp “blaaat” of the brass instruments, and the haunting sound of the oboe.

Ikeda Theater InteriorIkeda Theater Interior

The 2007 season was the first year that the ballet was accompanied by a live orchestra.

You could see the conductor in the pit and maybe the tops of some of the bass cellos.

We thought the orchestra was made up of talent from part of the Phoenix Symphony. They were excellent. Well it turns out that the orchestra is the local Mesa Symphony Orchestra (formerly), now renamed the Symphony of the Southwest.

Seating in the Ikeda Theater is roomy. If you have long legs you can actually cross them and not even come close to banging the back of the chair in front of you! And when people have to walk by they can easily do so without you having to stand up or move out of the row.

The Ballet Etudes performed the Nutcracker Ballet

The Nutcracker Ballet is a spectacular experience highlighting the talents of some local ballet dancers. You might assume they were from some eastern city because of the level of talent. Oh, so you didn’t know they had ballet in Mesa? Neither did I.

What’s amazing is the ballet was actually part of a Mesa school of dance! The name of the school is Ballet Etudes.

You might remember how somber and stuffy some ballet shows can be. This isn’t one of them. The dancers actually looked like they were having a good time and smiled!

People make the Mesa Arts Center.

Think about it. Imagine if you were standing in the middle of the stage and there was no one there. Just you. A very lonely barn is all you have.

When you add people

-like these exciting dancers
-with the live symphony orchestra
-and courteous volunteer ushers
-watch great performers
-in a terrific theater
-next to a great art center
-with beautiful stage settings
-by talented artists

Then you get a wonderful experience that you will never forget.

The Nutcracker came with some fun pyrotechnics- a big cannon goes off with a loud bang and there are some flashes from other sources. There is a scene with a thick fog blanket that seems to drift off the front of the stage and into the orchestra pit.

Then when you think it can’t get any better they even had snow falling during one scene!

The Nutcracker comes and goes very quickly. The 2008 season will be in the Piper Repertory Theater in December but there are new shows at the Mesa Arts Center all the time. For tickets to the next show the phone number to the box office is (480) 644-6500. You can order online at

It's located right in the heart of Mesa at 1 East Main Street.

Return from Mesa Arts Center to Mesa Goodlife

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