Local artists inspire alongside Mirazozo at the Mesa Festival of Creativity

The bright, blue skies are blanketed today with leftover rainclouds from the weekend. They are the kind of clouds that look like pillow stuffing. They have flat bottoms and, in their journey across the sky, they take on the shapes of animals and objects. The wind beneath them is cold, a reminder of yesterday’s blustery rain and wind. You will never hear me complain of the rain, even if it did feel at times like I was Sisyphus trying to push a boulder through the streets of Phoenix last night.

Sisyphus carrying his burden.

Today, however, the clouds seem content to be their billowing selves, keeping their nurturing rain tucked into their folds. They lope sloth-like through the skies, inspiring all kinds of imaginings to those whose eyes roam skyward and on into daydreams. It is their presence, and that of the accompanying cold wind, that has me hunched over my coffee mug today, doing some daydreaming of my own about adventures had on the weekend before the storms rolled in.

It's coffee time! Second cup, please!

If you have read previous posts of this blog, then you know Hubby and I were alerted to a grand event happening in Mesa over last week–the Festival of Creativity at the fantastic Mesa Arts Center. This festival itself was free and included artistic expressions in several forms, including music and interactive art pieces. Mirazozo was one of the main attractions of the festival, but to get in visitors paid a nominal fee of $5 per person. It was an impressive architectural sculpture made out of thin sheets of colored plastic, and brought to life with air.

Hubby and I went to the festival on Friday night. On the music stage was Tobie Milford, a violinist whose music rolled up and over the exhibits in gentle waves. The sounds were like a benediction. It’s not enough, though, for me to describe it for you. Tobie Milford must be heard to understand his talent. Below is a video to give you a little taste of what it was like to walk around this festival with his looping violin and milky voice mixing with the creative energy in the air:

All along the lane that was set up for the festival there were interactive exhibits. There was a large Lego cactus being built by anyone who wanted to participate. Visitors built smaller pieces and the artists banged them into place on the cactus. Looking closely, one could see the artistic spirit of the community at large. We found a Space Invader among the bright Lego colors. Do you see it in the photo below?

Attendees at the festival were invited to help build a 10-foot tall cactus made out of Legos. Anybody see the Space Invader in the cactus? (Photo by M Dryja.)

As we walked on, we saw a juggler tossing large, illuminated yoyos and bowling pins into the air and catching them with ease. There were long sticks that looked like the big brothers of desert plants rooted into containers. When pushed, the plants made music. One structure looked like a giant, neon agave plant, but when we touched it, we discovered it was made out of pool noodles. Art was projected up onto the blank walls of surrounding buildings and white shade sails overhead. The light from the projections spun before and over us as another artist, perched on a scaffolding, took pictures of people interacting with the art below.

Agave plant made out of pool noodles. The sign on the container invites visitors to touch it. (Photo by M Dryja.)
Illuminated images spun over a blank wall. It was hard to capture how grand and vivid it was, but I did manage to grab a phrase from it: "The Desert is my Playground." That seemed to be a theme for the festival.

A favorite piece for both of us was the video wall where passersby became the art. As we walked by, a camera caught our silhouettes and projected them on the wall of the Contemporary Art building. When we moved, the projections moved, and then divided and flipped, and suddenly, what was two images of our silhouettes became four and six and upside down. It brought out the kid in everyone who passed by. Old men with canes were trying to make the projections more outlandish than before. Kids were hopping up and down to make the images jump.

Hubby raised his arms and created images that split off, flipped over, and danced across the wall.
A family from very young to what looked like grandparents got involved in creating art on the wall.

We also took the opportunity to walk through the Contemporary Art Museum, another free experience. A lot of the artists in that museum are from the area. It was a good reminder to see how talented people in the Phoenix area are. I have known that for a while, given the number of art walks and festivals held each month in various cities in the metro area, but this was a permanent reminder to the the community at large. Sadly, I was not able to take pictures inside the museum, but the building and surrounding gardens were works of art on their own, so Hubby and I took lots of photos of the outside.

Lighted glass structures are on permanent display in the garden outside the Contemporary Art Museum. (Photo by M Dryja.)
The entire Mesa Arts Center plaza is rather impressive with contemporary architecture, creative landscaping, and the way it is lit.

I’m sorry to admit that we were not originally there for those local artists. We were there for Mirazozo. The reason I did not start this article with Mirazozo, however, is because, although it is larger and more well-known than the others we saw, I was just as impressed by some of the exhibits produced by local talent, and they deserve to be showcased. For instance, just outside Mirazozo’s luminarium was a group of pictures created by local chalk artists. It was impressive to see the depth of color and detail they could get over the stubbly, bumpy blacktop of the parking lot.

One of our favorite images by the chalk artists, a desert tortoise. Hubby claimed that's what he looks like in the morning before his first cup of coffee.
One of the groupings of chalk art.
The chalk art from another vantage point.

As for the main exhibit, Mirazozo, it’s hard to describe what it is, exactly. It sort of feels like part bounce-house, part cathedral. The walls are made of thin sheets of plastic, so thin that they are flexible and feel like fabric. Air is pumped into the structure and light from outside filters through stripes and designs to create a stained-glass effect.

Hubby explores Mirazozo.
Hubby is dazzled. And maybe a little dazed.

The structure is laid out very much in the way a cathedral or basilica might be, with little transepts off to the side and a central nave in the middle. In fact, the structure of Mirazozo actually reminded me of that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The layout of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Layout of Mirazozo.

Reading more about Mirazozo, I learned that it was “inspired by the beauty of natural geometry and by Islamic architecture.”

We were there because friends had told us that it was a sight to behold. This big, silver bubbly structure that sat in the parking lot promised to dazzle us with its colors. It was astounding to consider the immense size of the thing, how it was made, and how it was held together, as all that air pushed in to give it life.

Mirazozo from the outside looks much like a Middle Eastern circus tent. Apparently, the small domes and repetitious forms found in the bazaars of Iran inspired the design of Mirazozo. (Photo by M Dryja.)

Inside, it was sacred and psychedelic. People lounged on parts of the floor that poofed up where the walls met the ground. I couldn’t help but think of stoned hippies seeing them lounge barefoot like that so peacefully. It’s not something you see at most art exhibits, but it also didn’t feel out of place either. We were all barefoot so as not to damage the plastic flooring. (In fact, the inside did smell a bit like feet.) Still, whatever it was–the lighting, the music by David Bickley bouncing off the soft walls, the muffled whispers–it was an easy place to be, relaxing and a little mind-altering.

Inside were tunnels which led to other rooms and nooks.
Spidery lines curved and angled across the ceiling.
A little girl looks around as Hubby posed in front of a green "tree".
More lines trumpet out from the ceiling.

Below is a slideshow with far more pictures from Mirazozo and the Festival of Creativity. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, relax, and enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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