Even amid Light Rail construction, Main Street in Mesa has proved a popular place for many years now, thanks to local attractions including Mesa Arts Center, Second Friday art walks, a self-guided sculpture walk, and an assortment of shops. Most recently, new public art has taken shape — from Jake Early prints installed temporarily as part of IN FLUX (they're no longer there) to large-scale art installations along the Light Rail route that opens soon.
The Central Mesa Light Rail Extension opens on Saturday, August 22, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the morning and street fair that night. Early birds can hit the ribbon-cutting scheduled for 8 to 9 a.m. at the Center/Main Street station, then stick around for celebrations happening from 9 a.m. to noon at four new Light Rail stations. The Main Street Night Market – which includes live music, art exhibits, food trucks, and more – runs along Main Street from 6 to 10 p.m.
Basically, it is your big chance to do a 14-hour Mesa marathon, or dip into morning and evening happenings that strike your fancy.
The 9 a.m. to noon lineup includes activities and entertainment at four light rail stations, each sporting a different theme for the morning. It’s “Discover Education” at the Alma School/Main Street station, where you’ll find live music, family entertainment, and learning activities. You can “Discover Culture” at the Country Club/Main Street station with international music, crafts, and family activities. “Discover Downtown” offerings at the Center/Main Street station include an arts and crafts festival, live music, a farmers market, and selfie station. And “Discover History” offerings at the Mesa Drive/Main Street station include a historical display, carnival games, and food trucks.
Each station is home to an impressive piece of art commissioned nearly five years ago, for amounts ranging from $245,000 to $255,000. You'll find Emergence by Daniel Martin Diaz at the Alma School/Main Street station and Ed Carpenter's Mesaflora at the Country Club/Main Street station. Ralph Helmick's Drawing Room is located at the Center/Main Street station, and Mary Lucking's piece inspired by generations of storytelling is situated at the Mesa Drive/Main Street station.
We’re eager to see selfie stations created by local artists Kyllan Maney and David Quan, the Brooklyn artist with Phoenix roots known to many as Luster Kaboom. We spotted Maney painting a Mesa-theme selfie station Sunday morning, and learned she’s created another two that will be set somewhere along the light rail route come opening day. Maney notes that Quan is creating nine selfie stations, mostly by repurposing artworks featured in his summer of 2013 "Luster Kaboom's FunHouse" exhibition at The Gallery at Scottsdale Civic Center Library, which had a carnival vibe (as did his "Sideshow" exhibition about a year ago for Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum).
You won’t be able to enjoy Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum on the Mesa Arts Center campus, because the museum is in summer closure mode until September 11. But look for other arts and culture happenings at MAC that day — including the creation of an arts installation in celebration of the center’s 10th anniversary. Maney says she’ll be working on the piece at a tent placed on the southeast corner of the MAC campus, adding that community members are free to stop by and watch or participate in the art-making. Maney also suggested folks look for local artists selling works near the MAC Store located next to the museum. Also watch for outdoor performances by MAC resident companies.
A trio of other museums are offering free admission during morning hours on August 22. Free hours are 9 a.m. to noon that day at the i.d.e.a. Museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Mesa Historical Society, which has exhibits on the Cactus League and The Wallace and Ladmo Show, has free hours from 10 a.m. to noon. It's been relocated to 51 East Main Street.
The i.d.e.a. Museum is currently showing an exhibition titled “Once Upon a Time,” which includes about 45 works of art by 11 artists working in diverse media such as painting, found object assemblage, blacksmithing, printing, heraldry, photography, digital art, blown glass, and more. Featured Arizona artists include JeriLyn Alderman, Meghan Mitchell, and Deborah McMillion Nering. Artists from several additional states — as well as Belgium, England, and Germany — are also represented.
The Main Street Night Market is filled with local artisans, craftspeople, makers, artists, musicians, and performers, and it kicks off at 6 p.m. The free event features music by 10 bands and DJs, two group art exhibitions, and more than 50 vendors with wares that include clothing, jewelry, books, comics, home accessories, and more. Practical Art, a popular destination during Phoenix First Friday art walks, will be there as well.
Twenty artists are scheduled to unveil “mini-murals” created on wood panels during the Main Street Night Market. They include Beth Allen, Jared Aubel, Jesse Boyle, Steve Caballero, Dave Carender, Aaron Coleman, Brian Davidson (Fin), Kyllan Maney, Mike Marinello, Mark Matlock, Aaron Motley, David Osowski (DSKI one), Erin Peters, Mando Rascon, Brandon Reichard, Carson Smith, Melody Smith, Lupita Villa, Rod Whitesinger, and Ryan (TheEarwig22). Several students from New School for the Arts & Academics in Tempe, where Maney is Head of the Art Department, created works as well.
At dusk, there's a free screening of the 1969 Japanese film Attack of the Monsters: Gamera vs. Guiron, in which aliens transport two boys to their planet and a girl left behind has a hard time getting people to believe she’s seen their flying saucer. It's being shown outdoors at the Sliver Lot, located at 219 West Main Street, and it's a bring-your-own-chair affair. It's easy to spot on the south side of the street if you look for the way-finding sign planted inside an industrial drum painted with Steven Spielberg's E.T. character.
Four food trucks are rolling up to Macdonald Drive for the Main Street Night Market — including Burgers Amore, Circle R Farm, ONe TRUe LOVe, and Queso Good. Benches dotting Main Street make convenience places to sit and eat, but think about heading over to Mesa City Center if you'd rather stroll while you munch. It's home to a cool timeline with plaques detailing key moments in Mesa history — including the advent of automobiles, advances in civil rights, and various art offerings.
If you’re spending the full day in Mesa, you’ll find plenty to do in between official celebrations. Check out the building painted to look like a funhouse, an Arizona-theme mural by Phoenix artist Hugo Medina, and a new Mesa-theme mural we spotted Lauren Lee painting Sunday morning in a courtyard along Main Street. Get the sculpture walk map online, and explore offerings that include a giant pink armchair and a floral-adorned stiletto sandal.
You can explore three works of Mesa public art located at Mesa Arts Center — including Beth Galston's Color Walk, Ned Kahn's Fragmented Landscape, and Catherine Widgery's Light Storm — and find additional public art at various Mesa bus stations. Or show some local love for shops and eateries that endured years of light rail construction, including Lulubell Toy Bodega and Queen’s Pizzeria – where you can dine amid local artwork including another Mylan mural with a Mesa map vibe.