Best Place to Map Out Your Desert Exploration 2015 | Arizona Room, on the second floor of Burton Barr Central Library | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

If your kind of adventure is somewhere off the beaten path (and out of social media range), then once you've packed your compass and flare kit, look no further than the resources in Central Library's Arizona Room. The gold mine of culture is packed with hidden treasures of Arizona's past and is home to a number of maps so rare that the library staff won't let anyone with a pen through the door (pencils only, please). In the collection: 7.5-minute topographic maps, aerial surveys of Phoenix dating back to 1968, a historic Sanborn map, and countless books on all kinds of surveys of the Arizona desert. And if you finish planning with time to spare, don't miss the giant map of Phoenix on the wall on the library's second floor, which offers a rare and historic look at the city we too often view through the lens of a smartphone.

When Lisa Sette Gallery in midtown Phoenix culled works for its "30 Years" exhibition in March, a C-print showing Matthew Moore's transformation of a piece of land into the likeness of a housing tract was among them. The Phoenix artist also is a fourth-generation farmer, and he reacted to news that his grandfather had sold family land in Surprise to a developer by replicating plans for its development using the land itself as his canvas and crops as his media, creating 253 houses with sorghum and making roads seeded in wheat. He's also used a hoe to make 8-foot-wide lines depicting the enlarged floorplan of single-family house using a 20-acre barley field as his canvas. His 2012 And the Land Grew Quiet, a 5,000-square-foot installation at the Phoenix Art Museum explored American cycles in agriculture and economics, and his 2014 talk for TEDxManhattan considered the ways art can change the way people eat. By merging art with farming, Moore fuels conversations about what Americans value, and ways this should be reflected in policy and practice.

Chances are you already know the work of Mike Olbinski and just don't realize it. If you've seen a breathtaking photo of a giant wall of dust about to overtake Phoenix amid the perfect lighting at dusk, or a haboob rolling into the city mirrored by pink clouds at sunset, you've seen Olbinski's creations. While most photos of our giant dust storms are interesting, this native photographer's shots are simply works of art. And his repertoire isn't limited to haboobs — any interesting weather formation captures his eye, and Olbinski in turn captures it at the perfect moment. When he isn't running around Arizona and nearby states chasing storms, Olbinski fills his time photographing portraits and weddings, which actually may not be too different from photographing storms.

Bougainvillea doesn't grow on the moon, but that didn't stop Phoenix artist Mary Shindell from imagining how the surface and texture of each relates to the other. The Sonoran Desert has defined her as an artist and an individual, according to Shindell's own artist statement. Shindell's work explores similarities between images of Earth captured from far away and images of desert plants taken at close range. Desert topography most people typically find dull became decidedly cool during Shindell's January 2015 "Inflection Point" exhibition at Five15 Arts on Roosevelt Row, which included a graphite and ink drawing merging the topography of the moon and the Estrella Mountains just southwest of metro Phoenix. Shindell's take on desert topography lends new perspective on the landscape of our lives.

Best Rumored Snack for Your Desert Plant

Bong water

In the category of "advice that should only be taken while stoned" comes a gem found in the depths of Internet forums: Feed your plants with bong water. From cacti and succulents to aloe and bathtub weed, a few pot enthusiasts have taken to the web to spread their knowledge, questions, and findings. A sample: "My friend was telling me how his buddy uses bong water for his indoor house plants and it makes them grow crazy," "Like would the plants that you water with it be like smaller and lazier?" "I was sure this wasn't true until I saw another thread on here. It said that pouring bong water on ur plant is good for it. I dont know what to think anymore because both sides of the argument have good reasons for doing each one." A few quick calls to local dispensaries and nurseries (who all wished to remain unnamed), yielded stifled laughs — and an overwhelming "no." Just pour it out, dude. Or give it a try. Only one way to find out for sure.

Farmland once sold to the federal government, which built the Phoenix Indian School (attended by 900 students in its heyday), since has been transformed into a thriving urban center of activity boasting indoor and outdoor performances spaces, dog parks, historical displays, open green areas, and covered ramadas. Three of the original buildings have been preserved, and the site also includes an American Indian Veterans Memorial. Now operated by the city of Phoenix, the park is used by multiple generations who enjoy walking, fishing, playing volleyball, and more. Paintings on 8-foot wooden panels done by local artists through a project spearheaded by Hugo Medina are installed facing the street along wrought-iron fencing around a portion of the park's perimeter. Like community gardens at the park, they're part of ongoing efforts by PHX Renews to activate a portion of the park that was previously a vacant lot. It's a fun place to hang out, a community gathering place that draws diverse visitors, and a testament to what's possible when people, organizations, and government collaborate for the mutual good.

Sometimes you have to leave a place to truly love it — and when you're gone for long enough, you may even start to miss it. Luckily, whether it's been a weekend or a few years, reminders of the desert are everywhere, and for a quick fix for the homesickness bug, all you'll need is Instagram — @desert_oasis, to be specific. While the Instagrammer stays relatively anonymous, his public profile provides a beautiful window into the desert. The photographer shoots only with his iPhone, promising to "let nature do the talking" while on kayak runs on Tempe Town Lake, walks through the Desert Botanical Garden, or hikes through Havasupai (often with his dog, @ladypahl). The composition is always perfect, the colors stunning, and the view purely home.

Looking for something fun and educational to do with your kids without melting in the summer heat? Try the Great Arizona Puppet Theater. This year-round venue offers multiple shows every weekday for a killer price: $7 for kids and $10 for adults. The theater has a whole genre of shows dedicated to teaching about life in the Arizona desert, and kids can learn about saguaros, water conservation, the giant condor, and other endangered species. It also makes a great field trip for elementary school classes, and their puppeteers will come to your home for a birthday party. Everything about this place screams fun and creativity: the puppets, stage, and props are superbly crafted, and the building itself is gorgeous with domed ceilings, exposed wooden beams, and a courtyard. Need we say more?

Whether you call them haboobs or just good ol' dust storms, when that giant wall of dust is headed your way, you're going to take notice. You either can take cover or, if you're bold, take out your camera. And if you want to take it to the next level with those haboob photos, we recommend taking a drive and staking out a spot on East Valle Vista Road. Turn north onto North Arcadia Drive off of Camelback Road at the base of Camelback Mountain, and take that seven-tenths of a mile to the second cutback. From there, you'll be able to see almost the entirety of the Valley (south of Camelback Mountain, of course). Pick your spot, set up your tripod, and watch those storms cover the city.

We spotted these feathered friends from afar just as spring was turning to summer — but there was no outdoor trekking required. Local artists Koryn Woodward Wasson and Jamie Chandler created a 10-part series of portal birds, multimedia collaborative artworks for the exhibition "Fireweather: The Dark Forest of Crystal Burn," which also included an installation by Roy Wasson Valle. The show took place in Tucson, but this flock of birds, a stunning combination of vibrant watercolors by Wasson and geometric embroidery work by Chandler, had us swooning over social media and wishing we could fly south. Each piece depicts a pair of mirrored birds: one from the Sonoran Desert and one from the fictional realm of Crystal Burn. We're still holding out hope that the art will migrate up to the Valley so we can get a closer look at those tail feathers.

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