There are some pretty weird museums out there — including one dedicated to mustard in Wisconsin, a hair museum in Missouri, a salt and pepper shaker museum in Texas, and a museum of bad art in Boston. There's nothing quite that odd here in Phoenix, but we've still got plenty of interesting options.
Wednesday, May 18, is International Museum Day. It's been celebrated since 1977 as a way to highlight the role of museums in fostering cultural exchange, mutual understanding, and peace. You probably won't get a better grasp of hair or mustard by cruising the local museum scene, but you can still explore some intriguing stuff.
These six Valley museums are celebrating International Museum Day with free admission and/or activities on May 18, and we've got details to help you start planning.
Phoenix Art Museum
Get free admission all day long, and save 10 percent when you shop at the Phoenix Art Museum Store or dine at the museum's Palette restaurant. Normally admission is $15 per adult, so it's a nice bit of savings — although there's still a $5 per adult fee for special exhibitions, including "Phoenix Rising: The Valley Collects" and "The Ultimate Collection." Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and there's a free Make It! activity at 3 p.m. for visitors who want to create their own collage with a surrealistic twist. Alas, the 6:30 p.m. artist lecture with Teresita Fernández is already sold out. Current exhibitions feature everything from fashion to fish. While you're there, check out exhibitions showcasing local artists, including "Saskia Jorda: A Geography of Line."
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Get free admission for the week of May 16 at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can be among the first to see a new exhibition titled "Permanent Collection, Impermanent Museum," which gives visitors insights into the marks left behind by previous exhibitions and artworks. Museum hours are noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday; and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Admission is normally $7 for adults. While you're there, check out mural art by James Marshall (a.k.a. Dalek) and James Turrell's 2001 Skyspace titled Knight Rise — then make the short walk to see Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.
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ASU Art Museum
Admission is always free at ASU Art Museum, which is celebrating International Museum Day with a no-cost 30-minute tour of an exhibition titled "Participant: Photographs by Spencer Tunick from the Stéphane Janssen Collection" starting at 1:30 p.m. The exhibition features more than 20 works blending photography, installation, and performance — all drawn from the collection of Stéphane Janssen of Scottsdale, who has posed many times in Tunick photographs featuring small or large groups of nude bodies placed in diverse settings. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. While you're there, check out several additional exhibitions in various ASU Art Museum galleries.
Get two-for-one general adult or senior admission at the Heard Museum on International Museum Day, which will save you up to $18. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the museum is offering free tours that day. There's a Highlights of the Heard tour at 2 p.m., and tours of the museum's signature exhibition titled "Home: Native Peoples in the Southwest" at both noon and 3 p.m. While you're there, check out "Personal Journeys: American Indian Landscapes," which explores the unique relationship of American Indians with the land and its expression in art, or stroll the grounds to enjoy numerous outdoor sculptures.
Arizona Capitol Museum
Admission is always free at the Arizona Capitol Museum, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But you can't always show up and hear an expert panel talk about historic buildings. A 1 p.m. "Behind the Scenes at Historic Buildings" panel moderated by historian Jack August includes Alice Duckworth, Collection Manager at the AZCM; Jim McPherson, President, Board of Directors, Arizona Preservation Foundation; Michelle Reid, Executive Director of Heritage Square, site of The Rosson House; and Randall Schmidt, Professor Emeritus, ASU, who helped with the restoration work at the Capitol in the early 1980s. While you're there, check out exhibitions related to Arizona history and the democratic process.
Pueblo Grande Museum
Get free admission at Pueblo Grande Museum, which has been part of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department since 1929. The museum, which is located on a 1,500 year old archeological site left by Hohokam cultures, is both a National Historic Landmark and a Phoenix Point of Pride. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and adults will save $6 by hitting the museum on International Museum Day. The museum has three galleries, including one filled with Hohokam artifacts and history, and another designed for children. In the final gallery, the museum is currently showing "Desertscapes: Narrative Landscape Photography by Wayne Norton." Free gallery tours are offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.