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The Short Version: Mesa Arts Center is a cultural hub located in the picturesque city of Mesa, Arizona. With several concert halls, a museum, and many art studio spaces, the center is a vibrant gathering place for art-loving people, couples, and families. Whether you and your special someone want to take in contemporary art or enjoy a concert, Mesa Arts Center is always working on new ideas to keep date night fresh. If you’re looking for an even more interactive outing, workshops that combine wine, dessert, and art-making provide everything needed for a perfect night on the town.
One couple celebrating their wedding anniversary decided to spend the evening taking in a concert at Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona. When the husband contacted the center to buy tickets to the show, he told the staff about his anniversary plans.
“The husband said, ‘My wife loves surprises,’” said Casey Blake, Mesa Arts Center’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
Instead of letting that comment go unnoticed, the Mesa Arts Center team saw it as a call to action. They put drink tickets in with the concert passes the couple picked up at will call, and everywhere the couple walked on the campus, staff members would call out “Happy Anniversary!” The couple certainly had a memorable evening, but creating unique experiences is what Mesa Arts Center is all about.
“Our team always aims to help people make memories and have special experiences here,” Casey said. “Almost everyone on our team is just as excited to see the exhibitions and performances as our guests.”
With so much enthusiasm from its staff, Mesa Arts Center has garnered a devoted following since it moved to its new campus in 2005. Though the center has been operating for decades, it hit its stride with the expansive, state-of-the-art new home. Mesa Arts Center houses four theaters for live performances, five galleries for visual art, and 14 studios for artists and classes.
With so much space, both locals and tourists come to celebrate special occasions, including birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries.
“Everyone here is passionate about making this a place you want to come back to again and again,” Casey said.
One reason Mesa Arts Center cares so much about its visitors is that the facility belongs to the public.
“The facility was funded by a quality of life tax through the City of Mesa. Essentially, we belong to our residents and visitors,” said Casey.
Mesa Arts Center presents a diverse range of performing artists, and hosts many types of shows each year. These include Broadway performances, classical music, dance, jazz, and a unique speaker series called National Geographic Live.
For example, on one three-night stretch in February, Mesa Arts Center hosted the Symphony of the Southwest, a resident company, folk singer Joan Osborne, and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti. Throughout any given year, Mesa Arts Center brings 60 and 80 live performances to Mesa.
Mesa Arts Center has plenty of live offerings for couples and daters who aren’t into concerts. Speakers, including scientists and writers, regularly entertain audiences at the Center, as do stand-up comedians. The Center also hosts plays nearly every month of the year.
“The art center presents something for all tastes. We have everything from comedy to the theater to pop concerts and beyond,” Casey said.
The Center can host many performances because its large complex contains four theater spaces that accommodate various audience sizes. The largest seats nearly 1,600 people, with its more intimate black box theater hosting crowds of up to 100. The other two theaters seat 550 and 200, respectively.
The center offers Mesa residents and visitors plenty of performances at discounted rates — or no cost at all.
“We offer a lot of free performances and experiences on a regular basis, including our Out to Lunch concert series,” said Casey.
K-12 students can attend shows tailored to them, including Performing Live for Students and National Geographic Live for Students. Mesa Arts Center engages with the Mesa community outside of the campus, as well. For example, its Classical Music Inside Out series brings cellist Zuill Bailey to schools for a Classical Music 101 presentation.
As part of the center’s mission to make art accessible to everyone, its Contemporary Art Museum aims to demystify artistic expression.
“People hear ‘contemporary art’ and think it’s not for them, but the works presented in the Museum are very relatable and take on current, relevant topics” Casey said.
Recent exhibits have focused on street art painted with aerosol paint, tattoo illustrations, and decorated low-rider cars. If patrons aren’t interested in one exhibit, they don’t have to wait long for the next one, as exhibits change three times a year. Admission is always free.
The museum aims to exhibit artists that anyone can appreciate, which is part of the reason it has developed a reputation for accessibility.
“We often present artists who have been requested by our community, or who our curators know have an incredible skill that we want to share,” Casey said. “We aim to facilitate an open a dialogue so that we can deliver on a promise to present diverse arts experiences.”
The Museum is housed on the same campus as the theater, allowing couples to easily make a day of experiencing art. It is common for pairs to browse the galleries before heading to a show in the evening.
“The Museum offers a way to engage with your partner that doesn’t involve a screen,” Casey said.
The Mesa Arts Center offers hands-on classes for Museum visitors who are inspired to make art themselves. Classes aren’t just for kids; instead, their mission is to serve all ends of the age spectrum, from young children to adults who want to reconnect with their interest in art.
Some of the thousand classes offered each year include glass blowing, pottery, and photography classes. Classes range from several weeks or months to single events or half-day workshops. Classes or workshops can be a great fit for couples who want to explore new artistic interests together.
Mesa Arts Center offers ample opportunities for memorable date nights, and each visit can be unique, as it provides ever-changing opportunities for new experiences.
Casey offered an idea for an excellent date night: First, choose a romantic concert by an artist, like virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, and plan to get to the concert a little early.
“We often offer pre-show wine tasting, dinners or happy hours,” she said. “Come early and share wine and desserts with your date.”
Others could come to learn new things and plan the next trip while they’re at it. National Geographic Live, a speaker series in which explorers and photographers from the magazine share their experiences, are always popular date-night shows.
Couples can also spend a date night in a fun, low-pressure setting by making art and enjoying a few drinks. Corks and Clay classes allow couples to make pottery while sipping on wine.
For a fun date, couples can sign up for a glassblowing class and learn about the medium together.“You make a hand-built ceramic vessel during the class — thing mug or planter — and you get to take it home with you,” Casey said.
Other workshops include glassblowing, printmaking, and watercolor. These classes are geared toward those who want to learn new skills. For couples who don’t want to commit to multi-week classes, these one-time workshops can help you determine interest in pursuing a new art skill.
Whatever your interests as a couple, though, one common thread exists in all the Mesa Arts Center experiences: It offers something different at a reasonable cost.
“People can have an adventure and take a chance on something new at a very affordable price,” Casey said.